Controversy and cracking victories, Round 4 certainly delivered.
Penrith ambushed the Cowboys in Townsville, Good Friday delivered two penalty-riddled games, Blake Green put his hand up as an Origin bolter when New Zealand defeated the Roosters and Canberra just seem to get worse.
St George Illawarra are a force so far this year, the Gold Coast Titans made sure no one tipped a full round and the Wests Tigers continue to surprise. With a host of injuries, suspensions and players dropped, Round 5 is sure to deliver some juicy headlines.
Canberra Raiders vs. Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
GIO Stadium, 7:45pm Thursday April 5
Team News: Josh Papali’i has been dropped to the reserves after last weekend’s match against Manly, with Luke Bateman shifting to lock, Whitehead to the back row and Liam Knight returns on the bench. Aiden Tolman is injured, moving Adam Elliot to lock and Kerrod Holland onto the bench
Injury Watch: Both teams are nearing full strength, with Aiden Tolman out for a month with an ankle injury.
Prediction: The Bulldogs were hard done by last week, and will be sure to come out firing. Canberra showed glimpses at times last week, but continue to struggle with their combinations. The Dogs will be strong this week, with Foran set for a blinder. Bulldogs by 8.
Cronulla Sharks vs. Sydney Roosters
Southern Cross Group Stadium, 6pm, Friday April 6
Injury Watch: Siona Katoa is a fortnight away for the Sharks.
Prediction: The Roosters were poor last week, and it’s hard to see them losing back-to-back games, but Cronulla have learnt how to strangle teams out of a contest, even if it does make for lacklustre viewing from a viewer’s perspective. Plus, the Sharks have a good record against the Roosters at home. Cronulla by 2.
St. George Illawarra Dragons vs. South Sydney Rabbitohs
Jubilee Oval, 8:05pm, Friday April 6
Team News: The Dragons have once again named Hame Sele on the bench, but look for 18th man Jeremy Latimore to take his spot. Adam Reynolds returns for the Rabbitohs, pushing Adam Douiehi to the bench and Braidon Burns to the reserves. Dane Gagai moves to the wing with Hymel Hunt in the centres.
Injury Watch: Neither team has any immediate injury concerns.
Prediction: This one could go down to the wire. Souths were scrappy last week, but the return of Reynolds into the line-up is a massive in for South Sydney. St. George Illawarra are the from team of the competition so far, but showed weakness at time against Newcastle. This is certainly a game South’s could snatch, but expect the Dragons to earn their fifth straight win in a gritty game. Dragons by 1.
Wests Tigers vs. Melbourne Storm
Mt. Smart Stadium, 3pm, Saturday April 7
Prediction: Wests Tigers lose a lot by taking their home game to New Zealand, with Melbourne hungry to bounce back. If not for a dodgy call against Brisbane, than Wests Tigers would be 4-0. But after Melbourne lost to the Tigers a week ago, they’ll want revenge. Melbourne by 14.
New Zealand Warriors vs. North Queensland Cowboys
Mt. Smart Stadium, 5:30pm, Saturday April 7
Team News: Shaun Johnson and Simon Mannering returns, pushing Mason Lino and Ligi Sao to the reserves. Scott Bolton replaces Jordan MacLean in the run on side, with Corey Jensen coming onto the interchange. Lachlan Coote has been named in the reserves once again.
Injury Watch: Jordan MacLean has been rubbed out for three months with a foot injury.
Prediction: This is a tough one. North Queensland will be desperate not to lose their fourth straight game, while New Zealand are enjoying their best start to the season in franchise history. The return of Shaun Johnson and Simon Mannering is as massive as the absence left by Jordan MacLean. If Blake Green can repeat last weeks heroics, then the Warriors win, despite a big game from JT. Warriors by 4.
Newcastle Knights vs. Brisbane Broncos
McDonald Jones Stadium, 7:35pm, Saturday April 7
Team News: Tautau Moga has heartbreakingly torn his ACL, with Nathan Ross shifting to the centres and Ken Sio coming onto the wing. Corey Oates returns on the wing in place of Jonas Pearson, with Tevita Pangai Jnr. included on the reserves list.
Injury Watch: Tautau Moga will miss the remainder of 2018 with a torn ACL.
Prediction: Newcastle struggled last week after being forced into a rearrange early in the match, while Brisbane were shock losers to little brother, the Titans. Both teams will want to win, but the home crowd will see Newcastle come strong late in the game. Newcastle by 6.
Gold Coast Titans vs. Manly Sea Eagles
Marley Brown Oval, 2pm, Sunday April 8
Team News: Gold Coast are unchanged after a shock win against Brisbane, while Manly have brought in Frank Winterstein and Jack Gosiewski to cover for the injured Curtis Sironen and Kelepi Tanginoa. Dylan Walker returns at centre, pushing Brad Parker to the wing and Matt Wright to fullback to cover for Tom Trbojevic.
Prediction: Gold Coast’s reshuffled forward were dominant against a more experienced Broncos line-up, and should stand strong against a weakened Manly pack. Ash Taylor needs to grab this game by the scruff of the neck, and he’ll be up for the challenge against fellow Maroon Dally Cherry-Evans. Titans by 10.
Parramatta Eels vs. Penrith Panthers
ANZ Stadium, 4:10pm, Sunday April 8
Injury Watch: Nathan Cleary is aiming to be back on the park in seven weeks, a fortnight shorter than originally feared.
Prediction: Parramatta have to win a game sooner or later, don’t they? Unfortunately it won’t be this week. The Eels finished the game strong against the Wests Tigers, but Penrith are coming in hot after a strong win over North Queensland in Townsville, and led by the inspirational James Maloney, will take the point in the Western Sydney derby for the second time this season. Penrith by 14.
Point To Prove
Adam Reynolds. The former State of Origin half failed to play a minute in the pre-season with a foot injury, only to enter the season opener underdone and injure his knee against the Warriors. Youngster Adam Douiehi has filled in more than well since his Round 2 debut, with the Rabbitohs going 2-1 with the Lebanon international in the halves. Reynolds needs to step up and control the team if he wants to keep his spot.
Michael Morgan. The Kangaroos and Queensland representative has struggled since returning from injury, his combination with Jonathan Thurston just doesn’t seem to be the same. He needs to step up if the Cowboys are to snap a three-game losing streak against a red-hot Warriors outfit.
Jack Gosiewski. The former Rabbitoh has claimed the vacant bench spot left by the injured Kelepi Tanginoa, and will be looking to impress in the bid to nail down a regular NRL start. The rangy back-rower scored four tries in a match a few weeks ago for Blacktown, and will leave his mark this weekend.
Photo of the Week
— Jack Blyth (@jblesfooty224) April 4, 2018
Quote of the Week
“He’s not only braced himself but he changed the direction of the forearm and brought it into contact with Morris” – NRL Prosecutor Peter McGrath after slapping Sam Burgess with a two-match ban, and opening another can of worm
Penrith Panthers 13+. The Eels defence has been woeful this season, leaking 30 points a game while there attack has been weak without the likes of Semi Radradra or Clint Gutherson this year. Penrith will certainly take advantage of that.
Rumour of the Week
Aidan Sezer is a wanted man. The Bulldogs have been strong since Jeremy Marshall-King joined the starting line-up, but Dean Pay is keen to sign the former Canterbury junior. Currently unwanted at Canberra, the Raiders won’t stand in Sezer’s way of an early release – provided they can sign a quality replacement.