No Sam Burgess, no chance for Souths. That’s a bit simplistic, but the Rabbitohs were poor without their marquee man and were completely dominated by Canterbury. The Bulldogs led 32-0 at half-time and finished 42-12 winners. James Graham had a field day – running for 151 metres – as did the rest of the Doggies forward pack. This was a red letter day for Canterbury, who top the table with Melbourne and Brisbane, and an ominous display to the rest of the competition.
The game of the season? That’s a big call just four rounds in. But the grand final rematch had everything – drama, entertainment, extra-time and a thrilling ending. Brisbane pipped North Queensland in golden point 21-20, thanks to the boot of Anthony Milford, in a completely epic encounter. Greg Eden started on the wing for Brisbane again, having a solid game and making 95 metres. Just like the grand final last year little could seperate these two talented teams. We can’t wait till they meet again if they keep dishing up this fantastic fare. The Broncos vs Cowboys is fast becoming the NRL‘s best rivalry.
Canberra’s undefeated record was snapped thanks to an amazing fightback from the Titans. Outplayed for most of the game, Gold Coast scored 18 minutes in the final 15 minutes to snatch the win. It was disastrous for the Raiders, especially as Titans winger John Olive’s try was highly dubious, but all credit to the character and resilience shown by Gold Coast. Elliot Whitehead and Josh Hodgson were again excellent for the Raiders, Hodgson setting up two tries and making 42 tackles, and Whitehead getting his first NRL four-pointer while playing five-eighth. But despite the English pair’s performance Canberra has its first loss of 2016.
0 and 4 is a terrible start to the campaign for the Roosters. But the Chooks were unlucky to lose this one, they played much better than in the first three rounds and there was a hint of controversy as Manly just edged it. Latrell Mitchell had what would have been the winning try ruled out and the Sea Eagles got the cash. This was a scrappy game, between two desperate teams, and it was in the balance until the 80th minute. Luke Burgess made his first appearance of the season, making 20 tackles and 52 metres off the bench, while Joe Burgess was left out once again. It was a costly win for the Sea Eagles with Daly Cherry-Evans expected to be out with injury for a month.
A 76th-minute try to Josh Dugan sealed a late win for the Dragons. This was a low-scoring and lacklustre game, with injuries mounting up for Penrith in the second half. St George Illawarra took advantage and were leading until the 73rd minute when Josh Mansour scored. But Dugan’s heroics ensured that the Red V went home happy. Gareth Widdop was impressive, setting up one try, making 109 metres and slotting three goals. Dugan’s starring role in the number one jumper will surely see him stay at the back and not in the unfamilar position in the centres.
The New Zealand Warriors are on the board after crushing Newcastle 40-18. Shaun Johnson was back to his devastating best and the Knights were blown away in the second half. Newcastle has a very young team and they are in for some hard lessons this season. It only took the Warriors eight and a half months to record a win in the NRL, here’s hoping it doesn’t take too long for their next one.
Eels on a roll
That’s three wins in a row for Brad Arthur’s new Eels. Tough, committed, defensively strong, this seems a new outfit at Pirtek Stadium. No longer as fragile and weak as they once more, new signings Beau Scott, Michael Gordon and Kieran Foran are making a big difference. This was a poor game, marked with error after error after the first 20 minutes. There was just one try in 80 minutes as neither side couldn’t hold on to the ball. It’s back to back losses for Wests Tigers now, who have fallen back to earth after a great start in the first two rounds.
The last undefeated team in the competition lost that mantle as Melbourne were beaten by Cronulla. The Sharkies ended a four year drought against the Storm, as the Victorians have enjoyed a long period of dominance over them. In his 251st game Michael Ennis made 34 tackles, his opposite number Cameron Smith made 42 in response. At 14-6 this was a tight affair, mostly because Cronulla blew several good try-scoring opportunities. Valentine Holmes had a bit of a shocker but scores to the dynamic Ben Barba and Chad Townsend eventually got them home.