Te Maire Martin of the Panthers.
Te Maire Martin of the Panthers. CRAIG GOLDING

Trials wrap: injury concerns and a surprise drubbing

SOME big storylines emerged from arguably the NRL pre-season's most important day of matches, with a shattering injury and a belting that no one would have seen coming.

With four fascinating match-ups completing the pre-season for eight teams, here's what went down and what to keep an eye on for the fortnight ahead.

Panthers 18 (Martin, Latu, Whare tries, Cleary 3 goals) defeated Eels 6 (French try, Gutherson goal) at Pepper Stadium

Standouts: Penrith heads into the 2017 season with very few question marks hanging over it but perhaps the most significant one is whether Te Maire Martin can improve Penrith's already formidable spine.

If his performance against the Eels is anything to go by, the answer is an emphatic "yes".

Martin set up two tries and combined beautifully with skipper Matt Moylan and rising star Nathan Cleary to ignite Penrith's attack in the second half.

The 21-year-old's performance will almost certainly seal the No.6 jersey for him to start the season, with Bryce Cartwright to shift back to his preferred position in the back row.

But if Martin was good, Tyrone Peachey was the standout, stamping his mark on the contest every time he touched the ball and likely sealing a berth in the centres to start the season.

For the Eels, Bevan French made a good fist of his switch to the No.1 jersey, scoring Parramatta's only try and repeatedly beating defenders with his electrifying running game.

Makeshift halves Troy Dargan and Clint Gutherson also did well in the absence of star No.7 Corey Norman.

The horror moment: It's been a long road back from Sam McKendry after an ACL tear last year but he looks to be set for another lengthy spell on the sidelines after another knee injury ended his night just before half-time.

The injury is to the same knee as the one he had reconstructed, with the Panthers showing deep concern for the Kiwi prop. He will have scans on Monday.

Other injuries to watch: Panthers forward Sitaleki Akauola was also forced off the ground with what looked to be a heavy concussion after a big collision with David Gower.

 

Tom Trbojevic of the Sea Eagles.
Tom Trbojevic of the Sea Eagles. PAUL MILLER

Knights 44 (Levi, P. Mata'utia, Buhrer, S. Mata'utia, Lamb, Elliot, C. Mata'utia, Sio tries; Hodkinson 5, Lamb 2 goals) defeated Raiders 0 at Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan

Standouts: Canberra fielded a weakened team for this trial clash in its neighbouring town of Queanbeyan but Ricky Stuart and Raiders fans wouldn't have been expecting a belting in this order.

The Mata'utia brothers had a field day on the scoreboard but it was Trent Hodkinson who was winding back the years, showing no signs of knee troubles as he masterfully led the Knights around the park.

Trialling at fullback, Dylan Pythian was also superb, with the 21-year-old making a shuddering try-saving tackle early in the match and showing plenty of ability with ball in hand.

Sea Eagles 24 (T. Trbojevic, Sironen, Winterstein, Walker tries; Walker 4 goals) defeated Roosters 22 (Mitchell 2, Tupou, Ferguson tries; Gordon 3 goals) at Central Coast Stadium

Standouts: Immediately, Blake Green has demonstrated why he was brought to Manly, with the cool head to steer the side around and the skill to execute the match winning play at the death as he put on a late try for Dylan Walker.

That was the biggest lesson out of an impressive Sea Eagles display and it had a flow on effect with Walker also looking outstanding at centre where he can look forward to playing all year due to Green's recruitment.

Tom Trbojevic was also superb with the No.1 on his back and Curtis Sironen continued his impressive pre-season since arriving at Manly.

However, the Roosters would have also taken a lot out of a game they very nearly won without two of their biggest stars, Mitchell Pearce and Boyd Cordner, who were rested.

Without Pearce running the show, Luke Keary took over and looked impressive, while Connor Watson got another chance to show what he could do in a starting halves role.

Latrell Mitchell also followed his excellent Auckland Nines with a big contribution, scoring two tries.

Bulldogs 28 (Lee, Reynolds, Kasiano, B. Morris, Montoya tries; Holland 4 goals) defeated Storm 24 (Addo-Carr, Kaufusi, Asofa-Solomona, K. Bromwich, Scott tries; Stimson 2 goals) at North Hobart Oval

Standouts: With both sides near full strength, Hobart was treated to a see-sawing contest with Canterbury recruit Brenko Lee the early standout, scoring a try and laying one on for Josh Reynolds as the Bulldogs got on top early.

A trimmed-down Sam Kasiano also crossed the stripe, with the Bulldogs looking a far more threatening proposition in attack, on the edges and in the middle.

Under-fire hooker Michael Lichaa was a prominent cog in an encouraging attacking performance but when the Bulldogs took their foot off the pedal, there were plenty of Storm youngsters who put their hand up to orchestrate a comeback.

In his bid to seal a centre spot to start the season, teenager Curtis Scott was impressive in the second half, while Nelson Asofa-Solomona gave a reminder of his enormous potential, which had the NRL world sitting up and taking notice in 2016.

The injury: The Bulldogs will be keeping a close eye on Moses Mbye after he was forced off the field in the first half with a left arm injury.

However, the injury does not look to be serious, with the Bulldogs confirming as much and Mbye seen after the game without a sling and in no obvious pain.

News Corp Australia


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