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Wests Tigers Roll On, RTS Fires & Dearden’s Desperation

Round 4 of the NRL season produced the goods once again as upsets continued across the Easter weekend.

Round 4 In Review

The Sydney Roosters continue to struggle for consistency. Like much of last season, they’ve not been able to string one strong performance up with another. Meanwhile, the Penrith Panthers aren’t phased by missing their worldclass halfback and prop, beating the Roosters 22-16 on Thursday night.

It wasn’t pretty, but the South Sydney Rabbitohs are on the board for the 2024 NRL season. They were made to work hard for their 20-16 win by a Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs side that was unlucky with injuries. Also on Friday night, an Adam Reynolds masterclass with the boot caused havoc in the rain as the Brisbane Broncos swept past the North Queensland Cowboys 38-12 at a soggy Suncorp Stadium.

The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles and Gold Coast Titans both scored early in their respective games, but couldn’t hold on for victory. Much improved on Round 3, Shane Flanagan got one over the Sea Eagles – where he worked last season – as the St George Illawarra Dragons claimed a 20-12 win. Des Hasler isn’t sitting quite so comfortably. The Gold Coast Titans are 0-3 and the most disappointing team of the NRL season so far after blowing a 12-0 lead in going down to the Dolphins 30-14 at home.

Another sell out crowd welcomed the New Zealand Warriors to Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Andrew Webster’s men sent their fans home happy following a somewhat convincing 20-12 win over the Newcastle Knights. It looked as though the Canberra Raiders would cruise to a convincing win of their own while leading the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 18-0 after 25 minutes. However, in Ricky Stuart’s own words, his Raiders were “embarrasing” in conceding 30 unanswered points on their way to a horror 36-22 defeat.

Round 4 ended with an excellent game of bad rugby league. It was ugly. Neither team looked at their best, but together, the Parramatta Eels and Wests Tigers played out a thriller. An Aidan Sezer field goal ended up as the difference, but not before Clint Gutherson had a chance to win it on the siren.

NRL Team of Round 4: Wests Tigers

The Benji Marshall Era is in full swing.

In typical rugby league fashion, we’re going from one extreme to the other.

The ridiclous quizing over how long he spends in the office is now in the past. It’s clear that he is doing a good job with the squad he has for Wests to now be 2-1 following their 17-16 win over the Parramatta Eels. Now, expectations will be set sky high for their Round 5 match against the Dolphins.

Marshall is improving this team. Of that, there is no doubt. Tigers teams of recent memory don’t defend their line as well as this group did on Monday evening.

Young players have added some spark. Meanwhile, the experience of Api Koroisau and Aiden Sezer, in particular, showed itself in spades against Parramatta. Still, there is still a lot of work to do if they’re to become a consistent force in the NRL.

The Tigers finished behind the Eels in possession and yardage – two key metrics to consistently winning footy games. They missed more tackles and gave away a lot more penalties. But struggling on the stats pages and claiming two competition points is encouraging moving forward.

Player Spotlight: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

He’s been out of the game for a few years and the fullback position has changed, but Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has still got it.

We got the throwback performance everybody wanted from Tuivasa-Sheck on Sunday.

Comfortably the best third-string fullback in the NRL, Tuivasa-Sheck finished up with 283 running metres and seven tackle breaks for the night.

“Talking to Rog I thought he learnt plenty. He feels the NRL is a different beast from when he left it. He hasn’t had a lot of reps at fullback, we have been concentrating on centre so I was proud.” – Andrew Webster

However, as good as Tuivasa-Sheck was, there won’t be a backflip on his move to the centres with Charnze Nicol-Klokstad “definitely” the fullback when he’s fit to play according to Webster.

The Highlight Reel

Take a bow, Tom Dearden.

Most people when they see Selwyn Cobb winding up with 80 metres to travel and nobody in front of him take the opportunity to job it back and take a breather. He’s gone.

Not Tom Dearden.

It’s only Round 4, but this effort will more than likely end the NRL season as the Try Saver of the Year. Joining the inevitable Try of the Year two weeks ago.

A Numbers Game

The Panthers are a different beast. Without James Fisher-Harris through the middle and Nathan Cleary to steer the ship, they still managed 1,709 running metres. More impressively, they limited the Roosters to only 1,355 metres.

While the Rabbitohs picked up the two points and the Bulldogs looked decent in defeat, the possession stats are a concern for both teams. Souths played with only 46% and will need to lift that number in the coming weeks if they’re to turn things around. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will be slightly concerned with only scoring two tries in 79 minutes with 54% possession to their name.

The conditions made things more difficult, but the Cowboys will be pointing to the 16 errors as to why they couldn’t keep up with the Broncos on Friday night. Errors continued to feature on Saturday as the Dragons and Sea Eagles combined for 30 between them.

Things aren’t right on the Gold Coast at the moment. The Titans aren’t playing the entertaining and expansive footy they’ve become known for in recent years. Perhaps most telling is the numbers of Alofiana Khan-Pereira. After averaging 113 running metres per game last season, he’s averaging only 69 metres per game to start the 2024 NRL season.

Kurt Capewell is quietly putting together a nice start to his time with the Warriors, making 48 tackles on Sunday evening. Tyson Frizel also led the way on the edge the Knights with 42 tackles as both teams shifted the footy throughout the match.

There is only one stat that mattered for Stuart and the Raiders following their loss to the Sharks: 18-0.

To wrap up the round, rookie sensation Lachlan Galvin dished out two try assists, including an impressive solo effort on the back of his running game, to lead the Tigers to victory over an Eels outfit who continue to set the benchmark in the NRL for offloads with 13 in this one.

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