NRL Round 4: What we liked and disliked from every game

We began the week with a thrilling encounter decided by a single points, and ended the round with a derby blowout.

Some teams surprised us with underdog victories, whilst a number of other sides returned to the win column after lacklustre starts.

Here’s what we liked and disliked from every game of Round 4.

Parramatta Eels 17 – 16 Penrith Panthers

What we liked: Mitch Moses bounces back

The noise around Mitch Moses and his contract conundrum has reached almost deafening levels in recent weeks as the question over will he or won’t he remain at the Eels has dominated discussion.

But on Thursday night – just hours after reports filtered through that he would be Parramatta’s $6m man – Moses put in his best performance of the season so far to guide his side to their first victory. 

Staring down the barrel of a fourth-straight defeat, Moses kept his head when almost everyone else around him was losing theirs, to kick the game-winning field goal in golden point.

It capped an impressive match for the halfback who regularly got his team out of trouble with his kicking game. In fact, he claimed more kick metres than anyone in the NRL has ever done before. 

His boot kept the Eels on the right path with their game plan; utilise Junior Paulo and Reagan Campell-Gillard as wrecking balls through the middle and then put Penrith in the corner for Sunia Turuva to work himself out of. 

Moses purposely bypassed Brian To’o, who tore them apart in last year’s grand final, as Parra backed their right side defence to clamp down on the momentum the Panthers can generate early in their first and second plays. 

It worked a treat as they led from the 15th minute until the very last seconds of regulation time when Nathan Cleary produced his two-point field goal. 

Tasked with starting all over again and with the aforementioned pressure bearing down on him in golden point, Moses iced the big moment. 

What we disliked: Nathan Cleary’s unbelievable field goal may be lost to the result

As soon as referee Ashley Klein summoned Junior Paulo over following his high shot, everyone knew what was going to happen.

Penrith were going to be able to kick for touch from the resulting penalty and Cleary would be tasked with pulling off the miracle with a 40m field goal to level the scores. 

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The fact that he did it so calmly and effortlessly made it one of the all-time great plays in the final seconds of any NRL match. 

It was worthy of winning any game but instead, Parramatta regrouped and claimed the win to consign Cleary’s two-point field goal to merely a footnote in a derby for the ages. 

It may go down as the best field goal in regulation time since Braith Anasta slotted one for the Roosters over a decade ago.

Melbourne Storm 24 – 12 Wests Tigers

What we liked: Cameron Munster returns from injury to spark Storm

Prior to kick off, Munster said he’d be handing the keys to Jonah Pezet to lead the side around the field which would allow him to be “a headless chook” on both sides of the field.

In his absence, the Storm have looked like a shadow of their former selves but the five-eighth immediately provided the spark they’ve been missing.

He had his hands in just about everything, landing a pinpoint kick for Xavier Coates to bat back for Justin Olam to score and then scoring a four-pointer himself when he pinned his ears back out of dummy-half on the stroke of half time.

Melbourne had to get through a massive amount of defence in the second half as Munster took a backseat as they saw out the game for a routine win.

The No.6 finished with one try, a try assist, a linebreak, two tackle busts and 76 running metres. 

What we disliked: Tigers shuffle in the spine doesn’t work

Tim Sheens reacted to a woeful first three weeks from his Tigers side by shuffling the deck.

Api Koroisau said the final 20 minutes of their match against the Bulldogs last week had given them a boost of confidence when Brandon Wakeham came off the interchange bench to slot into the halves. 

But they started the game against the Storm flat and despite having a strong spell of possession in the second half, they still looked disjointed.

The Tigers’ two tries were indicative of where they are at, at the moment: two individual pieces of magic from John Bateman and Koroisau rather than any collective work from the team.

The constant shifting around of key position players is never a good sign and so it proved.

Adam Doueihi started the game at fullback after being moved from five-eighth last week only to finish the match against the Storm in the centres. If that sounds confusing, it’s because it is.

Brisbane Broncos 18 – 12 Dolphins

What we liked: Reece Walsh shines at both ends of the field

The brilliance of Reece Walsh with the ball in hand has been obvious for years now. His innate ability to sniff out a chance in attack and pull the trigger has made him one of the most exciting players to watch in the league. 

He was once again electric against the Dolphins as he finished with two try assists and four linebreak assists in the Broncos’ thrilling win in the ‘Battle of Brisbane’. 

But it was also his work off the ball that caught the eye, as evidenced by his one-on-one try-saver against a rampaging Tesi Niu. 

“While he is known for his brilliance with the ball, tonight I thought he was really good defensively for us,” coach Kevin Walters said post-match. 

With the young gun making vast improvements in his defence to pair alongside his ability in attack, the Broncos look a serious contender already. 

What we disliked: Anthony Milford goes from hero to zero

The Dolphins had been plagued by injury with both Sean O’Sullivan and Kodi Nikorima going off to leave the late call-up Anthony Milford to steer the side to victory amongst great adversity.

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He threaded through a grubber which Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow pounced on in the 63rd minute to give the Dolphins hope of what Wayne Bennett later deemed a “miracle”. 

But after the Broncos hit back through Kurt Capewell, the Dolphins had a chance to win it in the final minutes as they were trailing by just two points. 

This time, Milford’s kick was scooped up by Kotoni Staggs who raced the length of the field to condemn the new franchise to their first loss in the NRL and bragging rights in the ‘Battle of Brisbane’. 

It’s a cruel game, rugby league.

North Queensland Cowboys 24 – 12 Gold Coast Titans

What we liked: Titans rookie shines in gallant defeat

While there were opportunities that went begging and some injury issues to deal with post-game, the performance of exciting young winger Alofiana Khan-Pereira will no doubt leave Titans fans feeling optimistic.

In just his fourth NRL appearance, the 21-year-old continued to prove why he is a star of the future with a blistering two-try performance in Townsville.

Khan-Pereira opened the scoring three minutes into the night, before showing off his pace again in the second-half with another four-pointer.

The local product finished with 182 run metres, five linebreaks and six tackle breaks in an impressive individual display, despite the Titans going down by 12 points. 

What we disliked: Injury carnage across the board

In a scrappy and entertaining affair between the two Queensland-based outfits, the injuries coming out of it for both coaches could be a major cause for concern. 

Kieran Foran left the field early in the game with a calf injury in a massive blow to the Titans – but things only got worse moments later when AJ Brimson was forced off with a hamstring issue.

The extent of the injuries for Gold Coast’s two key men has yet to be revealed, but with a bye in Round 5, the club will be hopeful to have both players fit and firing in a fortnight’s time. 

North Queensland also had their own dramas, with star winger Murray Taulagi suffering an MCL injury and facing a stint on the sidelines.

South Sydney Rabbitohs 13 – 12 Manly Sea Eagles

What we liked: Koloamatangi and Olakau’atu continue their Origin push

There’s still plenty of time left until the State Of Origin sides will be selected – but two players who should absolutely be in the final squad for NSW are explosive forwards Keaon Koloamatangi and Haumole Olakau’atu.

Both players have been talked up by experts and fans alike in recent weeks, and both men lived up to the hype in a dramatic game at Accor Stadium.

Koloamatangi was forced into the middle of the field due to South Sydney’s injury crisis and never looked out of place, powering through to finish with a massive 179 run metres and 41 tackles in an impeccable 80-minute effort.

As for Olakau’atu, his class and power on the right-edge caused plenty of headaches for the Bunnies, crossing for a first-half try, running for 140 metres and breaking four tackles. The 24-year-old was equally impressive in defence, coming up with 31 tackles and just one miss. 

Brad Fittler will likely already have his eye on both Tongan internationals and the Round 4 game will only help boost their chances of selection for the Blues. 

What we disliked: Cameron Murray needs a spell 

Cameron Murray is one of the greatest players in the competition – but even the Rabbitohs captain will be disappointed with his performance at times on Saturday night. 

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The 25-year-old looked out on his feet for the majority of the second-half, throwing some ordinary passes and giving away two penalties against a gallant Manly outfit.

Murray also threw an intercept for Daly Cherry-Evans’ try right on the stroke of half-time, but luckily his side was able to scrape through with an extra-time win.

The skipper has had to get through a mountain of work over the opening four rounds of the season, with a plethora of the Bunnies’ key forwards sidelined due to injury, but looks a player in desperate need of a spell – whether it be a week off the field, or some time on the bench during games. 

Murray finished with 52 tackles in a trademark warhorse display, but lacked his usual punch or class with ball in hand and the aforementioned exhaustion clearly played a factor. 

New Zealand Warriors 16 – 14 Canterbury Bulldogs

What we liked: Warriors’ fighting spirit

The Warriors didn’t lead until Shaun Johnson’s 66th-minute try, in what was an encouraging performance.

Jacob Kiraz’s early try for the Bulldogs appeared to deflate the home side somewhat, but they pushed to close the gap to two points by half-time.

They then conceded first again in the second half but didn’t drop their heads from that point onward, spurred on by an excited Mt Smart Stadium crowd.

Whilst their team (on paper) may not stack up to some other opponents, their heart alone could take them good places this season.

What we disliked: Potential injury to Tohu Harris

No one ever likes to see injuries, and Tohu Harris’ latest concern could be a significant blow to the Warriors.

The Warriors captain appeared to injure his left knee as his leg got caught up in a tackle. He lasted five minutes of the second half before leaving the field.

According to NRL Physio on Twitter, there is a chance he has torn his MCL or even his ACL. 

Harris’ leadership, physicality, ball-running and passing would all be missed if he faces time on the sideline.

Bulldogs enforcer Fa’amanu Brown also left the game with a dislocated elbow, in another blow to Canterbury’s forward pack.

Newcastle Knights 24 – 14 Canberra Raiders

What we liked: Lachlan Miller shines at fullback

The Knights have a good’un.

The acquisition of Lachlan Miller in the offseason appears to be a very smart move by Newcastle, with the 28-year-old putting on a stellar performance against the Raiders.

He ran for 253 metres – the most in his team – and also notched one try assist.

Whilst he didn’t feature on the scoresheet, he was everywhere all game, helping the Knights keep their energy up for the entire 80 minutes.

What we disliked: Lacklustre performance could cost Raiders

For a team fighting to make the top eight, putting up that kind of performance against a struggling Knights side will undoubtedly frustrate Ricky Stuart.

Sebastian Kris was a shining light, but no other Canberra player made themselves particularly known.

They lacked energy at stages and failed to tighten their defence on multiple occasions, conceding five tries.

There is plenty of time in the season to fix some of these problems, but inconsistency could again be a problem for the Raiders in 2023.

St George Illawarra Dragons 8 – 40 Cronulla Sharks

What we liked: Nicho Hynes’ return

It just had to be.

Nicho Hynes missed the Sharks’ opening three games this season, but you would not have known it on Sunday night.

Last year’s Dally M winner notched three try assists, picked up 123 running metres and slotted five of his seven conversions. Not too shabby.

The Sharks are still a decent team without Hynes, but there is no doubt that he lifts them up several levels.

His fitness will be crucial to Cronulla’s 2023 finals push as they look to amend last year’s swift exit.

What we disliked: Dragons crumble (again)

Bear with us here… the Dragons are like a poorly-made lemon meringue pie.

They have all the ingredients for a delicious dish, but they simply haven’t whipped their egg whites enough – the key binding element.

It all looks pretty in the oven until halfway through the cooking process, when it begins to fall apart and ends in a mess. 

Weird metaphor aside, it was another concerning performance for Anthony Griffin’s men.

They matched their opponents with two tries in the first half but lost any composure in the second stanza.

The Sharks were silky smooth, but the Dragons certainly didn’t make it hard for them to score their seven tries throughout the match.

Now, the question is whether Hook still has a job next week…

Back a team head-to-head and if they lead by 6+ points at half time, get paid! Excludes SA Residents. T&Cs apply. Gamble responsibly.

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