Star halfbacks Adam Reynolds and Ben Hunt have issued reminders of their value to the Rabbitohs and Dragons respectively, with key roles in their sides’ wins on Saturday.
Coming off a disappointing round-one performance, Hunt led the Dragons to a 25-18 win over the Cowboys after Reynolds guided South Sydney to a 26-12 victory against Manly, although he did leave the game early with a concussion.
With his future remaining up in the air, the Rabbitohs halfback scored a try and kicked a 40-20 in the lead up to another in a dominant first half at a rain-soaked Brookvale Oval.
But he was taken from the field early in the second half when he was hit by Sean Keppie after kicking and did not return, leaving him in doubt for Friday’s clash with the Sydney Roosters.
Reynolds is off contract at the end of this year, and has made no secret of his disappointment at Souths’ call to only offer him a one-year deal.
Benji Marshall starred off the bench as the Rabbitohs managed without one of their key pieces for the second time in the match.
Latrell Mitchell got a 10-minute break for a professional foul on Daly Cherry-Evans as the Manly halfback was chasing his own kick.
The Sea Eagles scored in their first set against 12 men but Mitchell returned to touch down in the last minute of the first half.
His sin-binning was the first of two for the game, with Jaydn Su’A binned one second early for his role in a brawl when the game boiled over on full-time. The whole incident was put on report.
After Mitchell and Cody Walker got South Sydney out of the blocks for their first try, Reynolds had his fingerprints all over Souths’ next two.
The 30-year-old’s first big impact came when he chased through his own grubber to score in the 15th minute and he backed it up with a pinpoint 40-20 that gave Mitchell the chance to score on a ricocheted kick, making it 14-6 at the break and giving the Rabbitohs the clear advantage.
Dragons come up clutch in scrappy North Queensland clash
In a clash between two first-round losers, St George Illawarra bounced back strongest to take down North Queensland in Townsville.
Particularly pleasing to Dragons fans will be the performance of maligned captain Ben Hunt, whose kicking, running game and fifth-tackle options were huge difference makers in the tight clash.
In an error-ridden game, both sides totalled a whopping 24 errors to gift each other prime attacking opportunities throughout the match.
The teams could barely be split across all other categories, but it was a strong display by Hunt and the return of Corey Norman that guided the Dragons to a much-needed first win.
Hunt bagged two try assists, setting up Mikaele Ravalawa in the first half and providing a beautiful kick for Zac Lomax to crash over in the second.
The introduction of Jake Granville sparked a revival of the home side’s chances when he crossed in the 57th minutes, 10 minutes after Valentine Holmes, but the continual coughing up of the football and poor choices on the fifth tackle cost them dearly.
The Dragons weathered an early storm, with the visitors looking the much more threatening side.
Coen Hess plucked the ball from a Jake Clifford kick to open the home side’s account in just the second minute, before the Dragons bounced back with tries to Ravalawa and Josh Kerr.
Norman almost slotted the first two-point field goal of the year right on half-time, but was deemed to be just inside the 40-metre line.
Panthers still yet to be scored against after win over Dogs
Penrith are yet to have a point scored against them, after beating the Bulldogs 28-0 in round two.
The thumping in the rain at Western Sydney Stadium came after they opened their season with a 24-0 win over the Cowboys last week.
The Panthers became the first team in rugby league history to go the first two rounds of a season without conceding a point, and their was nothing but pain on the other side of the coin.
Canterbury’s Dallin Watene-Zelezniak could face the wrath of the NRL’s match review committee after his high tackle ended Nathan Cleary’s day.
The Panthers captain made a break through the centre of the field but was left prone after the Bulldogs winger threw out an arm to stop him, catching his former teammate around the head.
Watene-Zelezniak was sent to the sin-bin and the incident put on report in the 71st minute as the Panthers finished off their historic win without their star halfback.
Penrith’s usual electric attack had to warm into the game because of horrendous weather in Sydney, but last year’s runners-up brought out their clinical discipline as Viliame Kikau and Paul Momirovski scored doubles for the win.
Livewire five-eighth Jarome Luai had just two runs in the first half but both resulted in tries for the Panthers, also setting up Kikau for his second midway through the second half.
Luai’s dance across the defensive line and grubber for Tyrone May to score before halftime showed some crafty attack despite the miserable conditions.
Two late tries to Momirovski, while the Bulldogs were down to 12 players, sealed the win, which was made more remarkable without regular hooker Api Koroisau, who was ruled out for at least six weeks due to a broken wrist.
The Panthers’ hot start to the season will be put to the test on Thursday night when they host the premiers Melbourne in the grand final rematch at Penrith Stadium.
Meanwhile, new Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett is still searching for his first win at the club and will travel to play Brisbane at Lang Park on Saturday.