Round Four of the NRL season produced some thrilling games and stand out performances as teams begin to find their feet with the season well underway.
Penrith still led the table with four wins from four but the chasing pack are close on their tails with a plethora of challengers looking to leapfrog the reigning Premiers.
So, let’s recap the fixtures which took place this round.
Gold Coast Titans 8-6 Wests Tigers
In a game that won’t be remembered as a classic, the Gold Coast Titans came out victorious against a dogged Wests Tigers team still searching for their first win of the season. The first try of the game came in the 79th minute as Titan’s fullback AJ Brimson scored a flukey four-pointer as the ball bounced off the uprights from his kick with the Tigers failing to deal with the loose ball, Brimson was there to ground it and seal the win. The Tigers were again on the wrong side of a close enocunter and will feel hard done to by not winning this game as both teams produced a number of errors in a poor showing. Improvement in defence was evident for the Tigers but their lack of attacking prowess ultimately lost them this game. The return of Jackson Hastings should hopefully improve their strike going forward.
Cronulla Sharks 18-0 Newcastle Knights
The Cronulla Sharks continue to impress this season as they won their third game on the bounce against the Newcastle Knights. Not tipped by many to be premiership contenders at the start of the season, the Sharks currently look like a team capable of winning it all producing a fine defensive display to keep the Knight scoreless. The first try of the game was scored by Prop Aiden Tolman on his 300th appearance in the NRL, a nice moment for the front rower who started his career in 2008. Sione Katoa got the second try of the first half for the Sharks with an acrobatic finish in the corner as the winger showed great skill to keep himself from being put into touch. Any momentum the Newcastle Knights looked to build in the second half disappeared when Dominic Young was sin binned for a tip tackle and Cronulla Capitalised on the man advantage as centre Siosifa Talakai scored. Talakai then turned provider as his delicate kick allowed Will Kennedy to race away and score to secure victory for the Sharks.
Penrith Panthers 26-12 South Sydney Rabbitohs
In a repeat of last season’s Grand Final, the Penrith Panthers once again got the better of the South Sydney Rabbitohs as they welcomed back Scrum Half Nathan Cleary for his first game of the season. The Panthers haven’t lost at home since 2019 and they extended their winning run to 19 games, scoring two early tries through centres Izack Tago and Stephen Crichton. Cleary was uncharacteristically poor with his conversions attempts and when Souths scored in the 15th minute through Campbell Graham the scores remained close at 8-6. Taylan May scored again for the Panthers, continuing his impressive recent form. Cleary once again missed his conversion and Souths were unlucky not to draw level as a Lachlan Ilias try was denied by the bunker due to obstruction. Souths had plenty of chances to score but as usual the Penrith defence was unbreakable as the soaked up all the pressure before scoring the first try of the second period through May in what turned out to be an 8-point try as Ilias was found to have fouled the scorer. Cody Walker got a try for Souths but they were unable to add anymore points as Liam Martin wrapped up the game for Penrith with a late score. It is going to take a very good team to beat Penrith this season and their depth is currently unmatched in the NRL with every player who pulls on their jersey performing well.
New Zealand Warriors 20-6 Brisbane Broncos
The New Zealand Warriors made it consecutive wins as they produced their best performance of the season as the beat the Brisbane Broncos comfortably. On loan Centre Jesse Arthars got the opening try against his parent club in the 5th minute of the game before doubling his tally in the 20-minute mark to rub salt into the wound of the Broncos. Adam Reynolds scored his first try for his new club with a piece of individual brilliance as he chased his own grubber kick to ground the ball. The Brisbane comeback was short lived however as winger Marcelo Montoya scored for the Warriors to regain their two try cushion. Two second half penalties from another former Bronco Reece Walsh secured the victory for the Warriors. Brisbane were up against it for the majority of the game as returning Prop Thomas Flegler was sin binned twice for dangerous contact with both incidents considered soft by some. With 12 men for a large period of the game it was always going to be tough for the Broncos who also lost Albert Kelly to injury.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 25-6 Canberra Raiders
Canberra Raiders couldn’t take their second half performance from last weekend into their match against Manly as the Sea Eagles got their second win of the season in solid fashion. Coming off the back of their electric display last weekend, the Raiders were looking to get their season kick started but got off to a horrible start as Manly raced away to a ten-point lead in the opening 20 minutes. Jack Wighton replied with a try for the Raiders but two early second half tries for Manly in quick succession killed any hopes of a comeback leaving Raiders fans still searching for a complete performance. As for the Sea Eagles, halfback Daly Cherry-Evans was the architect as he completely ran the show for 80 minutes, rounding off his game with a drop goal to rub salt into Canberra wounds.
North Queensland Cowboys 4-28 Sydney Roosters
After a poor start to the season, Sydney Roosters laid down their marker for the season with a dominant victory against a North Queensland Cowboys team who had been in good form. The Roosters came into this game after a suffering defeat against the Rabbitohs last weekend and started the game like a team with a point to prove. Paul Momirovski scored after five minutes for the Chooks before Griffin Neame was sent to the bin for a professional foul and the Cowboys were made to pay for being a man down as Sydney scored two tries through Joseph Manu and Victor Radley whilst they had the man advantage. Former St Helens Centre Kevin Naiqama scored a fourth first half try for the Roosters in his first game of the season to give them a 20-point lead at half time. North Queensland did get a second half try through Murray Taulagi which turned out to be merely a consolation as Daniel Tupou’s try late in second period rounded off the game for the Roosters.
Melbourne Storm 44-0 Canterbury Bulldogs
The Melbourne Storm were at their ruthless best in their game against the Bulldogs as they scored eight unanswered tries, with fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen having a monster game scoring four tries. With Harry Grant back available after his covid issues in the previous round, the Storm and their spine proved far too good for the Bulldogs. With Grant and Hughes signing long term deals midweek and Munster set to follow suit, the Storm will continue to be contenders when these four players are on form. The exhilarating Papenhuyzen ended up with 28 total points for the game, with forwards Josh King, Felise Kaufusi and Kenny Bromwich getting 3 of the other tries. Xavier Coates was also a try scorer for the Storm and produced a dominant display against former Melbourne Winger Josh Addo-Carr who will be hoping his new team can bounce back quickly from this defeat.
Parramatta Eels 48-14 St George Illawarra Dragons
The Mitchell Moses led Parramatta Eels were rampant against St George Illawarra as they won consecutive games for the first time this season. Moses produced a Man of the Match display for the Eels scoring two tries as well as providing two assists. The halfback has started the season in excellent form and will be pushing Nathan Cleary for the New South Wales seven jersey if he carries on playing like this. Parramatta had the better opening period, scoring first through Dylan Brown before Moses scored his first shortly after. However, the Dragons scored late in the first half through stand-off Jack Bird and a penalty on the stroke of half time meant the Eels only led by four points. The Dragons were not able to keep the game competitive long however as the Eels ran in five tries in a 30-minute spell after half time to take the game out of reach. Two late tries for either team pushed the score to 48-14 in a game where the Eels looked at their absolute best. Penrith will be the team to beat in the NRL this season but if Parramatta continue to produce these performances, then they look like the side who could dethrone the Panthers in 2022.