Wayne Bennett refused to reveal why Latrell Mitchell was so emotional after South Sydney Rabbitohs dismantled New Zealand Warriors on Friday, while Penrith Panthers beat Melbourne Storm. 

Mitchell was outstanding as the Bunnies thrashed the Warriors 40-12 to secure back-to-back victories in the NRL. 

The full-back set up tries from Campbell Graham and Alex Johnston, with Adam Reynolds and Braidon Burns also crossing in the first half at Bankwest Stadium. 

Cody Walker, Damien Cook and Alex Johnston dotted down in the second half of a one-sided encounter, which saw David Fusitu'a and Agnatius Paasi score for the Warriors. 

Mitchell, who looked fortunate to get away with a high shot on Fusitu'a, was emotional on the field after the final whistle and was seen in tears in the dressing room, but Bennett was in no mood to explain the reason. 

The Rabbitohs coach told reporters: "No I'm not going to tell you why. It's got nothing to do with you, to be honest with you.

"He may well have been [upset] but it's got nothing to do with you. The changing room for me has always been a sacred place and unfortunately the game gave away a lot of our rights to those places, but in my mind and in my head, it's a place where we can go and be who we want to be and not have to answer anyone."

Penrith later moved above the Storm to go third with a 21-14 victory at Campbelltown Stadium.

Stephen Crichton, Brian To'o and Viliame Kikau touched down, while Nathan Cleary scored nine points with the boot in an influential display for the Panthers.

 

Canterbury Bulldogs have dismissed speculation they are preparing a deal to land Melbourne Storm head coach Craig Bellamy.

News Corp reported the Bulldogs had put together a multi-million dollar offer for Bellamy, who has been at the helm of the Storm since 2003.

But the Bulldogs dismissed the reports on Friday, insisting there had been no approach to the premiership-winning coach.

"I think it is important for our members and fans that we end any speculation around Craig Bellamy having been contacted by the Bulldogs," Canterbury chief executive Andrew Hill said.

"When spoken to last night I confirmed to media that there had been no contact made."

The Bulldogs have made a poor start to the 2020 season, holding a 1-4 win-loss record, leading to pressure on coach Dean Pay.

Melbourne Storm handed Newcastle Knights their first loss of the 2020 NRL season, while Latrell Mitchell's fine first half led South Sydney Rabbitohs to victory against Gold Coast Titans.

The Storm's 26-12 success against the Knights at Central Coast Stadium means leaders Parramatta Eels are the only remaining undefeated team in NRL this year.

Ryley Jacks went over after just three minutes before Cameron Smith set up first-half tries for Suliasi Vunivalu and Tino Faasuamaleaui - his first in the competition - to send Melbourne into the interval with a commanding 18-2 lead, but the Knights responded well with Bradman Best and Edrick Lee making it a one-score game.

However, Cameron Smith slotted through a penalty after David Klemmer was pinged for an early tackle and Brandon Smith somehow barrelled through three defenders with three minutes remaining to clinch the victory.

In Saturday's first game, the Rabbitohs were 32-12 winners over the Titans at Bankwest Stadium thanks in large part to Mitchell.

The former Sydney Roosters full-back caught the ball and dotted down in the third minute after Damien Cook's pass bounced off his chest to get Souths up and running.

Phillip Sami briefly restored parity before Alex Johnston crossed to restore the Rabbitohs' lead. Mitchell then tipped a pass to Dane Gagai to race in at the corner and saw Anthony Don's failure to gather his grubber kick enable Braidon Burns to put the Bunnies well on top.

The Titans were unable to gain momentum despite Bryce Cartwright's 44th-minute score, with Gagai's second try followed by a conversion from Adam Reynolds, who finished the game with 12 points.

Canberra Raiders got back to winning ways by coming from behind to defeat Wests Tigers 14-6 in Ricky Stuart's 400th game as an NRL coach.

The Raiders were trailing to Luke Brooks' uncovered first-half score, but Jack Wighton's try five minutes following the restart was converted by Jarrod Croker and Nick Cotric dived over after Russell Packer was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul on Jordan Rapana just five minutes after coming on.

Moses Mbye reduced the deficit from the tee but, after Packer was placed on report for a high tackle upon his return, Croker restored Canberra's eight-point cushion as they moved up to second.

Melbourne Storm half-back Jahrome Hughes will miss at least two weeks after breaking his hand in Friday's win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Hughes, 25, suffered the injury during the Storm's 22-8 victory over the Rabbitohs at AAMI Park.

The New Zealand international will need surgery and is out for at least two weeks, the Storm said on Saturday.

"Half-back Jahrome Hughes has broken his hand in last night's win over the Rabbitohs," they wrote on Twitter.

"He will undergo surgery and is expected to be out for 2-3 weeks."

The Storm's win was their third in four games this season and they sit fourth in the table.

Penrith Panthers have made their best start to a season since 1997 after beating New Zealand Warriors 26-0 on Friday to go top of the NRL ladder.

The inexperienced half-back pairing of Matt Burton and Jarome Luai shone in the absence of the suspended Nathan Cleary to ensure the Panthers remain unbeaten after four rounds.

Burton touched down twice in the opening 22 minutes at Campbelltown Stadium, scooping up a loose ball following a high kick for his first try before profiting again after blocking Blake Green's kick.

Luai collected his own kick to add a third try and second-half scores from Josh Mansour and Billy Burns completed the rout.

While Penrith have enjoyed a fine start to the season that has included three wins and a draw, South Sydney Rabbitohs' disappointing 2020 continued as they were beaten 22-8 by Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.

In the battle of the full-backs, Ryan Papenhuyzen's try put Melbourne on the board before Latrell Mitchell, playing his 100th NRL game, responded with a tremendous pass that enabled Alex Johnston to go in.

Suliasi Vunivalu restored the Storm's lead after brilliant work from Cameron Munster, though, and after Adam Reynolds and Cameron Smith traded penalties, Josh Addo-Carr collected Munster's kick to increase the home side's lead.

Justin Olam's try three minutes from time completed the scoring as the Bunnies, who remain without a victory in Melbourne in 16 attempts, slipped to a third straight loss.

Canberra Raiders returned to NRL action with a commanding 22-6 win over Melbourne Storm to maintain their 100 per cent record.

Last year's Grand Final losers got the better of the 2019 minor premiers, earning a third straight victory at the Storm's home ground.

George Williams pulled the strings in assisting tries for Nick Cotric and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, with the Raiders at full throttle following the two-month coronavirus-enforced hiatus. 

Jordan Rapana also got in on the act, with Joseph Tapine's last-gasp try the only score of the second half in Melbourne.

New Zealand Warriors set the bar high in an 18-0 defeat of St George-Illawarra Dragons.

The Warriors completed their first 44 sets in a stunning display, with Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Eliesa Katoa and Kodi Nikorima touching down at Central Coast Stadium.

It is now three defeats from three for the Dragons, while this was a first win for the Warriors.

Cronulla Sharks are also winless from their opening three games, with Wests Tigers condemning them to a 28-16 loss.

Despite trailing 16-10 at the break, the Tigers ran in 18 unanswered points after the interval.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) hit out at the NRL's plan to reintroduce crowds in July, labelling the idea "absurd" and "dangerous" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 NRL season will resume on Thursday and Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V'landys is hoping capped crowds can return to the league as soon as July.

As the NRL eyes fans returning to stadiums after the campaign was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 crisis, Melbourne Storm chairman Matt Tripp also revealed the club are planning for a restricted number of supporters to watch games at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

But the AMA took aim at the NRL, president Tony Bartone saying in a statement: "Put bluntly, this absurd and dangerous idea belongs in the sin bin.

"The NRL should be satisfied that it has its competition back in action, but it is unfair and unwise to put the health of the game's fans at risk. They must first monitor the health and safety of the players and officials who will be involved in the thick of the on-field action.

"Australians have done exceptionally well in flattening the COVID-19 curve, and we are not too far away from relaxing more restrictions.

"Now is not the time for sporting codes to be considering having crowds at games. They must wait until the medical experts advise that it is absolutely safe to do so – and that will not be as early as July.

"The AFL and other sporting codes are adopting the right approach, which is to wait for the expert medical advice before allowing crowds back to watch games.

"We have to be consistent in our public health messaging. Decisions on the safety of holding mass gatherings should be made by medical experts in consultation with the National Cabinet, not by rugby league administrators.

"Of course, we all want to see sport return with fans in the stands barracking for their teams. We also want to see theatre, dance, live music, cinemas, and other entertainments open to the public.

"But the public health must come first. Getting beyond the COVID-19 pandemic is bigger than rugby league - it is about the safety of all Australians."

Melbourne Storm chairman Matt Tripp said the club are keen to be a "test case" for crowds to return to the NRL amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 NRL season will resume on Thursday and Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V'landys is hoping capped crowds can return to the league as soon as July.

As the NRL eyes fans returning to stadiums after the campaign was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 crisis, Tripp revealed the Storm are planning for a restricted number of supporters to watch games at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

"We are piecing together a scenario where even if we start with 1,000 people and build to 2,000, 3,000 in every fifth seat, there are plans in place at the moment or plans that we are working through to try and get people to AAMI Park, to create a safe environment for bigger and better things for all codes, not just the NRL," Tripp told RSN's Breakfast Club on Monday.

"We would happily be the test case, it's a wonderful facility to get people in and out of.

"There are measures that we can put in place to ensure the safety of patrons when they're at the game so I can't see why, in line with Peter V'landys' comments on July 1 that we can't get the ball rolling at AAMI."

The Storm were among six teams to have won their opening two games before the NRL was suspended due to coronavirus.

Craig Bellamy's Storm will restart their season against Canberra Raiders behind closed doors in Melbourne on Saturday.

"It would be wonderful if we can get people back to games this year," Tripp added.

Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V'landys feels the NRL should not have stopped as the league prepares to return following the coronavirus outbreak.

Brisbane Broncos and Parramatta Eels will restart the 2020 season behind closed doors on May 28 after the competition was postponed through two rounds on March 23 due to COVID-19.

Coronavirus has wreaked havoc across the world, bringing sport to a standstill, but Australia has managed to control the spread.

And V'landys claims Australia's premier rugby league competition should have continued amid the crisis.

"Racing has proven that you can continue on and if I had my time again, quite frankly, we wouldn't have stopped the rugby league," V'landys told News Corp.

"I don't think we were any risk playing on. If we had implemented the biosecurity measures we have in place now … there was really zero risk to the players or the community.

"There were the challenges in relation to the closure of the borders, but I think we could have got around all that. If there is one regret, maybe we acted too quickly. Maybe we should have waited another week to see the infection rates."

V'landys added: "We're not a very big risk. I think the governments would let us see it through now if there was a second wave, especially with the very harsh biosecurity measures we have implemented.

"We've proven it in racing and not only in NSW but right around Australia. If you have proper biosecurity measures, and participants do the right thing and abide by them, the risk is minimal."

State of Origin will be played in November as the NRL released its full revised draw on Thursday.

The NRL is set to resume its season next week amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the marquee series between Queensland and New South Wales moved.

Origin will be played on November 4, 11 and 18, with venues yet to be finalised, it was announced on Thursday.

"The changes to the schedule this year have allowed Origin to be played after the grand final – which is a first for the game, 40 years after the birth of the country's biggest sporting rivalry," NRL interim chief executive Andrew Abdo said in a statement.

The NRL Grand Final is set to be held on October 25, with the season already reduced to a 20-round schedule.

The season restarts on May 28, when Brisbane Broncos will host Parramatta Eels.

 

Best round three Opta facts:

- Broncos v Eels: Parramatta have won four of their past six games against Brisbane.
- Cowboys v Titans: North Queensland are on a nine-match winning streak against Gold Coast.
- Roosters v Rabbitohs: South Sydney's Campbell Graham has crossed for a try in each of his past three NRL games.
- Warriors v Dragons: New Zealand have lost five of their past six NRL games played in Australia, with the defeats coming by an average margin of 20 points.
- Sharks v Tigers: Wests have lost their past six games against Cronulla.
- Storm v Raiders: These two teams are the only sides yet to concede a try in the first half of a game this season.
- Panthers v Knights: Penrith have won nine of their 12 games without Nathan Cleary, who is suspended, since his debut.
- Sea Eagles v Bulldogs: Canterbury have made 30 errors across their opening two NRL games of the season.

State of Origin will be played in November as the NRL released its full revised draw on Thursday.

The NRL is set to resume its season next week amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the marquee series between Queensland and New South Wales moved.

Origin will be played on November 4, 11 and 18, with venues yet to be finalised, it was announced on Thursday.

"The changes to the schedule this year have allowed Origin to be played after the grand final – which is a first for the game, 40 years after the birth of the country's biggest sporting rivalry," NRL interim chief executive Andrew Abdo said in a statement.

The NRL Grand Final is set to be held on October 25, with the season already reduced to a 20-round schedule.

The season restarts on May 28, when Brisbane Broncos will host Parramatta Eels.

 

Best round three Opta facts:

- Broncos v Eels: Parramatta have won four of their past six games against Brisbane.
- Cowboys v Titans: North Queensland are on a nine-match winning streak against Gold Coast.
- Roosters v Rabbitohs: South Sydney's Campbell Graham has crossed for a try in each of his past three NRL games.
- Warriors v Dragons: New Zealand have lost five of their past six NRL games played in Australia, with the defeats coming by an average margin of 20 points.
- Sharks v Tigers: Wests have lost their past six games against Cronulla.
- Storm v Raiders: These two teams are the only sides yet to concede a try in the first half of a game this season.
- Panthers v Knights: Penrith have won nine of their 12 games without Nathan Cleary, who is suspended, since his debut.
- Sea Eagles v Bulldogs: Canterbury have made 30 errors across their opening two NRL games of the season.

The NRL has announced the six venues that will stage fixtures when the 2020 season resumes at the end of May.

Bankwest Stadium, Campbelltown Stadium and Central Coast Stadium will host fixtures, as well as Suncorp Stadium, Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville and AAMI Park.

The locations have been chosen to host games until at least the end of round nine as the competition prepares to return to action, starting with Brisbane Broncos against Parramatta Eels on May 28.

Action was suspended after two rounds due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The competition will begin with a consolidated approach to venues," acting NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.

"Each venue requires customised infrastructure to meet our strict biosecurity requirements. We've adopted a phased approach for venues should restrictions be eased in the future.

"We've chosen three consolidated venues for clubs in and around Sydney to ensure there are no double headers at venues and in different parts of the region to meet the geographical challenges we face."

The Eels will be sharing Bankwest Stadium with Canterbury Bulldogs, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Cronulla Sharks and Sydney Roosters.

Campbelltown is the location for St George Illawarra Dragons, Wests Tigers, Penrith Panthers and Canberra Raiders, while Newcastle Knights and Manly Sea Eagles will play out of Central Coast Stadium, along with the Gosford-based New Zealand Warriors.

Suncorp Stadium will house the Broncos as per usual, as well as Gold Coast Titans. As for North Queensland Cowboys and Melbourne Storm, they will be in the familiar surroundings of Queensland Country Bank Stadium and AAMI Park respectively.

The draw for the remainder of the season will be revealed on Thursday, though home venues will only be allocated until round nine.

Melbourne Storm head coach Craig Bellamy insisted the winners of the coronavirus-hit 2020 competition will be worthy champions.

May 28 is set to see the return of the competition, which was postponed through two rounds on March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The season will be reduced to 20 rounds following the coronavirus outbreak, but Bellamy said there should be no questions over the Grand Final winners.

"I don't think so, at all. That's just my opinion and [it] doesn't make other people wrong if they think differently," Bellamy told NRL.com.

"We are going ahead with a competition – it will be there for every club for quite a few months now no matter how it's made up."

The Storm were among six teams to have won their opening two games before the league's postponement and Bellamy added: "It's not as if we've only had two rounds and then we're having finals.

"We get 20 games and that's a lot compared with other football codes. The NFL has just 16 games.

"To me, it's still a viable competition. So it doesn't matter how it's made up, although it's certainly going to be different without crowds.

"But at the end of the day, it is still a thorough enough competition and in my opinion there doesn't need to be an asterisk against it at all."

 

The NRL released the fixtures for rounds three and four ahead of the 2020 season restart amid the coronavirus pandemic.

May 28 is set to see the return of the competition, which was postponed through two rounds on March 23 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Brisbane Broncos and Parramatta Eels will kick-off the league's return on May 28, behind closed doors.

Venues for the third and fourth rounds are still be confirmed, while acting NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said the full season schedule will be released next week.

"After a period of uncertainty and unprecedented co-operation by a wide range of stakeholders, we are proud and excited to announce rounds three and four of the Telstra NRL Premiership," Abdo.

"These rounds provide our fans and partners with on-field rivalry and blockbuster entertainment. Combined with the proposed rule changes, the 2020 season will be faster and more unpredictable than ever before."

The Eels, Broncos, Newcastle Knights, Canberra Raiders, Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers were the only teams to have won their opening two games before the NRL's postponement.

 

Round Three:

Brisbane Broncos v Parramatta Eels (May 28)
North Queensland Cowboys v Gold Coast Titans (May 29)
Sydney Roosters v South Sydney Rabbitohs (May 29)
New Zealand Warriors v St George Illawarra Dragons (May 30)
Cronulla Sharks v Wests Tigers (May 30)
Melbourne Storm v Canberra Raiders  (May 30)
Penrith Panthers v Newcastle Knights (May 31)
Manly Sea Eagles v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (May 31)

Round Four:

Brisbane Broncos v Sydney Roosters (June 4)
Penrith Panthers v New Zealand Warriors (June 5)
Melbourne Storm v South Sydney Rabbitohs (June 5)
Parramatta Eels v Manly Sea Eagles (June 6)
North Queensland Cowboys v Cronulla Sharks (June 6)
Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights (June 7)
Gold Coast Titans v Wests Tigers (June 7)
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v St George Illawarra Dragons (June 8)

Melbourne Storm will return to training at AAMI Park on Thursday after a decision from the Victorian government amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Storm had relocated to Albury, New South Wales, for training ahead of the NRL season restarting on May 28.

However, Victoria announced on Monday it was easing restrictions in its state, including loosening rules around professional sport.

"We have agreed to a set of arrangements that will allow training for AFL, for rugby league, for other professional sports to resume from just before midnight tomorrow night," Victorian premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference on Monday.

"Of course with that happening, once training is up and running again that paves the way for the AFL and other codes to make announcements.

"Training resuming paves the way for footy to be back and I think we all want that, provided it's safe, appropriate and can be done in a cautious way and I'm confident that it can be."

The Storm welcomed the decision and announced in a statement they would be back training at their home ground, AAMI Park, on Thursday.

Melbourne had won their opening two games of the NRL season to sit fourth on the ladder when the season was suspended in March due to COVID-19.

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