Joey Leilua impressed for the Tigers.
Joey Leilua impressed for the Tigers.

Recruit impresses in dominant Tigers win

THE NRL pre-season is all but done and dusted.

There was a host to digest in a massive weekend of action headlined by the Charity Shield clash between South Sydney and St George Illawarra.

Latrell Mitchell made his Rabbitohs debut in the No.1 jersey, Mitchell Moses gave Eels fans reasons to smile, Melbourne unearthed another rising star, Valentine Holmes scored his first try in Cowboys colours and Kalyn Ponga tore it up for the Knights.

Here's everything you need to know from the weekend's action..

MOSES SHINES AS EELS, PANTHERS DRAW

Mitchell Moses looks set to take his career-best 2019 form into the new season after scoring two solo tries in Parramatta's 22-22 NRL trial draw with Penrith on the NSW far south coast.

Moses scored 12 points for the Eels in the bushfire appeal match in Bega, including a chip-and-chase effort which would make any highlights reel for the season.

Mitchell Moses starred for the Eels against the Panthers. Picture: Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos
Mitchell Moses starred for the Eels against the Panthers. Picture: Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

Penrith's Nathan Cleary also crossed for a try, as he prepared to take the playmaking reins this year after James Maloney's departure for France.

Fullback Calen Aekins was impressive as he looked set to fill the Panthers' No.1 jersey in place of the injured Dylan Edwards.

Coach Ivan Cleary would also be happy with recruit Zane Tetevano, who ran a game-high 117 metres at prop.

WILLIAMS LIFTS RAIDERS PAST BULLDOGS

A late try to Sam Williams has delivered Canberra a 12-10 win over Canterbury in Port Macquarie.

It was a hard-nosed affair, with plenty of rough edges.

Veteran halfback Williams proved the hero for the Raiders, scoring the match-winner with 12 minutes left as he sliced through some poor goal-line defense from close range.

Early tries to rookie winger Jake Averillo and star prop Dylan Napa put Canterbury in control, as Canberra could only manage a solitary score, to star five-eighth Jack Wighton, in reply until Williams' coup de grace.

Dean Britt is wrapped up by the Raiders defence. Picture: Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos
Dean Britt is wrapped up by the Raiders defence. Picture: Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Both sides will walk away with plenty to think about - Canterbury's halves picture may be a little clearer after Lachlan Lewis enjoyed a very tidy game at five-eighth, with his kicking game especially impressing.

Dean Britt was another standout - the former Rabbitoh has impressed all pre-season, and judging on this performance he should land a bench spot for the season opener against Parramatta.

STORM YOUNG GUN STEPS UP AGAINST COWBOYS

Hooker Harry Grant showed why there has been a tug-of-war for his services with a starring performance off the bench as Melbourne cruised to a 22-14 win over North Queensland.

Grant replaced Storm skipper Cameron Smith midway through the first half and scored a try with his second touch before setting up a Dale Finucane score with a clever grubber into the in-goal.

The youngster was set to be involved in a one-season loan agreement between the Storm and Tigers, which would have seen centre Paul Momirovski head south before it was blocked by the NRL for salary cap reasons.

Harry Grant impressed for the Storm against the Cowboys. Picture: Hamish Blair/NRL Photos
Harry Grant impressed for the Storm against the Cowboys. Picture: Hamish Blair/NRL Photos

The 22-year-old reportedly asked for a release this week but with Melbourne's back-up rake, Kiwi star Brandon Smith, out for four to six weeks with a facial fracture the Storm denied his request.

Cowboys recruit Valentine Holmes showed he was already building a strong combination with Michael Morgan, running on to the halfback's kick into the in-goal to score before putting winger Kyle Feldt through for a try.

Despite a year away from the game as he chased his NFL dream, Holmes looked like he had lost none of his pace.

PONGA STARS AS KNIGHTS TROUNCE BABY CHOOKS

Kalyn Ponga put in a star turn as Newcastle breezed to a 58-0 win over an understrength Roosters side in Gosford in Adam O'Brien's unofficial debut as Knights coach.

The young Roosters gave a good account of themselves in the opening exchanges before the Novocastrians finally clicked into gear, with Ponga ducking down a narrow blindside to put Mitch Barnett over down the right.

From there it was a procession - Barnett grabbed another, with Jayden Brailey, Ponga, Gehamat Shibasaki, Hymel Hunt, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Connor Watson, Simi Sasagi and Tex Hoy all getting on the scoresheet.

Ponga's try was the pick of the bunch, as the superstar fullback flew onto a pinpoint kick from Mitchell Pearce to fly under the posts without breaking stride.

Kalyn Ponga was impressive as the Knights routed an understrength Roosters outfit. Picture: Tony Feder/Getty Images
Kalyn Ponga was impressive as the Knights routed an understrength Roosters outfit. Picture: Tony Feder/Getty Images

Former Cronulla hooker Brailey caught the eye with a number of probes from dummy half. The 23-year-old is better known for his rugged defense, but his willingness to run would have pleased O'Brien.

Watson was also dangerous when he came on as a hybrid hooker/lock. Shibasaki, another new recruit, had some nice touches of his own. The former Broncos showed great hands to hold a pressure pass from Kurt Mann to score, and put Hunt over with a well-timed offload early in the second half.

Barnett was impressive at second row, with his physicality in both attack and defense a particular highlight and Jacob Saifiti did well off the bench, putting forth a compelling case for inclusion in the Knights lineup for Round 1.

Mackenzie Baker was the pick of the Roosters - the young fullback was busy and looked sharp every time he got the ball.Last week's World Club Challenge meant the defending premiers played a bare bones side, with only four players boasting first grade experience.

CHARITY SHIELD: MITCHELL DEBUTS AS BUNNIES TRIUMPH

Latrell Mitchell continues to show positive signs at fullback after making a solid debut in South Sydney's 26-12 win over St George Illawarra.

Mitchell needed just 55 seconds to make an impact, sending winger Campbell Graham over the line with his first touch of Saturday night's game at Mudgee in NSW's central west.

Latrell Mitchell made his Rabbitohs debut at fullback. Picture: Getty Images
Latrell Mitchell made his Rabbitohs debut at fullback. Picture: Getty Images

The Kangaroos' star looked dangerous with almost every touch of the ball, particularly when the Rabbitohs set up shifts to his favoured left edge. His only blemish was what initially ruled an air swing at a Corey Norman bomb, only for the Dragons to challenge the call successfully.

Patrick Mago had an absolute blinder, with a try, try assist, with some solid defence and forcing an error, while other youngsters Keaon Koloamatangi and Blake Taaffe were also standouts.

BRONCOS TROUBLES EXPOSED AS TITANS TRIUMPH

Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold enters the NRL premiership with some headaches after the Broncos rounded out a losing pre-season with a 28-22 derby capitulation against the Titans.

The Broncos looked to be cruising to victory when a superb first half from Storm halfback recruit Brodie Croft catapulted Brisbane to a 16-0 lead after 23 minutes in their final trial hit-out at Dolphin Stadium.

But the Broncos went from slick to second-rate in the space of an hour at Redcliffe, conceding five tries in 25 minutes as reigning wooden-spooners the Titans stunned big brother with a superb fightback.

Payne Haas led the way for the Broncos. Picture: Getty Images
Payne Haas led the way for the Broncos. Picture: Getty Images

When the full-time siren sounded, Seibold was left to digest the disappointment of a loss to a Titans team who finished the contest stronger, sharper and hungrier.

The Broncos conceded some soft tries close to their tryline and with No.1 prop Matt Lodge sidelined for three months with a knee injury, Seibold needs his forwards to step-up and support Payne Haas.

The 117kg giant was outstanding, amassing 151 metres by half-time, but Haas needed more assistance as the Titans slowly won the ruck with passion and intensity.

TIGERS TRIUMPH

Josh Reynolds has put a nightmare pre-season behind him with a try as Wests Tigers recorded a 20-6 win over the Warriors in their final NRL trial in Rotorua.

Replacement hooker Reynolds barrelled over from dummy-half near half-time to level the scores 6-6- before the visitors controlled the second spell on Sunday against the injury-hit Warriors.

It will have been a sweet moment for the 30-year-old former Blues Origin star, who was only cleared this week of domestic violence allegations after NSW police dropped charges against him.

Reynolds' try preceded a dominant second half for the Tigers, who crossed twice through winger David Nofoaluma and through a sharp chip and chase from Luke Brooks.

Nofoaluma's second try was set up a by a sharp bust from centre Joey Leilua, the former Canberra ace at times showing what a fine acquisition he could be.

Joseph Leilua impressed for Wests Tigers. Picture: Getty Images
Joseph Leilua impressed for Wests Tigers. Picture: Getty Images

The Warriors' only try was a 20th-minute effort from winger Ken Maumalo, set up by Kodi Nikorima and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

The hosts were directionless for much of the second half without captain Tuivasa-Sheck, who was off the field to have an ankle injury iced.

The classy fullback later described the problem as minor but the club will still be sweating on knocks picked up prop Agnatius Paasi (ankle) and lock Lachlan Burr (neck), who failed to see out the game.

Tigers co-captain Moses Mbye didn't return after an early head knock and knee strain in the same collision. He was cleared of any consussion issues.

Both teams were at close to full strength but the Tigers will come away with more positivity after shaking off some early handling errors.

Leilua and Benji Marshall were sharpest among their backs while the Warriors will have been heartened by the strong return from injury of second-rower Tohu Harris, in his first game in nine months.

INJURY REPORT

PANTHERS

James Fisher-Harris (shoulder)*

Mitch Kenny (elbow)*

Kurt Capewell (quad)*

* did not play v Eels

RABBITOHS

Liam Knight - First game back from a foot injury and looked like he may have tweaked it slightly, but managed to play on



VOTE NOW: Which Bundy cafe makes your favourite coffee?

Premium Content VOTE NOW: Which Bundy cafe makes your favourite coffee?

Where does your favourite cup of coffee come from?

Animal cruelty fears in spate of marine deaths

Premium Content Animal cruelty fears in spate of marine deaths

Call for investigation into five suspicious dugong deaths

$2 million boost for disaster resilience

Premium Content $2 million boost for disaster resilience

$2 million for disaster resilience projects that protect and educate