NRL Preview: Roberts returns, Ponga to full-back, Tigers missing Marshall

We take an in-depth look into every game in round four of the 2019 NRL season…

Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos

The first round four fixture sees a feisty NSW-Queensland clash between Sydney and Brisbane. After a first round defeat to South Sydney, the Roosters have stepped it up a gear and have settled back into winning ways with wins over Manly and Parramatta.

The Broncos themselves will still be stinging from their 25-24 loss over St George Illawarra last week and will look to bounce with back with the distinctive scalp of the reigning NRL champions. A Roosters team without Cooper Cronk found themselves trailing but a great second half showing spoiled the Eels’ party.

A stronger performance will no doubt be expected from Anthony Seibold, whose Broncos still look to find a consistent winning formula.

Team news: The Roosters have named Copper Cronk who looks to set to return from a hamstring injury with Luke Keary moving to stand-off and Latrell Mitchell moving back to the centre position. Mitchell Aubusson moves back into the second-row, placing Angus Crichton on the bench. Jake Friend misses out due to injury, with Victor Radley taking his place at nine.

An achilles injury forces Broncos centre James Roberts to miss out, with Kotoni Staggs taking his place. The returning Matt Lodge moves back in at prop, with the fearsome Tonga powerhouse Tevita Pangai Junior moving back to loose forward.

New Zealand Warriors v Gold Coast Titans

After what was an impressive start to the 2019 NRL season with the thrashing of Canterbury, the Warriors have failed to kick on from this win with heavy back-to-back defeats. A combination of lack of discipline and defensive mishaps have allowed their opponents to score with unnecessary ease.

The Titans themselves are fresh off another loss to South Sydney. However, there are certainly some positives coach Garth Brennan can take away. It was a spirited performance that saw them end the game within touching distance. Another boost sees the return of Tyrone Roberts and Ash Taylor into the fold, who could certainly be the key ingredients in securing a first win of the season for Gold Coast.

This is a game that is set to be pivotal to the aspirations of both sides this season.

Team news: After an impressive debut, promising half-back Adam Keighran now finds himself dropped into the reserves with fellow youngster Chanel Harris-Tavita taking his place at number six. The experienced Issac Luke misses out due to injury with Kyle Lawton set to replace him in the starting 13. The Warriors front-row also sees a reshuffle with Leeson Ah Mau in at prop.

What will no doubt be music to the ears of Titans fans sees both Taylor and Roberts named to make their returns to the halves, with AJ Brimson making his return to the bench.

Penrith Panthers v Wests Tigers

The Penrith dilemma continues after their second defeat of the season came over the weekend against a dominant Melbourne side. Despite many tipping Penrith to go well this season, the Panthers have struggled to get anything going on an attacking front. Over the first three games, their backline is yet to produce a single try this season and this certainly highlights a major problem, and will no doubt be something coach Ivan Cleary looks to address in the lead up to this game.

The Tigers duo of Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall might have played like it was the mid-2000s over the first two games but were outdone by a gritty Canterbury side. However, this game against Penrith looks to be a perfect opportunity to bounce back. A toss-up here.

Team news: A major overhaul of the Panthers front-row sees Reagan Campbell-Gillard come in at prop and both Viliame Kikau and Isaah Yeo named in the second-row. James Fisher-Harris moves in at loose forward. The only casualty for the Tigers is that of Benji Marshall (hamstring) is replaced by Josh Reynolds.

Manly Sea Eagles v South Sydney Rabbitohs

The return of Tom Trbojevic certainly bolstered Manly’s attack over the weekend, following a comprehensive win over the New Zealand Warriors. The 22-year-old shrugged off a hamstring injury to showcase exactly how important he is to the Northern Beaches side by scoring a brace of tries and having his team-mates firing on all fronts.

The Sea Eagles now face what could be one of their tougher tests this season as they come up against an undefeated South Sydney team. The Rabbitohs saw off a stubborn Gold Coast side last time out, despite dominating most parts of the game.

Team news: The Sea Eagles make just the one change with Brendan Elliot replacing Moses Suli at centre due to poor discipline. A few key changes for the Bunnies sees George Burgess come back into the starting line-up to partner brother Tom at prop and captain Greg Inglis moves to left centre to accommodate for Braidon Burns (hamstring).

North Queensland Cowboys v Canberra Raiders

The loss of star man Jason Taumalolo proved too much and it certainly showed over the weekend as the Cowboys just could not deal with an impressive second half showing from Cronulla. The Queensland side now face another sterner test in round four with this game against a much-improved Canberra side. If the Queensland outfit want to come away with the win then their defensive efforts will have to improve as only the Bulldogs and Titans have conceded more points than Paul Green’s men.

The Raiders stand at 2-1 and will most certainly having NRL finals on their mind this season following an impressive start. The likes of Josh Hodgson, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and John Bateman have been pivotal to the Green Machine’s start to the season, with the latter adjusting to life in the NRL with ease.

Team news: Both teams remain unchanged, but Canberra’s Aidan Sezer is available for selection again after returning from a stomach muscle injury.

Parramatta Eels v Cronulla Sharks

After back to back wins to start their season, the Eels succumbed to a defeat in their third outing with a loss to the Roosters. The blue and gold now face Cronulla in round four and are a team still finding their feet but can take much pleasure in back-to-back convincing wins over tough Queensland competition. The Eels’ start has no doubt surprised many, with Blake Ferguson proving to be the side’s prime catalyst so far. Both teams have started out impressively with 2-1 records and this match up certainly promises to be an intriguing affair.

Team news: A back injury sees youngster Dylan Brown sit out with Jaeman Salmon taking his place in the starting line-up and Tepai Moeroa comes in at lock to replace Peni Terepo. The Sharks move Josh Dugan to full-back after injury to Matt Moylan, while promising youngster Bronson Xerri is set to make his debut at centre.

Melbourne Storm v Canterbury Bulldogs

After their shock win over West Tigers in the last round, the Bulldogs’ week four fixture sees them faced with the uphill challenge of dethroning Melbourne’s dominant start to the season. The purple and gold have so far shrugged off any doubts to win games following the loss of both Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater and will once again will be strong favourites here. Storm’s forwards have stolen the show so far, allowing the likes of Cam Munster to be so effective. The Bulldogs can take a lot of confidence following their inspirational over West Tigers but they will most certainly be still up against it here.

Team news: No changes for Melbourne. However, the Bulldogs will be without a key playmaker in the likes of Kieran Foran (ankle) as Jack Cogger comes in at six. The loose forward spot also sees a change as Rhyse Martin is named to start at 13.

Newcastle Knights v St George Illawarra Dragons

For the first time this season, the Dragons found a winning formula, despite dramatic circumstances. However, it will certainly be a huge boost to Paul McGregor’s men as they have struggled to find a great deal of consistency in attack with their new-look pack this season. They now come up against a Newcastle side that have had their own consistency troubles as of late, failing to get the two points since the first game of the season.

The Knights’ Kalyn Ponga experiment at stand-off looks to be on hold going into game against St George Illawarra as we will see the Queenslander move back in at full-back. After an inauspicious start to life at stand-off, it will be interesting to see how Ponga slips back into the No. 1 spot he made his own last season.

Team news: Mason Lino replaces Ponga at five-eighth. The duo of Mitch Glasby and Mitchell Barnett swap between loose forward and prop, while Daniel Saifiti returns from injury.

Just the one change for the Dragons sees Matt Dufty come in for Gareth Widdop (shoulder).