Cameron Munster was the star as Melbourne Storm got their premiership defence off to a winning start. (AAP: Richard Wainwright)
Melbourne Storm began the post-Cooper Cronk era with a Cameron Munster-led 36-18 win over a gutsy Canterbury in Perth on Saturday.
Earlier, a pair of upsets livened up round one of the NRL season, as Wests Tigers and the New Zealand Warriors came up with the points against the Roosters and South Sydney respectively.
Despite a summer of unwanted headlines about errant behaviour, Munster starred in front of 38,824 fans at Perth Stadium.
After Billy Slater’s shoulder injury forced Craig Bellamy to shift him from the halves to full-back, Munster set up two tries in nine minutes late in the second half which proved decisive.
He also came up with a try-saver on Danny Fualolo before throwing a cut-out pass for Suliasi Vunivalu’s try which put the icing on the cake for the premiers.
There were positive signs for new Dogs coach Dean Pay with star recruit Kieran Foran displaying form of old after two injury-affected years.
Playmaker-turned-full-back Moses Mbye was outstanding in his first outing in the number one jersey, although he did come up with a costly error which led to Josh Addo-Carr racing 85m to score.
Young Storm halves Ryley Jacks and Brodie Croft had mixed outings — both kicking out on the full in the first half — however Munster took control of the contest.
The scores were level at 12-12 midway through the first half before Munster put his stamp on the game.
First he burst through the line to send a flying Addo-Carr between the posts before laying on a four-pointer for Kenny Bromwich.
Matt Frawley’s try after the break reduced the Storm’s lead to just six points, but Addo-Carr snatched the ball from Mbye’s grasp for a runaway try and his second of the night.
Former Bulldogs front-rower Sam Kasiano also made his Storm debut.
Tigers take the points over Roosters with late try
Corey Thompson’s late try gave Wests Tigers a 10-8 win over the Roosters at the Olympic stadium. (AAP: Dean Lewins )
A 79th-minute sideline conversion from Tuimoala Lolohea has given the Wests Tigers a dramatic 10-8 upset of the Sydney Roosters to open their NRL season.
The Roosters were leading 8-4 on Saturday when Tigers winger Corey Thompson fielded a Lolohea long ball that ricocheted off Michael Chee Kam’s head, before grounding one-handed for a try.
It was an impressive performance from the Tigers, who also overcame the 42nd-minute sin-binning of halfback Luke Brooks for a professional foul.
The win steals the thunder of Roosters debutant and key signing Cooper Cronk, who along with winger Blake Ferguson had been two of their team’s best at Sydney’s Olympic stadium.
It also ruined the club debut of former Tigers star James Tedesco, who bombed a certain first-half try and was incessantly booed by the crowd of 18,243.
Ferguson appeared to have saved his team’s blushes when he finished off a 65th-minute try to give his team an 8-4 lead with 15 minutes to go.
But a Tedesco error gave his old team possession late in the match, paving the way for Thompson’s heroics, which included drawing a penalty for the game-deciding set.
Returning son Benji Marshall was also strong for his former side, winding back the clock with a vintage playmaking performance to celebrate his comeback to the club.
Twice the Roosters should’ve scored inside the opening 15 minutes, including a regulation dropped ball from Tedesco in the 13th minute that drew a bronx cheer from the crowd.
The Tigers’ faithful decided to get stuck into Tedesco from the kickoff, laying into their former full-back for the entire match with every touch of the football.
Cronk showed why the club were ready to give up on long-time half-back Mitchell Pearce, forcing two line dropouts and nailing a 40-20 to give the Roosters plenty of shots in attack.
But the Tigers proved their resilience by turning the premiership favourites away each time to take a 2-0 lead at half-time, with prop Ben Matulino particularly strong in defence.
Warriors take care of Rabbitohs in Perth
Isaiah Papali’i (R) scored the first of his side’s six tries as the New Zealand Warriors beat South Sydney in Perth. (AAP: Richard Wainwright)
The Warriors have ended their Perth hoodoo in impressive fashion with a 32-20 win over South Sydney.
The Warriors entered the match having lost all nine of their previous matches in the west.
But they made sure the first rugby league match at Perth’s new stadium was one to remember, running in six tries to four to secure the easy victory.
Former Manly five-eighth Blake Green starred in his debut for the Warriors, helping control the game and proving to be a perfect foil for half-back Shaun Johnson.
Star Rabbitohs veteran Greg Inglis failed to have his usual impact in his first NRL game since injuring his knee in last season’s corresponding round.
The Warriors were widely tipped to struggle this year, but they looked dangerous in attack and much fitter than the team who ended last season with nine-consecutive losses.
In contrast, Souths were out of sorts in attack and defence under new coach Anthony Seibold.
The Rabbitohs made a bright start to the match with the opening try to of Cody Walker.
But they were down 20-10 at halftime after two controversial decisions from the referees.
Firstly, the Rabbitohs were left seething in the 32nd minute when Warriors prop Sam Lisone was awarded a try on review despite an apparent obstruction.
The on-field referee initially disallowed the try, deeming Warriors forward Isaiah Papali’i had obstructed Adam Reynolds in the lead-up.
But the try was awarded on review after the video referee deemed Reynolds had already committed to tackling Papali’i, and would not have reached Lisone in any case.
And the Rabbitohs cried foul in the 38th minute when a try to Robert Jennings was disallowed because Walker’s pass was ruled forward.
Just over a minute later, the Warriors scored their fourth try after a brilliant run from Johnson opened the door for David Fusitu’a to cross with just eight seconds remaining in the half.
The Warriors opened the second half with tries to Ken Maumalo and Solome Kata, and it was effectively game over with the scoreboard reading 30-10.
Kata’s sin-binning in the 60th minute opened the door slightly for a Rabbitohs comeback, but Souths were only able to score one try with their numerical advantage.
A late conversion by Reynolds after Walker’s second try made him become just the third man in Rabbitohs history to pass 1000 points.