NRL Round 4: Friday Night Previews & Betting Tips

Two sides without confidence clash when the beleaguered Warriors host the winless Titans while the Panthers go up against the Wests Tigers in a Friday night grudge match.

James Baxter
 | 
Tue, 2 Apr, 12:00 AM

New Zealand Warriors v Gold Coast Titans – Mt Smart Stadium- 6:00pm

The Warriors are almost at the stage when you’re not angry at them – you’re just disappointed. To recap their 2019 thus far:

Round 1 – a 40-6 demolition of Canterbury raises hopes the post-Shaun Johnson era may indeed be promising after all

Round 2 – a limp 34-6 loss to Wests creates doubts over whether the inconsistent Warriors of old never actually left

Round 3 – a humiliating 46-12 loss to the winless Manly now leads to the question of whether the Warriors managed to hit rock bottom in round three.

 

It’s difficult to do justice to how disappointing they were against Manly. Early on against the Sea Eagles, they looked like they wanted to go try for try, which inevitably backfired when their attack started struggling and from there they never looked into the contest. They missed tackles for fun – Tohu Harris led the horror total of 40 missed tackles with 7 of his own – and looked lost in attack once Issac Luke succumbed to a hamstring injury.

Coach Steve Kearney has had enough – notably dropping rookie five-eighth Adam Keighran for Chanel Tavita-Harris, who will make his NRL debut. The Warriors’ thumping of the Bulldogs two rounds ago feels like it was two seasons ago. They’ve since been out-enthused by two sides who missed the finals in 2018. A third-straight loss to a similar side in the Gold Coast Titans could be enough to remove any self-confidence in the Warriors camp.

The good news is the Titans have shown improvement in each game in 2019. The bad news is they’re still 0-3 and facing the reality of the franchise’s worst ever start.

The Titans deserve credit for their performance in a 28-20 loss to unbeaten Souths. Their late comeback showed a team with belief still present despite a wretched season start, it’s just they left themselves with too much to do against the Bunnies. A 9-1 penalty count against the Titans was another sign of things not going the Gold Coast’s way, especially considering their horror injury toll already. Out of coach Gareth Brennan’s spine, he would have pencilled in pre-season, only 35-year-old fullback Michael Gordon was fit to face Souths.

The loss in round one of halves Tyrone Roberts and Ashley Taylor combined with hooker Nathan Peats injuring his pec during training last week has left the Titans understandably struggling to build attacking cohesion. Peats, in particular, is a cruel blow however in Mitch Rein the Titans have an experienced backup and someone whose creativity could take pressure off the halves. Brennan has shown he’s ready to make tough decisions – such as benching his star forward recruit Shannon Boyd- and if the Titans continue to put in efforts like they did against Souths, results will favour them soon enough.

Anthony Don becomes Gold Coast’s all-time leading try scorer after his latest try against Souths and Jai Arrow continues to show himself as worthy of retaining his Queensland position. The Titans may be winless but they’re not without hope – a win against the Warriors wouldn’t surprise anyone.

 

Key Stats: Auckland isn’t a happy hunting ground for Gold Coast – they’ve won only once there in the last eight years, while in their overall history playing there they’ve been kept to single figures five times from eleven appearances. David Fusitu’a has scored seven tries in eight matches against Gold Coast.

 

Tip: Warriors

Best bet: David Fusitu’a to score anytime - $1.75* (BetEasy)

Value bet: Warriors -4 - $1.86* (Unibet)

Penrith Panthers v Wests Tigers – Panthers Stadium - 7:55pm

The Tigers clash can’t come quickly enough for the Panthers who will be desperate to move on from their 32-2 loss to Melbourne.

It was a nightmare in Bathurst as the Panthers dominated the ball and territory in the first half and only had a penalty goal to show for it. And when momentum turned against them in the second half, things went downhill rapidly for Ivan Cleary’s side.

Normally reliable fullback Dylan Edwards made six errors while the Penrith forwards went missing. Reagan Campbell-Gillard made the most running metres but his total of 89 metres would be well below the NSW prop’s aims, let alone his teammates. James Maloney and Nathan Cleary alternated playmaking roles in an effort to turn their attack around but Penrith now has gone over 115 minutes without a try. The Panthers have too much quality to not turn things around – and the Tigers coming off a shock loss will be their target to turn things around.

It wasn’t meant to be like this for the Tigers. A hot 2-0 start and a winless Canterbury visiting with the worst defence in the competition, the Tigers would have been banking on another win and another step closer to their finals hopes. Instead, they copped a deserved 22-8 loss and now risk losing all of their early momentum. The Tigers were outmatched all over the field in their loss. Their captain Moses Mbye would have been eyeing off a big game against his old team – instead, the fullback looked all at sea in the windy conditions, never looking convincing under the high ball while struggling to insert himself as a playmaker. Benji Marshall limped off with a hamstring injury, Luke Brooks had a poor game by his standards and the Tigers forwards couldn’t match the intensity of a desperate Dogs pack.

The Tigers are an effort side – they’re at their best when they lead the way through defence with points coming through built-up pressure. When they had to resort to more open attack in trying to chase down a 22-0 deficit, the Tigers couldn’t handle the ball. Their only try came from a Luke Garner put-down following a rushed kick from impromptu five-eighth Ryan Matterson. But if it was a lack of enthusiasm which undid the Tigers last start, there’s just the man ready to fix that this week.

After starting 2019 in the Canterbury Cup, Josh Reynolds will replace Marshall in the six and “Grub” will lift the team’s spirits – the former NSW pivot knows no other way. Reynolds is the personification of maximising opportunity through effort and this forced selection change could pay dividends for coach Michael Maguire. The spotlight will be Maguire’s counterpart Ivan Cleary this week in the first meeting of the Tigers and Panthers since Cleary left Wests to return to Penrith – and this hype could play into the underdog Tigers’ hands.

 

Key stats: The Panthers have won six of their last seven head-to-head matches against the Tigers. James Tamou might be a lucky charm – he’s won all three matches against the Tigers since he joined Penrith. The Panthers have also won four straight second halves against the Tigers.

 

Tip: Panthers

Best bet: Panthers to win second half - $1.75* (Unibet)

Value bet: Panthers 1-12 - $2.90* (bet365)

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