NRL Preview: Ponga boosts Knights, Farnworth to start & Cowboys without Taumalolo

Zach Holland

Round four of the NRL gets underway on Thursday.

Thursday, June 4 

Brisbane Broncos v Sydney Roosters (10:55am)

The Roosters proved in a great win against South Sydney last week that their year cannot be written off despite losing their first two games of 2020. An encapsulating performance from James Tedesco proved to be a huge factor and showed that both himself and the Roosters are just as dangerous as ever.

After a disappointing loss to Parramatta in round three, it does not get any easier for Anthony Seibold’s men here but there is still plenty of reason to believe that the Broncos can hit back. The addition of Brodie Croft at scrum-half has been vital while Payne Haas continues to solidify his potential superstar status.

Team news: Englishman Herbie Farnworth is named to start on the wing for Brisbane while Jesse Arthars replaces Kotoni Staggs (suspended) in the centres. Alex Glenn (leg) is replaced by Ethan Bullemor.

Mitch Aubusson and Siosiua Taukeiaho are named in the reserves for the Roosters who are otherwise unchanged.

Friday, June 5

Penrith Panthers v New Zealand Warriors (9am)

Despite all the sacrifices and the unorthodox circumstances the Warriors have found themselves them in recent months due to the pandemic, they showed no signs of distress as Stephen Kearney’s men came away with an impressive win over the Dragons. The likes of Kodi Nikorima and Tohu Harris were outstanding for the Warriors and will no doubt be integral here.

The Panthers, on the other hand, come into this one after exhilarating draw against the Knights but will rue their missed chances. They come into this without catalyst Nathan Cleary so the premise will be on Jarome Luai and Matt Burton to step up alongside their talented forward pack.

Team news: Penrith playmaker Nathan Cleary (suspended) remains out.

New signing Poasa Faamausili is named on the bench for the Warriors while Peta Hiku (ribs) and Agnatius Paasi (suspension) are out.

Melbourne Storm v South Sydney Rabbitohs (10:55am)

Latrell Mitchell

It was not the start that Wayne Bennett’s side were hoping for with a loss to their arch rivals last week. The departure of Sam Burgess has left a huge void in South Sydney’s pack but it was an encouraging performance from Latrell Mitchell at full-back.

If they want to bounce back though it does not get any easier for the 21-time Premiership winners as they come up against a Melbourne side out for blood after failing to break down a stubborn Canberra side. To say coach Craig Bellamy was frustrated with last week’s performance is an understatement so no doubt there will be some big words being communicated in the run up to this one.

Team news: Melbourne prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona is suspended so Christian Welch is selected to start in the front-row.

No standout changes for the Rabbitohs, with Mitchell again named at full-back.

Saturday, June 6

Parramatta Eels v Manly Sea Eagles (8:30am)

What a game this could be given their impressive performances last week. The Eels could be genuine title contenders this year after their win over Brisbane last week, with Brad Arthur’s men being in top form as their backline proved to be a dangerous force while their forward pack put in an incredible effort.

The Sea Eagles laid waste to the Bulldogs last week with Tom Trbojevic cementing his superstar status after being involved in five of Manly’s seven tries, scoring two while setting up another three. All in all, we could be set for an absolute blockbuster come Saturday as two of the most exciting teams in the league go head to head.

Team news: Both teams remain unchanged after their impressive wins in round three.

North Queensland Cowboys v Cronulla Sharks (10:35am)

The loss of Jason Taumalolo to injury this week will be a big miss for the Cowboys but one player who looks to be finding his groove at the right time for North Queensland is Valentine Holmes. He set up three tries in the win over the Titans. The 24-year-old comes up against his former club Cronulla for the first time and without Taumalolo, Holmes could be the man to make things happen for the Cowboys.

The Sharks will no doubt want to put one over their former superstar, but they do come into this on the back of three straight losses to start the season. However, there were encouraging signs last week and they looked a threatening side when Wade Graham was pulling the strings.

Team news: Taumalolo misses out for the Cowboys with bone bruising on his knee.

The Sharks make a move in the halves as Matt Moylan replaces Chad Townsend (hamstring).

Sunday, June 7

Canberra Raiders v Newcastle Knights (7:05am)

The Raiders may just be the team to beat this season as they put forth a sensational 80-minute effort against Melbourne last Saturday. The combination of George Williams and Josh Hodgson alongside Jack Wighton looks to be a lethal one in the making while their forwards continue to be one of the most intimidating units in the league.

Despite losing Mitchell Pearce five minutes into the game against Penrith last week, the Knights were still able to dig down deep and secure a thrilling draw against the Panthers. The New South Wales representative is scheduled to start this one though and with the return of superstar Kalyn Ponga it could make this match up an intriguing affair.

Team news: Jordan Rapana has been moved to the bench, with Bailey Simonsson replacing him on the wing for the Raiders.

A huge boost for the Knights sees Ponga return from injury, with Tex Hoy moving to the bench. Andrew McCullough looks set to make his first start for Newcastle at dummy half. After an inspiring effort last week, rookie Chris Randall drops to the reserves.

Gold Coast Titans v Wests Tigers (9:30am)

Gold Coast face a Wests side that fought valiantly to take the victory over the Sharks last Saturday. If the Titans want to salvage anything from the game, then the premise will still be on players such as Ash Taylor.

The Tigers looked to have developed a rather strong spine and the acquisition of hooker Harry Grant proved to be a great move as the youngster slotted in perfectly alongside the likes of Luke Brooks and Benji Marshall.

Team news: A major reshuffle from the Titans sees the quartet of Jai Whitbread, Jarrod Wallace, Nathan Peats and Jonus Pearson drop out of the 17, with Erin Clark starting at hooker and Bryce Cartwright, Tanah Boyd, Young Tonumaipea and Jaimin Jolliffe named on the bench.

A let off for the Tigers sees them name an unchanged squad from their win over Cronulla last week.

Monday, June 8

Canterbury Bulldogs v St George Illawarra Dragons (7:05am)

Brayden Wiliame returns for the Dragons

The last game of round four sees two clubs who are desperate to get a win under their belt. The Dragons may have plenty of talent at their disposal, but the Red V continue to struggle from an attacking standpoint after being held scoreless by the Warriors while the Bulldogs have some attacking issues of their own.

Both teams may have to look to their leaders out on the field to inspire them to get them over the line here with St George Illawara captain Cameron McInnes a huge workhorse for his team while the Bulldogs have Josh Jackson to lead them from the front.

Team news: Canterbury’s Kieran Foran is set to make a miraculous recovery from a shoulder injury and he replaces Jack Cogger in the halves.

There are a few changes for the Dragons, with Corey Norman moving to full-back and Matt Dufty named in the reserves. Adam Klune starts at half-back and Korbin Sims is out, with Josh Kerr moving into the front-row.

Watch NRL and live stream every NRL game to keep up with how Tom Burgess, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Elliott Whitehead, James Graham, George Williams and all the others are getting on Down Under.

Watch our Last Tackle podcast, featuring a guest, every week. SUBSCRIBE to Love Rugby League on YouTube.

Listen to The Final Hooter podcast, featuring exclusive interviews, every week. SUBSCRIBE to Love Rugby League on Apple Podcasts.

More on site

Top 13 players never to win the Man of Steel award

My Set of Six: with Wakefield centre Ryan Atkins featuring David Solomona & Challenge Cup triumph