AROUND THE GROUNDS | ISP Rd 10

AROUND THE GROUNDS | ISP Rd 10

Wenty Rookie Shows Promise

It was just his second game in the Intrust Super Premiership, but Jaeman Salmon has taken to it like a fish to water; the Wentworthville Magpies five-eighth played a vital role in his side's Round 10 win over Wyong at Leichhardt.

Salmon scored a hat-trick and set up another in the 38-22 victory, giving perhaps the best indication yet that he has a big future in the game. Recruited to the Parramatta Eels' system this season after progressing through the Sharks' junior ranks, the De La Salle Caringbah junior had represented NSW at an under-16s and under-18s level before beginning the 2018 season in the Jersey Flegg Cup. It didn't take long for Salmon to make the step up to open-age Rugby League and the 19-year-old has done so with ease, holding his own in Round 9 before playing a starring role this week.

Trailing 10-0 after the first quarter of play, Salmon took matters into his own hands with a quick-fire double in the next five minutes. The Magpies went on with the job, eventually securing a comfortable victory, as the rookie No.6 brought up the treble in the dying stages.

Defence gets Magpies Over the Line

As the old cliche goes, defence wins matches - and never was that more true than in the Western Suburbs Magpies' 11-0 triumph over the Warriors.

In what was easily the lowest-scoring match of the season, the Magpies looked to be far from the dominant team for most of the match, with only Josh Aloiai's seventh-minute try to show for the majority of the contest. The Warriors, meanwhile, were destructive with the ball, crossing the chalk no less than five times - only to be denied by outstanding defensive efforts on all five occasions.

Overall, the Warriors had the greater share of possession (53%) and a higher completion rate (75% to the Magpies 69%), but Western Suburbs' ability to continually turn them away led to frustration and errors in the final 20 minutes. It was a sign of desperation from the Magpies, who had lost both their games without former halfback Josh Drinkwater and wanted to prove they were a force without him.

Jets Beat the Bogey

Perhaps the Intrust Super Premiership's greatest hoodoo was broken when Newtown came away with an upset win over Mounties ย on Saturday - and it could yet prove vital in end-of-year finals calculations.

Of the 14 encounters between the two sides since Mounties joined the NSW Cup in 2012, the Jets had come away with the two points just twice - including in their first-ever encounter five years ago. With the Mount Pritchard-based side sitting pretty in first place this time around, the trend looked destined to continue, but a 34-20 victory gave the visitors a memorable win at Aubrey Keech Reserve.

Highlighted by doubles to fullback William Kennedy and winger Matt Evans, the Jets rose one place into seventh and while Mounties are still in top spot, they are no longer outright ladder leaders. Despite the disparity between the two, they have been two of the most dangerous teams in the competition in recent weeks.

Nicholls has Day to Remember

It must have felt like an age between games for Darren Nicholls, but the Dragons halfback made a winning return to the Intrust Super Premiership on Saturday - albeit one which left him with a considerable headache.

The 29-year-old had been easing his way into the first half against the Bulldogs when he came off second-best in a nasty collision at Belmore Sports Ground, leaving the field with what looked to be a serious head wound. Luckily, a bandaged up Nicholls returned in the second stanza with the challenge of clawing back from an 18-6 deficit.

While five-eighth Jai Field and centre Reuben Garrick were the stars of the Dragons' fightback, Nicholls played a vital role, slotting two sideline conversions and, at 20-all with five minutes remaining, calmly kicking a field goal. Once again, the performance will help his chances of replacing Origin-bound Ben Hunt at NRL level in three weeks' time - although halves partner Field could now be his biggest challenger.

Elliott gets Hero's Welcome

As usual, a number of Bulldogs NRL players were on hand to watch their side in the Intrust Super Premiership at Belmore - and this time, they appeared to have a spring in their step which had been absent for much of the season.

As Canterbury-Bankstown came away with a last-minute win over Parramatta in the NRL - their third of 2018 - second-rower Adam Elliott was the hero for the blue-and-white faithful, who applauded his efforts in the grandstand.

The 23-year-old, who scored the match-winning try at ANZ Stadium, is no stranger to the Intrust Super Premiership, playing 34 games between 2014 and 2016 and making both the Team of the Year and NSW Residents in 2015.

Bears Veteran Returns

It was a somewhat unheralded Intrust Super Premiership return, but one which should not go unnoticed by North Sydney's loyal fanbase.

Curtis Johnston lined up on the wing for the Bears for the first time in four seasons in Sunday's loss to the Panthers - and while it might not seem significant to many fans, it represented the return of a North Sydney legend for the foundation club. Johnston, who grew up supporting the Bears, played his junior reps football in red and black before transitioning into the club's Intrust Super Premiership side. He would go on to play more than 100 games for North Sydney over six seasons.

Unfortunately, Johnston's name will ring a bell to some as the first player charged by the Australian Crime Commission's 2013 report into drugs in sport - a charge he was subsequently cleared of. In a bid to put the ordeal behind him and progress his career, the prolific try-scorer headed north, where he played four more years for the Redcliffe Dolphins in the Intrust Super Cup.

Johnston's tally of 28 tries scored in 2011 is still said to be mentioned around North Sydney Oval and while he was unable to cross the stripe again on Sunday, it appears to be a matter of time until the 28-year-old is back on the scoresheet.

May's Day in North Sydney

Johnston was not the only player to make a comeback at North Sydney Oval on Sunday, with exciting playmaker Tyrone May also returning from an ACL injury which put a sad end to his 2017 season.

May, who dropped off the NRL reserves in the lead-up to the Panthers' clash with the Knights, instead turned out against the Bears, instantly reminding everyone why he was given nine first grade appearances last year. The 21-year-old scored a double and also came up with two line-break-assists in the victory, which will push his claims for an NRL returnย as Penrith nears the Origin period.

Wright's Display of Dedication

He'd just made a dream NRL debut in Brisbane - but Tom Wright wanted more.

The promising 20-year-old was afforded his first game at the top level on Saturday night, running out in front of a vocal crowd of 31,118 as the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles defeated the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium. While Wright's appearance only lasted six minutes, it was a deserved reward for one of the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles' most talented prospects.

Having come off a bye in Round 9, however, Wright was not satisfied with six minutes in two weeks - and in an impressive show of dedication, requested to be named for Blacktown on Sunday afternoon. Less than 24 hours after the game in Brisbane, the fullback was at H.E. Laybutt Fields in the Intrust Super Premiership.

NSWRL.com.au caught up with Wright after the Sea Eagles' 28-22 defeat - click here for the full story.

Congratulations to NRL First-Timers

After four Intrust Super Premiership graduates were initially named in NRL sides for Round 10, Wright's late inclusion made five players to experience the big time this weekend.

Jarome Luai, Renouf To'Omaga, Tom Wright, Zac Lomax and Jack Williams all made the step up, before reacting to their debuts on social media.