NRL Round 3: What we liked and disliked from every game
Round three delivered one of the more entertaining weekends so far.
Across the four days of NRL, five close matches that went right down to the wire.
The Brisbane Broncos demolished the St. George Illawarra Dragons in a dominant display while the Dolphins continued their impressive streak.
At the conclusion of the round, only three teams remain undefeated while the Wests Tigers and Parramatta Eels have yet to secure a victory.
Here’s what we liked and disliked from every game of Round 3.
Manly Sea Eagles 34 – 30 Parramatta Eels
What we liked: Josh Schuster pulls out his full bag of tricks
Josh Schuster had a delayed start to the season after picking up a calf injury but certainly made up for lost time during his first outing of the campaign.
At times, it seemed like the big Samoan international was playing backyard footy as he strolled around 4 Pines Park like he owned the joint.
He toyed with the defence over and over again with his usual array of tricks including no-look passes and long cut-out balls after he had ploughed deep into the line.
Schuster’s link-up play with Tom Trbojevic proved particularly exciting as the duo worked in tandem to tear Parramatta apart on the edges.
He drew plenty of attention before scooping a pass out the back to his No.1 to send Rueben Garrick over for the first try of the evening. Before the duo combined again when a quick play off the ruck saw the No.6 send Turbo over from close-range.
Yet their second collaboration was the best of the lot when Schuster plucked an offload out of thin air before launching an outrageous chip and chase for himself close to the line which Trbojevic got to first.
The fact he even had time to launch an inch perfect bomb for Haumole Olakau’atu to score before being withdrawn with a sore calf was just par for the course on a night when he established himself as one to watch this season.
What we disliked: Parramatta’s struggles in defence prove their downfall again
After losing their entire backrow from last year’s grand final side, there was plenty of debate about how the Eels would fare in attack given the potent roles Ryan Matterson, Shaun Lane and Isaiah Papali’i played in 2022.
After three games, the side haven’t struggled to score. Following their 26 points against Cronulla last week, they backed this up with 30 against the Sea Eagles yet they still have nothing in the way of premiership points on the ladder to show for it.
This is mainly because their defence has been woeful, conceding 30 points or more for two matches on the bounce.
The loss to Manly provided plenty of tries Brad Arthur deemed “too easy”. But they’ll need to remedy this quickly if they are to arrest their horror 0-3 start to the season.
Up next is the Panthers, who will be coming off a bye, and then the Roosters who will also be in the same situation. Tough times ahead for Arthur and his Eels.
Dolphins 36 – 20 Newcastle Knights
What we liked: The Dolphins dream run rolls on for another week
In just their third week in the NRL, the Dolphins were viewed as favourites entering into their clash against a severely undermanned Knights side.
They’d sprung a shock with an opening round ambush against the Roosters and then repeated the dose against the Raiders last week.
But they showed no signs of letting those victories get to their heads when they confidently dismantled Newcastle in front of their home fans early on.
Then, as Wayne Bennett so eloquently put it, there was “a lot of rubbish in between”.
Regardless of the uncomfortable nature of the win, the Dolphins found a way to put 30-odd points on their opponents while not at their best.
They have built an identity not even a month into their existence which centres on high completion rates and building pressure. It’s fair to say, at the moment it’s working a treat.
What we disliked: Felise Kaufusi slips up
Felise Kaufusi has been going around taking names in the early weeks of the season, famously flattening out Brandon Smith before hitting Hudson Young with an absolute bellringer in Round 2.
With the game on the line against the Knights and heading into the final 20 minutes or so, the backrower took it into his own hands once again.
Only this time, his hits veered into the illegal territory that served to actively disadvantage his teammates.
Firstly, he gave away a relieving yardage penalty by putting an unnecessary shot on Hymel Hunt which got him put on report.
Then, he smashed Jackson Hastings late in the back with a cheap shot that was once his bread and butter at Melbourne.
In his press conference afterwards, Bennett played down the severity of Kaufusi’s hits and claimed he was more worried about his three handling errors with the ball. Regardless, he now faces the prospect of a trip to the judiciary.
Sydney Roosters 20 – 18 South Sydney Rabbitohs
What we liked: Trent Robinson finds impact off his bench to change the tide
The Roosters were well and truly on the backfoot before the introduction of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Brandon Smith off the bench.
After initially naming the two Kiwi internationals to start, the coach instead decided to keep his powder dry and introduce them after the initial softening-up period was over. It proved a masterstroke.
JWH ploughed through the metres and helped set the standards in the defensive line while Smith finally showcased his threat out of dummy-half with a trademark scramble to the try line.
There was plenty of other Roosters who deserve credit such as Joey Manu who produced a number of try-savers and Jaxson Paulo who grabbed a double against his old side.
Yet without the impact of JWH and Smith off the bench, Souths may well have gone on with the job against the Chooks in the first half.
What we disliked: South Sydney errors come back to haunt them
“We can’t be making any more than eight errors a game and at the moment it’s 15,” Jason Demetriou said post-match.
He’d just watched his side look in blistering attacking form in the early stages of the match where they battered the Roosters into submission and put two tries on them inside the first 12 minutes.
But then, once momentum reversed, the error count began to climb in ways it often did with Souths last season.
“I don’t think we made errors from overplaying,” Demetriou said as he dismissed the fear that his side’s attacking style of play was to blame.
“We’re getting to our points and getting ready to pull the trigger and blokes aren’t controlling the footy.
“It’s really important that they look individually and not look outwards for external excuses. It’s every individual’s responsibility to carry the footy and get up and play the ball.
“We’ve got too many that are making too many errors…It’s stopping us from getting our momentum and doing the things we do well.”
Gold Coast Titans 38 – 34 Melbourne Storm
What we liked: Free-flowing and hard-hitting footy plays into Titans’ hands
In what was a point-scoring thriller that replicated some of the old Holden Cup U20s fixtures, Gold Coast managed to play to their strengths and come away with an unlikely victory.
While it wasn’t the prettiest performance and they did leak plenty of tries, there was a lot to like about Justin Holbrook’s side with the ball in their hands.
Alofiana Khan-Pereira looks to be every bit the try-scoring freak that many touted him to be and crossed for a double, while star fullback AJ Brimson was electric, finishing with 140 run metres and two try assists.
The middle-forwards for the Titans put on some bruising shots against their opponents in a hard-hitting 80-minute battle in the scorching heat at Cbus Super Stadium.
Gold Coast’s defence still needs plenty of work, but they have shown enough in attack through the opening three rounds of the competition to allow for some optimism.
What we disliked: Storm’s uncharacteristic run continues
Craig Bellamy was left visibly frustrated throughout a lot of Saturday’s game, with some uncharacteristic errors and penalties costing the Storm their chance at victory.
It was a rare and unwanted occasion for Melbourne, who have always been the kings of bouncing back after a loss, but were left to rue plenty of mistakes both with and without the ball.
The visitors were penalised on two occasions for late tackles on the Titans’ kickers, while the 17 errors would have raised some massive alarm bells for Bellamy.
But it will be the good-ball errors that Bellamy will be most disappointed with – especially the crucial dropped ball that allowed Aaron Schoupp to run the length of the field and score right next to the posts.
Individually, the likes of young gun Jonah Pezet and halves partner Jahrome Hughes were sound, Melbourne have a long way to go if they are going to compete for a premiership in 2023.
New Zealand Warriors 26 – 12 North Queensland Cowboys
What we liked: Warriors power game
There was plenty to like about the Warriors performance on Saturday evening in tough conditions up in Townsville, but it was their power game across the park that proved to be the major difference.
In a shock victory over the Cowboys, the side had five forwards and 10 players in total reach triple-figure run metres, with both the outside backs and the big boppers causing havoc.
Tohu Harris was in the thick of it during his 200th NRL game, while the likes of hulking winger Marcelo Montoya (229m) and debuted Taine Tuaupiki (143m) proved to be a handful for the North Queensland defence.
While many tipped them for the wooden spoon – including one of our own – Andrew Webster is managing to get the best out of the Warriors and they could be one of the real surprise packets of 2023 if they can maintain this level of football.
What we disliked: Cowboys big guns go missing
If the power-running game of the Warriors was their focal point, that same area was completely missing for the Cowboys in a highly-disappointing display.
In a game they were definitely expected to earn the two points in, Todd Payten’s side struggled to make inroads in a gritty Warriors defensive unit and some of their big guns went missing in action.
Jeremiah Nanai had just six runs for 43 metres despite playing the entire game, while hard-nosed Origin forward Reuben Cotter also had a quiet night.
Defensively, the Cowboys were well below their best and Payten was quick to point out a lack of trust could be contributing to their issues.
Brisbane Broncos 40 – 18 St George Illawarra Dragons
What we liked: Payne Haas’ herculean effort
It wasn’t the greatest performance from the Broncos despite how the scoreboard ended – and the side certainly wouldn’t have been in the position to run away with the game if it wasn’t for Payne Haas.
The NSW Origin enforcer finished with an enormous 227 run metres – more than 80 more than any Dragons player – as well as producing two linebreak assists.
Haas was equally dominant in defence, making 26 tackles without a miss, and managed to get through mountainous level of work despite spending over 20 minutes on the bench.
There’s plenty to be said about other front-rowers in the competition, but nobody in the NRL can come close to Haas when he is fit and firing.
What we disliked: Dragons collapse at the final hurdle
To say the Dragons collapsed late in Saturday night’s game would be a major understatement.
After some impressive moments in the first-half allowed the Red V to take a lead into the break, the visitors were level with the in-form Broncos and with 10 minutes remaining, it looked like golden point was on the horizon.
But in classic St George Illawarra fashion, the side fell apart and waved the white flag, allowing Brisbane to run in four tries in just nine minutes
Anthony Griffin will be able to take plenty of positives out of his side’s performance for close to 70 minutes – but the other 10 minutes of the night are a serious cause for concern.
Canterbury Bulldogs 26 – 22 Wests Tigers
What we liked: Alamoti, Addo-Carr combination
The Canterbury Bulldogs recorded their second win of the season against the Wests Tigers and it was largely due to the performances of Josh Addo-Carr and Paul Alamoti.
The pair led the team to a 20-point led deep in the second half and were super impressive in thee hot conditions.
Addo-Carr hit the try line twice throughout the day while Alamoti was instrumental in the centre, also laying one off to the veteran.
Commentator Michael Ennis declared that Sunday’s game was Alamoti’s best game in his short career, despite the late fade out from the club.
“Great work from young Alamoti who has had a tremendous first half on the left side with Josh Addo-Carr, brilliant work,” Ennis said.
“Picked up the intercept and then found the Ferrari outside of him… did really well to push back on the inside, got the ball around the corner.”
What we disliked: Tigers slump to 0-3
The Wests Tigers didn’t give themselves much of a chance against the Canterbury Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon despite the scoreline reading they lost the match in a close one.
The visitors gave up an early lead to the Bulldogs are were chasing their tail for the entirety of the match.
Trailing 26-6 at the 66-minute mark, the Tigers had to try something and managed to claw back some of the margin, but to no avail.
This is the merger club’s second consecutive close loss where if they applied a more consistent performance on the day, the result could’ve been different.
Canberra Raiders 24 – 20 Cronulla Sharks
What we liked: Horsburgh double
An inspired performance by Corey Horsburgh has led the Canberra Raiders to their first victory in 2023.
The Raiders held off Cronulla Sharks at home and were helped on their way by Horsburgh’s first career double.
Canberra needed an injection of brilliance and the 25-year-old delivered it in spades, crossing the line in the 30th and 51st minute of the match.
Horsburgh’s efforts (along with his teammates) set up a 14-point lead and commentator Cooper Cronk believes the Raider was rewarded accordingly.
“Horsburgh deserved that after his big effort early to keep Kennedy in the in-goal,” Cronk said.
What we disliked: Danny Levi’s missing teeth
Canberra were dealt a blow two minutes into the match when Danny Levi collided with Cronulla Sharks’ forward Teig Wilton and came off second best.
Levi – who was reported to have lost teeth – was taken straight to hospital with a suspected broken jaw in a nasty clash.
“They lost Levi early with a suspected broken jaw and they were looking for his teeth at halftime, pretty nasty,” commentator Braith Anasta said during the match coverage.
“It’s a suspected broken jaw, horrible start for the Kiwi and a horrible start for the Raiders,” Matt Russell said on Fox League.
“NRL officials are currently on the ground looking for Danny Levi’s teeth,” Mick Ennis said.
Levi is likely to miss at least a few weeks with Tom Starling and Zac Woolford expected to step into the vacant role.