NRL talking points: Holbrook’s Titans, Ponga inspires Knights & superb Roosters

Love Rugby League has picked out the best bits from round four of the NRL.

Brisbane Broncos 0-59 Sydney Roosters

The Broncos’ nightmare form following the NRL’s resumption continued as they suffered a humbling defeat to the Roosters.

Already 29-0 down at half-time, it became Brisbane’s worst ever loss and the first time they had been nilled at home.

Sydney Roosters have bounced back from a disappointing start to the season with Luke Keary instrumental at Suncorp with one try, two try assists, one field goal, one line break assist, 128 metres and 19 tackles.

The Roosters are getting back to their Premiership winning form and their run should continue next week as they play Canterbury but the Broncos could be in for another heavy defeat when they face Manly.

Stat of the match: 50 – No team has ever won the competition after conceding 50 points in a match. 

Penrith Panthers 26-0 New Zealand Warriors

Penrith bounced back from a disappointing draw against Newcastle in an impressive performance against the Warriors.

Ivan Cleary was again without son Nathan who served the last match of his ban but the Panthers did not miss him after an eye-catching performance from young playmaker Matt Burton.

Promoted from reserve grade after 25 try assists, Burton had looked sharp in pre-season and put his mark on first-grade on Friday with two tries, one try assist, 167 metres and six tackle breaks. 

For the Warriors though, it was an underwhelming performance after keeping the Dragons scoreless in round four and they will look to gain some momentum after a stuttering start against North Queensland next week. 

Stat of the match: 1997 – The last time the Panthers started a season undefeated after four matches. 

Melbourne Storm 22-8 South Sydney Rabbitohs

It is rare for Melbourne to lose consecutive games and they bounced back from their poor outing against Canberra to ease past the Bunnies.

They were helped by an impressive performance by Cameron Munster whose break created a try for Suliasi Vunivalu just before half-time and a perfect kick saw Josh Addo-Carr dive in for Melbourne’s third try.  

Craig Bellamy rang the changes and gave prop Chris Lewis his NRL debut with Brenko Lee making his bow at centre for Melbourne but was indebted to Cameron Smith’s try-saving tackle on Dane Gagai with seven minutes left with the score at 16-8. 

South Sydney were not helped by a 65% completion rate and 18 errors (the most by a team in a match this season) but Wayne Bennett will have been pleased by Latrell Mitchell’s continuing improvement at full-back with 10 tackle busts, 136 metres and two line break assists.

They will also be able to welcome back half-back Cody Walker (suspension) and James Roberts (personal reasons) as they look to gain their first win since the resumption against the Titans in round five.     

Stat of the match: 21 and 22 – The rounds in 2018 when Melbourne last lost successive matches to South Sydney and Cronulla. 

Parramatta Eels 19-12 Manly Sea Eagles 

Parramatta continued their winning start to the season as they held off a second-half Manly fightback, albeit in controversial circumstances.

Reuben Garrick looked to have won it for Des Hasler’s side with seconds left but the pass to him from Tom Trbojevic was adjudged to have gone forward by the touch judge. 

Hours after the final whistle, NRL head of football Graham Annesley admitted the forward pass call was incorrectly ruled.

Despite the controversy, it was the highest quality match since the competition restarted and is the only one to be decided by 10 points or fewer.

Maika Sivo had an impressive game, setting up the Eels’ first two tries for Michael Jennings and Dylan Brown with outstanding passes. 

Stat of the match: 10 – The number of tries former Eels junior Jorge Taufua has scored in 13 matches against Parramatta. 

North Queensland Cowboys 16-26 Cronulla Sharks 

Cronulla grabbed their first points of the season with a hard-fought win in Townsville as they faced Valentine Holmes for the first time since his return to the sport. 

Up to six Sharks players failed their initial temperature checks pre-game with readings over the 37.2 degrees limit but they all successfully passed their second test. 

John Morris’ side coped well without half-back Chad Townsend as Shaun Johnson had a role in four tries with their right edge of Jesse Ramien and Ronaldo Mulitalo grabbing doubles. 

The Cowboys missed Jason Taumaolo who was out injured as they struggled to break down Cronulla, completing at less than 75% and were not helped by losing Mitch Dunn (HIA) and prop John Asiata (knee) in the first period.  

Despite taking confidence from a much-needed win, it was an equally scratchy performance from the Sharks who will look to improve against the Dragons and the Cowboys will look to bounce back against the Warriors but will still be without Taumalolo. 

Stat of the match: 2015 – The last time Cronulla had to wait until round four or later to pick up their first points. 

Canberra Raiders 18-34 Newcastle Knights

The Knights have not won a Premiership since 2001 but after backing up their comeback at Penrith by thrashing the Raiders, this year they could end the drought. 

They were aided by the return of Kayln Ponga who scored a try and was influential in three others before being taken off after an HIA. 

Bradman Best repeated last week’s performance with another two try haul and added two try assists in an impressive Newcastle performance.

Ricky Stuart was not happy with his side, who had only conceded 18 points in 2020, in a comedown from their display at Melbourne last week saying: “It was one of those games you want to forget really quickly because we weren’t in the contest at all. Defensively tonight, we were the worst we have defended for two years.”

Canberra may be missing five-eighth Jack Wighton next week against Wests Tigers after he failed an HIA and the Knights will face the Storm in a mouth-watering game next Saturday. 

Stat of the match: 0 – The amount of times Canberra conceded more than 30 points in a match last season. 

Gold Coast Titans 28-23 Wests Tigers

Justin Holbrook grabbed his first win in the NRL as the Gold Coast finally grabbed two points in a dramatic match against the Tigers.

Benji Marshall’s field goal looked to have condemned the Titans to their 14th straight loss but Phillip Sami crossed with two minutes left to spark jubilant scenes. 

Half-back Ash Taylor’s kicking game was vital for the Gold Coast, helping set up two tries as well as producing a 40-20 which led to another. 

It will be a disappointing loss for Wests to take after leading 12-0 and 22-12 and they will look to bounce back against the Raiders while the Titans will look to build on their win when they face the Rabbitohs. 

Stat of the match: 364 – The number of days between wins for the Titans.

Canterbury Bulldogs 22-2 St George Illawarra Dragons 

In a battle of the bottom two sides, the Bulldogs claimed a vital two points and their first win of the season to leave the Dragons pointless in 2020. 

Reimis Smith impressively collected a Lachlan Lewis kick to seal the win for Canterbury who were boosted by the return of half-back Kieran Foran from injury for his 200th game. 

Despite having six Origin players in their squad, the Dragons have only lost 18 of their last 22 matches, with two of their wins coming against the Titans. 

Stat of the match: 2005 – The last time the Dragons lost their first four matches of the season although they did go onto finish second. 

By Sam Harris

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