NRL Round 4: Saturday Match Previews & Betting Tips

The unbeaten Bunnies face a tricky challenge in the resurgent Sea Eagles while Cowboys host an in-form Canberra side, and Parra meets the rampant Sharkies.

James Baxter
Tue, 2 Apr, 12:00 AM

Manly Sea Eagles v South Sydney Rabbitohs – Lottoland - 3:00pm

We got a glimpse of what Manly are capable of in their second-half effort against the Roosters in round two. We got the full 20/20 view of this Manly threat though in their 46-12 belting of the Warriors last week. Manly was a different side with the return of Tom Trbojevic at fullback. The rep star looked like he wanted to catch up on missing out the first two matches, and two tries, two try assists and three line breaks show Manly’s attack reaches another level with their superstar at the back.

Manly possess game breakers in the Trbojevic twins and Daly Cherry-Evans who are capable of running up rapid-fire points. Impressively, Manly’s bench is starting to contribute as well. This is led by Manese Fainu, the livewire hooker causing havoc when added to the game. The youngster is performing so well he’s starting to put pressure on incumbent nine Api Koroisau. If Manly is going to climb the ladder in 2019 they need to make Lottoland the feared fortress it once was. Defeating Souths will go a long way in achieving that.

Souths got the job done against Gold Coast, but the unbeaten Bunnies made it hard work against a winless, depleted Titans side. The performance was slightly opposite to their opening two rounds.

This time Souths didn’t need to play catch up in the second half – they got away to a decent start but instead fell away after the break. The Titans got within six points at one stage for what would have been a monumental upset but Souths were able to hold on.

Coach Wayne Bennett was slightly disappointed at the quality of the second half effort, as too many sloppy errors were made, meaning their defence was exposed more often to the ad-lib attack Gold Coast relied on with their key playmakers Ash Taylor, Tyrone Roberts and Nathan Peats unavailable. Braidon Burns suffered two leg injuries which soured the Souths win. The young centre has been a backline standout so far and while fortunately he’s been cleared of a suspected ankle fracture, a hamstring injury will sideline him for a suspected month.

Greg Inglis sat the Titans game out nursing his own shoulder injury and the future Immortal makes for a handy replacement. Souths’ forwards continue to build momentum, even their late pre-season signing Ethan Lowe has looked a natural fit, the power-running backrower scoring his first Bunnies try.

 

Key stats: In these sides’ last 10 matches, the side winning at half time has won the match. The last time Souths won their opening four rounds was 2013.

 

Tip: Rabbitohs

Best bet: Rabbitohs to score first - $1.70* (BetEasy)

Value bet: Rabbitohs half time/full time - $2.05* (TAB)

North Queensland Cowboys v Canberra Raiders – 1300 Smiles Stadium – 5:30pm

Future Immortal Johnathan Thurston sat on the hill watching the Cowboys match against the Sharks – and his ex-teammates may have been wishing their former general could have made a cameo appearance for them.

North Queensland was blown away by a clinical Cronulla side, the 42-16 result leaving serious questions on the Cowboys’ goals of returning to finals footy. Pre-game Paul Green responded to his side’s attacking concerns with a reshuffle to bring back youngster Jake Clifford into the halves, meaning Te Maire Martin returning to fullback. It was an admirable attempt to create some attacking spark and though there were flashes of flair, the Cowboys still face the challenge of opponents knowing this is the Michael Morgan show and therefore targeting the halfback.

The loss of Jason Taumalolo continues to be felt in the Cowboys pack. Josh McGuire was a standout in a well-beaten side – his 176 running metres easily the most by a forward on either side – but he needs support. The Cowboys are already at a crossroads in 2019. The Raiders match is their second of three straight home matches and considering their next opponent will be the Storm, they need a rapid response to overcome the Raiders.

Canberra entered 2019 knowing it would be finals or bust, and their 17-10 win over Newcastle could well prove vital come September. The Raiders have been impressive so far this season, shutting out the Titans, being competitive against the Storm before outlasting a battling Knights side. Whilst Newcastle struggled with their spine – to the point of a voluntary reshuffle an hour into the game – the Raiders made do with theirs nicely.

Jack Wighton’s game may have been slightly off – his kicking game in particular highlighted by out on the full errors – but he still showed confidence in wanting the ball in his new position. Sam Williams filled in for the injured Aidan Sezer and showed the worth in investing in an experienced back-up half. Williams wasn’t spectacular and he touched the ball nine fewer times than Wighton but he guided the Raiders well and knows the Ricky Stuart gameplan inside out.

Meanwhile, unheralded Warriors recruit Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is looking like the year’s biggest bargain buy. The speedster is loving life as a converted fullback and his two tries sealed the Raiders’ second win for the year. The Raiders are playing with belief and a forward pack- including Englishman John Bateman who continues to impress in his debut NRL campaign- who are matching their opponents week in week out. An interesting challenge, in particular, awaits their English forwards in Bateman, Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead and Ryan Sutton – they’ve only got two combined appearances in Townsville between them for two losses, the oppressive humidity may be a unique factor for them to withstand.

 

Key stat: The Cowboys’ defence is the third-worst in the NRL this season. The Cowboys’ 42-16 loss last week against Cronulla was the most points they’ve conceded at home since 2012. The Raiders’ 2-1 start is only the second time this last decade they’ve had a winning record at this season stage.

 

Tip: Raiders

Best bet: Raiders to win either half - $1.36* (Sportsbet)

Value bet: Raiders -2 - $2.28* (Unibet)

Parramatta Eels v Cronulla Sharks – ANZ Stadium – 7:35pm

It was a promising performance by Parramatta in their 32-18 loss to the Sydney Roosters. The Eels pushed the reigning Premiers hard, twice taking the lead in the second half and only falling away after the Roosters stepped up their intensity in a way the genuinely elite sides can. It was the Eels’ first 2019 loss but it still leaves them well-placed and they’ll benefit from the experience gained in facing the Roosters.

Blake Ferguson had another impressive performance but in a big step for the Eels’ attacking balance, his wing partner Maika Sivo scored his first NRL try before quickly making it a double. This can’t be overlooked. Ferguson is the Dally M Winger of the Year and is pushing hard for an Origin recall. This has been a big factor in Parra’s improvement however the big man can’t do it alone. If Sivo can build on his promising career start, it will give Parramatta genuine strike options on both flanks.

The Roosters exposed Parramatta’s tiring defence however and that may be coach Brad Arthur’s biggest concern going into Saturday’s match against Cronulla. The Sharkies caused havoc against a spent Cowboys and the Eels cannot afford to leave themselves vulnerable against another side who finished top four last year. Mitchell Moses is off-contract and the star halfback will need to be at his creative best against an experienced Cronulla side. The Eels are a far more competitive side than last year and showed against the Roosters they’re capable of spells of dominance against sides with superior lists on paper. The key for them this week is to convert the spells into an 80-minute performance.

Cronulla meanwhile had their best performance of John Morris’s brief coaching career in their 42-16 caning of North Queensland in Townsville. This was a mature effort from Cronulla who showed great attacking composure in the suffocating North Queensland humidity. Shaun Johnson looked at ease with his halves partner Chad Townsend, capitalising on the foundations laid by a dominant Sharkies forward pack. Matt Prior had his best game since his Origin call up last year, the prop showing his ball skills in setting up Blayke Brailey’s first NRL try late on.

Cronulla lost their captain Paul Gallen to a rib injury early on before then losing fullback Matt Moylan with a hamstring complaint in the second half, but these setbacks couldn’t stop the free-flowing Sharks attack. Josh Dugan was another impressive performer and is the logical replacement at the back, creating a slot for Bronson Xerri to debut in the centres. Xerri is regarded as a future NSW representative and with good cause – the Sharks were disappointed to lose Jesse Ramien in the off-season to Newcastle but this meant Xerri’s pathway became clearer. He’s been impressive playing in the Canterbury Cup and the 18-year-old will have no fear in showing his pace at NRL level.

 

Key stat: Parramatta has lost five straight Cronulla matches. Sosaia Feki has eight tries from seven matches against the Eels.

 

Tip: Sharks

Best bet: Sharks - $1.92* (TopBetta)

Value bet: Sosaia Feki to score anytime - $2.10* (TAB)

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