The Roosters and Panthers showed why they are both among the competition favourites this year with dominant wins to kick off their 2021 NRL campaigns.
Penrith did not allow North Queensland to score a single point in their 24-0 victory on Saturday night, while the Roosters scored the biggest first-round win in their 113-year history, against Manly.
James Tedesco sent a startling warning of how good he can be under the NRL’s new rules with a hat-trick of tries in the 46-4 thrashing.
On a history-making day at the SCG where Brett Morris went fourth in the all-time try-scoring lists with his own hat-trick, Tedesco also set up three tries in the dominant display.
But the win was soured by a concussion to captain Jake Friend from a head clash. He was taken from the field early in the second half and didn’t return.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves also ended the game on report for striking Curtis Sironen, while Adam Keighran suffered an apparent hand injury.
Morris’s hat-trick took him past Andrew Ettingshausen to 168 four-pointers, while Luke Keary’s move to the right edge also paid dividends.
The Roosters scored their first seven tries on that side of the field, with Tedesco regularly getting outside Kieran Foran and creating space.
Tedesco’s first came when he took an uncontested Keary bomb in the third minute, before his quick feet were just too hard for Manly to stop half hour later.
His last effort was arguably his best of the night, when he kickstarted the play from within his own half before Keary and Joey Manu broke free to put him over.
The Roosters have made no secret of their desire for Keary and Tedesco to combine through the ruck under the new rules, after he was also at his best immediately following the changes last year.
Morris meanwhile showed he still has plenty left in the tank as a 34-year-old, stepping his way through for his first two tries before an 80-metre intercept effort in the second half.
Penrith Panthers thump Cowboys
Penrith’s mission for NRL premiership redemption started with a bang as they thoroughly outclassed North Queensland 24-0.
In front of a roaring crowd at Panthers Stadium, last year’s runners-up had the ball on a string with halfback Nathan Cleary commanding the four-try victory.
It was a captain’s knock for the first-time co-captain, who produced two try assists, two line breaks and a 40/20 late in the second half to turn up the pressure on the Cowboys.
A short ball for Kurt Capewell put the Panthers on the board seven minutes in, but resilient Cowboys defence held out as they battered the line in the first half.
But the resolve crumbled midway through the second half, with Dylan Edwards and Brian To’o crashing through tired defenders to take the result beyond doubt.
The cherry on top was a 62nd minute try to Isaah Yeo, who easily scored when Liam Martin climbed above the defence to catch a perfectly weighted kick from fellow co-captain Cleary.
Despite the comprehensive scoreline, the round one encounter was error-riddled by both sides.
The Cowboys had 18 for the match, most of which were basic handling problems.
Kyle Feldt kicked two restarts out on the full, while halfback Jake Clifford had a miserable night with several forward passes.
New coach Todd Payten followed through with his pre-season promise to reduce Jason Taumalolo’s minutes, hoping to produce quality over quantity.
But the Cowboys’ wrecking ball was kept to just 55 running metres in 50 minutes on the field.
His two 25-minute stints were well below his average of 60 minutes a game for the past four seasons.
And with just one line break for the side for the night, Payten will go back to the drawing board for their round two game against St George Illawarra next Saturday.
Brown starts with a win as the Warriors down Titans
The Nathan Brown-era has started impressively at the Warriors, his side showing off a new defensive steel in their 19-6 season-opening NRL win over Gold Coast.
Expectations were high for the Titans this year following the lucrative signings of star forwards David Fifita and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui over the summer.
But the big-name reputations mattered little to a much-improved Warriors outfit that have been based in Australia since leaving New Zealand in early January.
The Auckland-based club have seemingly made a home on the NSW Central Coast, where they thoroughly outplayed the Titans in Brown’s first game at the helm.
The former Newcastle coach got plenty of juice from his prized recruit in Addin Fonua-Blake, who was arguably the best player on the field with a game-high 177 metres and three offloads.
In contrast, Fifita, on a reported $2.5 million deal over three years, and Fa’asuamaleaui, were held in check for most of a hot afternoon in Gosford.
Despite the oppressive conditions, neither side was able to assert itself in a tight first half.
Titans halfback Ashley Taylor thought he produced the opening try when he dummied through early, only to be denied by a Roger Tuivasa-Sheck trysaver.
But that was a rare chance for the visitors, with unheralded Warriors signing Bayley Sironen providing the only points for the half with a soft 26th minute try from close range.
Gold Coast continued to spurn opportunities in the second period, with Patrick Herbert throwing a routine pass forward to Anthony Don with the tryline begging.
And again the Warriors made them pay down the other end, with Leeson Ah Mau also crashing through some flimsy goal-line defence in the 52nd minute.
A Kodi Nikorima four-pointer sealed the two points, with Titans winger Corey Thompson scoring their first points with a consolation try in the final minutes.
Warriors halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita, who iced the win with a field goal, was cited for tripping in the second half.