What on earth happened in National Rugby League round 2?

Rugby League - Benji Marshall
Benji Marshall will need to spark the Tigers attack. By paddynapper, Wikimedia Commons

Round 2 of the National Rugby League featured a lot of very close games, several upsets and one absolute blow-out. So what happened, and what does it mean for the competition as a whole?

Thursday night featured a classic local derby between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Cronulla Sharks. In a game where the lead was never held for long by either team, the Dragons managed to be the ones in front by 20-16 when the siren blew.

On Friday Luke Keary sparked the Sydney Roosters attack in a 30-12 display over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. In an ominous sign for the rest of the competition, the Roosters combinations are clicking earlier than expected. Their attack will only get better as star recruits Cronk and Tedesco become more familiar with their teammates and structures.

Also on Friday was the Queensland derby between the Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys. Anthony Milford rediscovered his running game to lead the way for the Broncos to record an upset over Johnathan Thurston’s Cowboys. The 24-20 win will restore some confidence for Brisbane after their thrashing in round 1.

Saturday featured the New Zealand Warriors defeating the Gold Coast Titans in Auckland by 20-8. The result was expected, but the improved fitness from last year shown by the Warriors suggests that this could be a good season of rugby league for them.

The Penrith Panthers once again found a way to come back from a 14-0 deficit against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, winning 18-14 in Penrith. The signing of playmaker James Maloney seems to have given the Panthers more confidence and composure. They will, however, need to learn to start stronger to go deep into the competition.

The final Saturday night game was the upset of the round. Wests Tigers, tipped by many to be wooden spoon contenders, travelled to Melbourne to take on the defending premiers. In a surprisingly gritty display, the Tigers rallied around prodigal son Benji Marshall to bring down the Storm 10-8.

Sunday afternoon saw the Parramatta Eels head to Brookvale Oval to play traditional rivals the Manly Sea Eagles. In what was tipped by many to be the game of the round, the Sea Eagles gave the Eels a lesson in rugby league. Manly won 54-0, outscoring the thermometer (which was edging towards 40) midway through the second half.

The final game of the weekend was both high-scoring and close. The Newcastle Knights beat the Canberra Raiders 30-28 in Canberra. Both sides showed strong attacking intent, but it was new Knights recruit Mitchell Pearce who proved to be the difference.

Many tipsters were confounded by round 2 of the National Rugby League, with upsets aplenty. The only thing we really learned is that the competition is going to be a lot tighter and harder to predict than last year!