2021 NRL preseason trial results, injury news

The NRL preseason is is gathering momentum, with all 16 teams stepping up their final preparations for the regular season kick-off from Mar. 11.

Stay up to date with all the results, injury news and insights for the season ahead below.

SUNDAY FEB. 28

Tigers pre-season thrashing hurts Manly

Daine Laurie showed he can be a force at fullback for Wests Tigers as their 52-18 trial flogging of Manly left the Sea Eagles facing even bigger problems at hooker.

Just days after they lost Tom Trbojevic for the first three rounds, the Sea Eagles now have a bigger issue at No.9 after Cade Cust hurt his wrist in the pummelling.

Already thin on hookers, the Sea Eagles lost Cust 25 minutes into the Leichhardt Oval trial when he was hurt trying to make a tackle.

It summed up a poor day for Manly, as Laurie scored two tries in the first 12 minutes and Luciano Leilua wreaked havoc on the left edge.

But with Kieran Foran, Daly Cherry-Evans and Jake Trbojevic all sitting the game out, the scoreline was the least of Manly's concerns.

Instead, it will be their dummy-half role.

Lachlan Croker did not play in Sunday's trial due to a hamstring concern, Manase Fainu remains stood down until at least July and the club let go of Danny Levi at the end of last year.

Cust had not regularly played hooker before this year but was expected to move into the role either starting or off the bench behind Croker.

But he now appears likely to be in a race against the clock to play the Sydney Roosters in round one.

In better news for Manly Morgan Harper was solid in his 80 minutes at fullback, making several last line of defence tackles to save tries from break.

He looks the man most likely to fill Trbojevic for the first three rounds, after the superstar No.1's hamstring blow.

The Tigers meanwhile have no such worries with their fullback.

The 21-year-old Laurie was quick on his feet, skipping past two Manly defenders as he went short side for his first try in the eighth minute.

He was darting through the same left edge again four minutes later, when he made the most of a neat Leilua offload from 10 metres out.

Luke Brooks kicked goals and was also impressive as he prepares to take full control of the Tigers' attack, while James Roberts looked dangerous inside David Nofoaluma.

- AAP

SATURDAY FEB. 27

Panthers ready for premiership redemption

Penrith playmakers Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Api Koroisau put on a show with no signs of usual trial sluggishness before they were rested midway through the second half of their 16-6 win against Parramatta.

It's been just four months since their 17-game winning streak was brought to a devastating end by Melbourne in the decider but Panthers fans packed out the stadium to set up 2021 on a high note.

A slick show from the stars bodes well for a fast start to the season for the Panthers, who will kick off their premiership campaign against North Queensland at home on March 13.

For the Eels, Tom Opacic put in a solid audition for the left centre position made vacant by Michael Jennings and was the lone try-scorer.

-AAP

Cowboys come from behind to down Broncos

The North Queensland Cowboys were down by as many as 12 points after a slow start, but piled on three tries in 10 minutes after the restart to secure a 34-18 win, with Valentine Holmes impressing in Todd Peyton's debut as coach.

Brisbane Broncos coach Kevin Walters believes his team's defence will be good for round one, after a second-half shellacking against North Queensland in their pre-season trial.

The woes of the Broncos defence were put in the spotlight again, after they gave up 28 unanswered points in their 34-18 defeat on Saturday. Brisbane were last in tries conceded in 2020 at 5.46 per game and copped a whopping 624 points against them in 20 games.

But Walters remains positive with his players, saying this was a chance to see where they are before the season starts on March 11.

"We all got something out of it, we had to start somewhere and I said yesterday we've got to draw a line in the sand to find out where we are - so we found out where we are," Walters said. "That first 40 minutes, the way we controlled the game and our defence was especially very good."

Jamayne Isaako was a clear stand-out for the home side with some electric runs at fullback, while halfback Brodie Croft played his part in the right edge attack. The pair combined to set up Tesi Niu for the club's opening try and Isaako later assisted David Mead to score. Walters also confirmed injuries to Jesse Arthas (ankle) and Tom Flegler (shoulder).

-AAP

Bulldogs take down Sharks

Trent Barrett scored his first win as Canterbury coach with a 16-12 victory over Cronulla. The Bulldogs were sluggish early and indecisive in defence allowing the Sharks to run up a 12-0 halftime lead through two tries to winger Ronaldo Mulitalo. After the break some direct running and a greater share of possession saw the Dogs charge home.

Bulldogs signing Nick Cotric left the field with an ankle injury but is expected to be fit for the Round 1 clash against Newcastle.

Jack Hetherington, Renouf Atoni and Bradley Deitz were among the best for the Bulldogs, while Wade Graham was a stand-out for the Sharks.

Souths smash Dragons by 22 points

Attacking maestros Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker helped South Sydney stretch their Charity Shield dominance over St George Illawarra to nine years with a sizzling 48-16 win in Mudgee.

The Rabbitohs were almost untouchable in the first half as they raced to a 32-4 lead, with Walker scoring a hat-trick of tries in an eight-minute period.

Completing at 100 percent for the half, the dazzling performance sets the scene for a mouth-watering first-round NRL clash with premiers Melbourne.

Mitchell, backing up from last week's All Stars match, was equally as impressive in the first stanza, setting up South Sydney's first two tries and then scoring one of his own just before halftime.

The Dragons' only first-half points were scored by Jordan Pereira after ex-Bronco Jack Bird burst through some traffic, although the winger failed an HIA after getting the ball down in the corner.

-AAP

Titans and Warriors slug it out for draw

Tino Fa'asuamaleuai made a positive impression in his Titans debut, getting on the scoresheet during his side's 12-12 draw with the Warriors.

Star signing David Fifita also had a strong showing, while for the Warriors, Jazz Tevaga and Josh Curran got on the scoresheet, with both teams unable to add to their scores in the final 20 minutes of play.

Roosters' second half comeback takes down Raiders

With 178 run metres, a try assist, a linebreak and a linebreak assist, second-row forward Angus Crichton starred for the Sydney Roosters in their 26-20 win over the Canberra Raiders at Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan. It was an excellent performance from Crichton, who will be relied upon to star for Easts in 2021 given the long-term injury suffered to captain and star edge forward Boyd Cordner and the recent retirement of utility forward Mitch Aubusson.

Boom rookie Sam Walker was very promising in the halves for the Roosters, with a try, 2 linebreaks and a try assist placing him firmly in line to gain a bench spot in Round 1 of the NRL season. James Tedesco, meanwhile, slotted one conversion and could be looked to as a potential part-time goalkicker throughout the year.

Elsewhere, Raiders' hooker Josh Hodgson starred for the Raiders with a linebreak, 2 try assists and 2 linebreak assists giving the Green Machine sincere hope for a strong comeback season following his injury-disrupted 2020 season.

Grant injured in Melbourne rout of worrisome Newcastle

Storm gun Harry Grant is set to undergo scans on his knee after the young hooker suffered a suspected MCL-sprain. With legendary rake Cameron Smith yet to make a call on whether he will return to Melbourne, the Storm will be sweating on the fitness of Grant and his ability to suit up in Round 1.

Jahrome Hughes, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Felise Kaufusi, meanwhile, all managed to pick up tries while fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen was flawless with the boot.

For the hosts, however, late tries to Brayden Musgrove and Dominic Young proved to be the only bright spot as they went down 30-10.

SATURDAY FEB. 20

Volkman inspires Roosters to win over Tigers

Emerging halfback Ronald Volkman starred with two tries as the Roosters beat Wests Tigers in a tight contest at Kirkham Oval in Camden.

Naufahu Whtye crossed for the match-winner with a handful of minutes left to play as the Roosters secured a 28-22 win.

Volkman is considered one of the most promising juniors coming through the Roosters' system and was eye-catching throughout the contest.

Wests forward Billy Stapleton looked to have suffered a suspected broken jaw after a collision with his first touch.

THURSDAY FEB. 18

Bird makes successful comeback but Eels thump Dragons

Jack Bird has got through his rugby league return unscathed, navigating safely through his first game in 12 months in St George Illawarra's 28-6 trial loss to Parramatta.

Bird played just 25 minutes as planned by Dragons coaches, and spent his entire stint at left centre. He laid on a break in the lead up to the Dragons' only first-half try, forcing an error with a hard hit before putting Mat Feagai down field with a slick underarm pass.

The 25-year-old has not played an NRL match since May 2019 at Brisbane, before missing the rest of that season with a sternum injury.

He returned in one trial at fullback for Brisbane last February, but went down on the eve of the first round with a season-ending ACL injury. Bird has mostly trained in the second row at the Dragons, but there is some thought he could play left centre after the club opted out of pursuing Israel Folau.

Fellow new recruit Andrew McCullough also got through 20 minutes without concern, in his first game back since a hamstring tendon rupture last July.

Will Smith impressed for Parramatta, scoring one try and setting up another in his push for the club's No.14 jersey before the match was called with 11 minutes to go.

Oregon Kaufusi also scored one try and Isaiah Papalii, with both sides running teams of players who had limited first-grade exposure last year.

In the only real injury concern, Eels recruit Michael Oldfield suffered a knee injury after just 12 minutes which could hurt his push to claim a centre spot.