NRL Tackle: Star’s perfect 10 performance steals show
Rugby league is back! The 2020 season returned with a bang and there's plenty to digest.
Our rugby league writers reveal what caught their eye - good and bad - in Round 3 of the NRL.
BRONCOS v EELS
Dally M votes: Clinton Gutherson 3, Junior Paulo 2, Reed Mahoney 1. Judge: Darren Lockyer
Like: The perfect balance of the Eels.
Let's declare it now for the blue-and-gold army: Parramatta are the real deal and have the squad to break the club's painful, 34-year premiership drought.
Wherever you look, the Eels are menacing. They have a lethal fusion of midfield mongrel, backline brilliance and tackle-busting aggression on the edges.
The Broncos were pulverised in the middle-third as Eels monsters Junior Paulo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Kane Evans ran amok. Ryan Matterson and Shaun Lane are dynamic back-rowers, while Clint Gutherson, Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown work in glorious harmony as a spine. The Eels can go all the way.
Dislike: The Broncos will not be true title contenders until they unearth a senior forward leader who can stand up to the NRL's best packs.
Brisbane's midfield men Payne Haas, Matt Lodge, Tom Flegler and Pat Carrigan are huge talents but they lack the presence of a Sam Burgess or Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
Roosters enforcer JWH will be coming after the baby Broncos forwards this Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium. It's crucial the Broncos hold their own in midfield or the two-time premiers will run riot.
- Peter Badel
COWBOYS v TITANS
Dally M votes: Jason Taumalolo 3, Valentine Holmes 2, Reece Robson 1. Judge: Dene Halatau
Like: Jason Taumalolo has picked up where he left off. The Cowboys lock was sensational with a huge 274m in what was a game-changing performance. The Titans limited Taumalolo to 71m in his first stint, but he provided the killer blow when he was injected into the contest midway through the second half. Valentine Holmes also showed some sublime touches with his three try-assists and five-eighth Scott Drinkwater is brimming with confidence. For the Titans, prop Moeaki Fotuaika was the only real shining light. At just 20 he is embarrassing his older, more experienced and better paid teammates.
Dislike: Where does Titans coach Justin Holbrook start? Holbrook made mass changes following the two-month break and still came up with duck eggs. Hooker Nathan Peats' service from dummy-half was woeful and Ash Taylor showed no improvement in his switch to five-eighth. The Titans have little strike on the edges and will not threaten many teams if they continue to make so many errors. The Gold Coast won't be competitive until they can get the fundamentals of the game right like holding the ball and not missing tackles.
- Travis Meyn
ROOSTERS v RABBITOHS
Dally M votes: Victor Radley 3, James Tedesco 2, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 1. Judge: Steve Roach
Like: It took something extraordinary to knock off Victor Radley as Roosters' man of the match and James Tedesco delivered it with arguably a 10 out of 10.
It wasn't just the fact he ran for 267m with 21 carries and scored a super solo try - blasting past Cam Murray no less - that set Tedesco apart.
It's just as much about his positional play, attention to detail and that non-stop effort that makes him the world's best player.
Radley also continues to show why he is one of the game's real standout forwards.
And this faster version of NRL, thanks to the six-to-go rule, is only going to make both even better footballers.
Dislike: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves' nasty habit of lifting his forearm into defenders is one area of his game that pushes the boundaries too far.
The big fella was at it again against the Rabbitohs and Liam Knight for one came off worse for wear.
Knight was lucky he didn't bust his jaw.
Sure, running with the "bumpers" up is a tactic many big men use, but Waerea-Hargreaves takes it to the next level.
And how does it not rate as a charge?
The game has made a commitment to crash tackle concussion issues in recent years and surely protecting the heads of all players should be paramount. It should not exclude defenders being whacked with a raised forearm.
- Paul Crawley
WARRIORS v DRAGONS
Dally M votes: Tohu Harris 3, Kodi Nikorima 2, Eliesa Katoa 1. Judge: Andrew Ryan
Like: It was a shame there were no supporters at Central Coast Stadium because the Warriors deserved a standing ovation for the sacrifices they've made to restart the competition.
The New Zealanders have showcased enormous selflessness to leave behind their families for months and base themselves in Australia.
On the field, the Warriors produced a near perfect performance against the Dragons to make their fans proud.
Dislike: Poor Dragons. The men in the famous Red V looked flat in attack and pedestrian in defence as the Warriors charged to a comfortable victory.
Coach Paul McGregor is contracted until the end of the 2021 season, but how long can the Dragons keep going with substandard results?
Players like star halfback Ben Hunt must to step up for their coach.
- Matt Logue
SHARKS v TIGERS
Dally M votes: Benji Marshall 3, Harry Grant 2, Wade Graham 1. Judge: Matt Elliott
Like: Plenty of positives for the Tigers given it's the first time their spine have played together. It was also Luke Brooks and Harry Grant's first match of the year. Brooks started strong laying on the first try for Grant but when the game was on the line it was left to veteran Benji Marshall. He controlled the tempo, set up his outside backs and led the Tigers to a come-from-behind victory. Billy Walters' injection off the bench also helped swing momentum in the Tigers favour.
Dislike: The Sharks. Now 0-3 and have a tough road trip to North Queensland on Saturday where a loss could virtually end their season. Cronulla's left edge was dynamic in the opening half led by Wade Graham but they failed to give their captain the same space in the second half. Strange bench rotation too with three small players in Blayke Brailey, Matt Moylan and Billy Magoulias all defending in the middle at the one time in the second half. Injuries too are now a factor with Chad Townsend (hamstring) and Andrew Fifita (calf) unlikely to play this week.
- Michael Carayannis
STORM v RAIDERS
Dally M votes: George Williams 3, Josh Papalii 2, Josh Hodgson 1. Judge: Greg Alexander
Like: Canberra looks like having the perfect combination of structure in defence and attack, and adlib play to push their premiership claims. Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said as much post-match, pointing out that practising adlib play was a big part of their training regimen, with whippy No.7 George Williams a key component. Looks like Williams has the OK from his coach to mix it up, which could make for some entertaining footy to watch if you are a Raiders fan.
Dislike: You wouldn't want to be a Storm player in a video session with Craig Bellamy this week. The Melbourne coach didn't hold back after the game, saying he was embarrassed by the performance of his players calling out individuals for playing for themselves, which you just don't do at Storm. He didn't like what he saw live, and hoped it might not be so bad on review. That's unlikely, and some players may want to take earplugs when they watch the tape with the fired-up boss.
- Russell Gould
PANTHERS v KNIGHTS
Dally M votes: Tim Glasby 3, Isaah Yeo 2, Tex Hoy 1. Judge: Andrew Johns
Like: He may have missed five field goals attempts to win the game late but full credit to young Panther Matt Burton for sticking his hand up when confronting excruciating pressure. The incredible bravery and courage shown by an injury-depleted Newcastle Knights to secure a golden point draw having lost three representative players inside the first 20 minutes, having little possession and having three players on debut, should enter the club's history books. It was inspiring stuff and showed just how much steel new coach Adam O'Brien has instilled into his side.
Dislike: There wasn't much to like about Penrith's failure to really dismantle the Knights. Ahead 14-0, the Panthers, even without suspended halfback Nathan Cleary, really should have rubbed Newcastle's nose in the Campbelltown dirt to record a big win. For reasons only known to themselves, Penrith seemed to become timid when they had Newcastle at their mercy.
- Dean Ritchie
SEA EAGLES v BULLDOGS
Dally M votes: Tom Trbojevic 3, Curtis Sironen 2, Daly Cherry-Evans 1. Judge: Scott Sattler
Like: If James Tedesco is the best player in the NRL, Tom Trbojevic is just a coat of paint behind him.
Set up three tries and scored two. Absolutely outstanding throughout.
His brother Jake wasn't far behind him in a Manly side that is shaping up alongside the Canberra Raiders, the Roosters and the Parramatta Eels as a genuine premiership threat from form we saw over a magnificent weekend of football.
Daly Cherry Evans steers this side beautifully. Dylan Walker looked strong at five-eighth and their ball work is just brilliant.
Also keep an eye on Curtis Sironen this year. He's strong, he's got a great offload and used his strength to score a great try.
Dislike: Looks like another long winter at Belmore. Dean Pay has a side that tries hard but will be outclassed most weeks. They desperately need Kieran Foran back to provide some creativity.
It's hard to be critical of Sunday night's halves Jack Cogger or Lachlan Lewis because they played behind a beaten pack. But they struggle at this level.
The Bulldogs completed their sets okay but rarely tested Manly's defence.
Their attack was so predictable and almost boring. They also lacked punch and power in the forwards.
The arrival of English forward Luke Thompson will change that but not before next year. There is certainly little hope of improvement from the current roster.
- Phil Rothfield
DALLY M LEADERBOARD AFTER ROUND 3
Jason Taumalolo 7
Tom Trbojevic 6
Clinton Gutherson 6
Benji Marshall 6
James Tedesco 5
Josh Hodgson 4
Elliott Whitehead 4
Isaah Yeo 4
Tim Glasby 3
George Williams 3
Tohu Harris 3
Thomas Flegler 3
Payne Haas 3
Nathan Cleary 3
Mitchell Moses 3
Liam Knight 3
Josh Jackson 3
Jesse Bromwich 3
Jayden Brailey 3
Jack Wighton 3
David Klemmer 3
Cameron Smith 3
Apisai Koroisau 3
Tui Kamikamica 3
Mitchell Pearce 3
Curtis Sironen 2
Josh Papalii 2
Harry Grant 2
Victor Radley 2
Valentine Holmes 2
Junior Paulo 2
Shaun Johnson 2
Scott Sorensen 2
Patrick Carrigan 2
Mitchell Barnett 2
Michael Jennings 2
Josh McGuire 2
Josh Mansour 2
David Nofoaluma 2
Brodie Croft 2
Originally published as NRL Tackle: Star's perfect 10 performance steals show