Round 4 saw some great clashes as some teams stamped their authority over the competition while others continue to struggle for a win.
There was a great deal of anticipation leading up to this big game. The rejuvenated South Sydney team against the tough Bulldogs outfit. There was plenty of talk in the media leading up to the clash and the fans were certainly excited. Despite the poor weather, a great crowd was in attendance, however most would have been hoping for a closer game. Souths were the first to score through a David Peachey try, but the Bulldogs muscled up and took control of the match soon after. They used their big forwards led by Willie Mason to grind their way to solid field position. The result was a 14-6 halftime lead following two Trent Cutler tries. South Sydney never really had a chance in the second half and the Bulldogs demonstrated why they were one of the competition favourites before the season kicked off. The result indicates that the Rabbitohs still have plenty of work to do, while it confirms the ability of the Bulldogs when they are at their best.
The defending premiers have finally notched up win number 1 for season 2007. Meanwhile, the Roosters remain glued to the bottom of the table, winless and horribly struggling. The Broncos always seemed to be in control as they raced away to an early 16-0 lead. The Roosters threatened to mount a fightback on a couple of occasions, but there is still plenty of work to be done if they are going to compete with the top teams. Darren Lockyer was brilliant for the Broncos, as was Justin Hodges who was a constant menace all night. It was a step in the right direction for Brisbane who are looking to regain their 2006 form. The Roosters would have to be wooden spoon favourites at this stage and new coach Chris Anderson will already be feeling the pressure.
The Melbourne Storm had to fight from behind to overcome a difficult Newcastle side. The Knights were dominant in the first half, aided with a lopsided penalty count that gave them possession and valuable field position throughout the half. They led 12-6 after 24 minutes, however the scores were locked at 12-12 going into the break. Considering the amount of ball they had, the Knights would have been disappointed that they weren’t leading at halftime. Melbourne were a much more disciplined side in the second half which allowed them to take control of the match. They certainly weren’t at their best but tries to Anthony Quinn and teen sensation Israel Falou sealed a hard-earned victory. Newcastle played well and were unlucky not to build a bigger first half lead. They will now have to play on knowing that Andrew Johns has played his last game for the club.
North Queensland Cowboys 25 def Wests Tigers 24
Wests Tigers fans must be wondering how their team continues to lose close games. The Tigers have been close to winning in every round thus far; however find themselves languishing at the foot of the ladder, winless after four rounds. They were the dominant team in this clash, looking comfortable as they built up a 24-12 lead early in the second half. North Queensland weren’t at their best and the Tigers had opportunities to put them away, but failed on each occasion. An Ashley Graham intercept gave the Cowboys a sniff and they are a team that can certainly capitalize. It came down to a brilliant individual effort from Matt Bowen, where he beat at least six defenders and scored a remarkable try to level up the scores. Fittingly, he was the one who capped off the comeback, kicking the winning field goal with just a minute remaining. It was a crazy finish, one that would have been heart-breaking for the Tigers.
Canberra were brilliant against the Knights last week, and absolutely horrible against the Eels this week. Parramatta handled the wet weather a lot better than their opponents, ultimately controlling the flow of the game. The Raiders were woeful in every department, particularly with the amount of errors they made. The first Eels try typifies the type of night it was. Second rower Nathan Hindmarsh ran straight through the ruck and raced away for a 70-metre try without a hand laid on him. It was almost bizarre watching him race away with no-one near him. Things didn’t get much better for the Raiders from that point. Fundamental errors handed the game to the Eels on a platter. A 12-0 half time lead blew out to 38-0 after an incredible 20-minute period in the second half. Hindmarsh was brilliant for the Eels and team on a whole showed some very good signs. Canberra are difficult to predict which has been proved over the last two weeks; however it is understandable considering their inexperience.
Manly have kept their spot on the top of the ladder after a tough 3-point victory at Brookvale Oval. The Warriors had the better of play throughout the first half, thanks to some strong defence and a number of disallowed tries for the Sea Eagles. The Warriors seemed to use a more cautious approach in an effort to minimize their errors, after struggling against the Storm the previous weekend. This seemed to backfire as the game went on and Manly began to claw their way back. Two quick tries to the Sea Eagles gave them the lead in the second half, after they were held scoreless for 55 minutes. A late field goal pushed the lead out to 7 points and the Warriors weren’t able to bridge the gap despite a late try. Manly must be commended for their defence which is the reason they are leading the competition. Brent Kite and Jason King led from the front and fullback Brett Stewart was a constant danger from the back. Manly face the Bulldogs next week in what should be a fantastic clash.
Both these teams are going to be difficult to predict throughout season 2007. The Panthers have been impressive in their previous 2 rounds and came into this clash as strong favourites. Gold Coast had other ideas and were the better team throughout, jumping out to a 24-6 lead. The Panthers are making a habit of coming back from large deficits and nearly managed to pull off another miracle, getting within 2 points. Another 5 minutes on the clock might have been enough to pull off an incredible victory. Preston Campbell was superb in his return to Penrith in an impressive all-round performance. Gold Coast are proving that they can compete in the NRL and are an enjoyable team to watch. The Panthers have plenty of ability and if they can put in a strong 80 minutes they are capable of beating any team in the competition.
It is a clash that both teams look forward to every season, one of the best rivalries in the competition. A fiery clash was expected as well as a close scoreline. This never eventuated as it appeared that only one team was truly ready for the clash. Cronulla were clearly fired up and made their intentions clear early on led. Led by former Dragon outcast Lance Thompson, they were the better team throughout, brilliant in attack and brutal in defence. The Dragons made fundamental errors and were guilty of simple missed tackles. Centre Matt Cooper labeled the performance as embarrassing and coach Nathan Brown was clearly disappointed after the game. The Sharks showed that they have a squad capable of doing great things, after they turned a 16-4 halftime lead into a thrashing. The Dragons will need to go back and work on the basics. They have a strong team on paper but that is not being carried over to the field at the moment.