Defending premiers Canberra have made a slow start to the year and, after the first 20 minutes of their clash with Newcastle last week coach Wayne Collins could be forgiven for thinking they were still finding their way. Any doubts, concerns or fears the Raiders coach held, though, were allayed as his team regained their winning ways in emphatic style with a 46-24 win over Newcastle.
The Knights had actually started the better and led 12-6 after the opening exchanges but two tries to Nick Kouparitsas helped kick start the Green Machine, who looked like the Raiders of 2003 in the second half.
Ivan Cleary was another coach who thought his team was on their way to a win midway through the first half of his Roosters match against St George-Illawarra. At that point, the Tricolours were ahead 16-0 and doing it easy but Mick Potter's Dragons have proven their credentials time and again in recent years. They came storming back in the final hour of the match and, with David Howell collecting another two tries to continue his recent outstanding form, finished as 40-24 winners.
The match between Parramatta and Cronulla had more twists than a Chubby Checker song and had the large crowd at Parramatta Stadium on the edge of their seats throughout. Each team posted five tries, with the Eels' Jeremiah Pai and Sharks' Russell Aitken each bagging doubles, but it was goalkicking that decided the issue as the boot of Michael Witt steered his team to an important two competition points.
Balmain's high flying start to the season was deflated by Manly in the Sea Eagles 28-14 win over the Tigers at Leichhardt Oval. In an absorbing arm wrestle, Manly were able to grind out a vital win, helped along by tries to highly rated young halves John Paul Cherry and Jeff Robson.
North Sydney bounced back from a heartbreaking loss to Canterbury to down Wests 22-16 at North Sydney Oval. Each team posted four tries, but Scott McLean underlined the value of a reliable kicker as his 3 goals proved the difference. On this display Gary Larson's Bears are determined to shed the wooden spoon, and they have the requisite attitude and personnel to do so.
Monday's clash between the Rabbitohs and Bulldogs was another see-sawing encounter that could have gone either way. Both sides traded tries early before a runaway Joven Clarke effort (one of three for the match) and another try to Owen Craigie had the Bunnies ahead 16-12 at half time. The Dogs lifted a gear after the break, though, and four second half tries saw them finish as 36-28 victors to keep them in the top eight and leave Souths languishing at the foot of the table.