The following are previews with betting tips for Round 4 of the 2018 NRL season.
Cowboys v Panthers
Thu, Mar 29, 7:50pm
Round four of the 2018 NRL premiership will kick off with the Panthers travelling to North Queensland after their winning streak was snapped in a narrow loss to the Bulldogs last week. The Cowboys were outclassed by Melbourne in their last match but will be better for the run with Michael Morgan set to improve after his return from injury.
The Cowboys have named an unchanged 17 from round three and while Lachlan Coote has been included in the reserves, coach Paul Green has indicated he will make his return through the lower grades to build his match fitness. The Panthers have lost Nathan Cleary to a knee injury in a massive blow to the club as Tyrone Peachey shifts to the halves with James Maloney moving to halfback. Jarome Luai joins the interchange in an otherwise unchanged squad.
The Panthers will hope to take a leaf from the Cowboys’ playbook after the Queensland club has produced fantastic form in recent times without key spine players. Cleary will be a significant loss for Penrith and while James Maloney should step up to take the playmaking reins, the Cowboys’ firepower across the park and the continued improvement of Michael Morgan should give them the points.
Betting Tip: Cowboys -10.5 @ $1.92 (Crownbet)
Rabbitohs v Bulldogs
Fri, Mar 30, 4:10pm
After consecutive losses to start the season, Souths and the Bulldogs will be eager to continue their form after both secured their first win of 2018 last week. The Rabbitohs dominated a Manly outfit who themselves were backing up from a massive win, while the Bulldogs edged the Panthers in a narrow but encouraging victory.
In a good sign for both teams, each club elected to name an unchanged line-up for the contest.
It is no coincidence that each club’s first win of the season was accompanied by a return of key players to form. For Souths, the Burgess brothers and fullback Alex Johnston played to their ability, while the Bulldogs welcomed great performances from the likes of Moses Mbye and David Klemmer. Both teams have been forced to adjust to new playing and coaching structures over the off-season, so it is no surprise form has been difficult to find. Souths’ big win over Manly last week will see them enter the match as favourites and based on recent form expect the game to go the way of the bookies’ prediction.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Over 42.5 @ $1.90 (Crownbet)
Sharks v Storm
Fri, Mar 30, 7:50pm
The Sharks secured their first win of the season last week against an under-siege Eels team, but they now face a huge task in the Melbourne Storm – who are backing up from an impressive win over the Cowboys in round three.
Matt Moylan has been named to return at five-eighth for Cronulla, relegating Trent Hodkinson to the reserves. Luke Lewis will also replace the injured Jayson Bukuya in the second-row. Melbourne have named Kenny Bromwich to take Brandon Smith’s spot on the bench in an otherwise unchanged squad.
Both clubs have had indifferent starts to the season as they look to settle their disturbed spine combinations. In what will be a rematch of the 2016 grand-final, the rivalry between these two teams alone makes for an intense arm-wrestle, but with each club eager to re-establish themselves as the competition’s best – expect a very tough physical contest. Execution has been an issue for both teams, particularly for the Sharks as their new halves combination is yet to click. Expect the more composed Storm to get the win.
Betting Tip: Storm -4.0 @ $1.92 (Madbookie)
Roosters v Warriors
Sat, Mar 31, 5:30pm
After three consecutive wins to start the season, the Warriors now face their biggest test in 2018 as they take on the Roosters at their home-ground. The Sydney club returned to form last week after Luke Kearey and Cooper Cronk combined for devastating results against the Knights.
The Roosters have unsurprisingly named an unchanged squad for the clash, while the Warriors have swapped Agnatius Paasi and Adam Blair between prop and lock. Tevita Satae will also replace the suspended Sam Lisone for the Kiwis in an otherwise unchanged squad.
In years past, the result of this match would be a foregone conclusion but expect the Warriors to lift as they look for their first heavyweight scalp and their fourth consecutive win. The Roosters will still enter the match as heavy favourites after their performance against the Knights last week and while their opposition are certainly in a position to threaten the Sydney club, they will struggle to match the tri-colours’ class. The Kiwis are certainly heading in the right direction but they have a long way to go before they can compete with a top-four team. Roosters to get the points.
Betting Tip: Warriors +10.5 @ $1.87 (Ladbrokes)
Sea Eagles v Raiders
Sat, Mar 31, 7:30pm
The Sea Eagles will host Canberra at their home-ground this Saturday night in a match between two clubs who have had disappointing seasons for very different reasons. Ricky Stuart’s Raiders outfit have consistently struggled to close out matches, shown again by their narrow loss to the Warriors last week after conceding points in the dying stages of the match. Manly face their own off-field controversy with the NRL handing down sanctions for a breach of the salary cap – a result which will impact the club’s ability to manage their roster for years to come.
Manly will only make one change from their disappointing last-start loss to Souths as Matthew Wright replaces the injured Jorge Taufua on the wing. For the Raiders, Ata Hingano and Joseph Tapine join the bench in place of Blake Austin and Liam Knight.
Manly fans shouldn’t be concerned about the poor result against Souths last week as many teams backing up from a 54-0 win experience a drop in form after such a performance. The disturbance to the Raiders’ spine has clearly impacted their composure under pressure with coach Ricky Stuart making the call to drop experienced campaigner Blake Austin in favour of the inexperienced Ata Hingano. Both teams will likely compete fiercely, but the form and experience within the Manly spine will prove the difference.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Over 44.5 @ $1.91 (Ladbrokes)
Dragons v Knights
Sun, Apr 1, 4:10pm
Two resurgent clubs in the Dragons and Knights will face off this Sunday afternoon with both teams eager to continue their encouraging start to the season. St George remain unbeaten after their impressive 54-8 win over the Titans last week, while Knights’ fans were brought back to earth with a disappointing loss to the Roosters in round 3.
The Dragons have unsurprisingly decided to name an unchanged squad for the game. Meanwhile, the Knights have named Brock Lamb to replace the injured Connor Watson with Chris Heighington also joining the interchange.
Losing Connor Watson is a blow for Newcastle, but Brock Lamb is a capable replacement for the young-gun. The Dragons will enter the contest as heavy favourites in light of both teams’ recent results – but expect the Knights’ response to their poor performance last week to make life difficult for St George. The Knights will look to tidy up their defence for this match but against an in-form Dragons outfit displaying fantastic attacking fluency – expect St George to get the points.
Betting Tip: Total Match Points Over 42.5 @ $1.90 (Crownbet)
Broncos v Titans
Sun, Apr 1, 6:30pm
The Titans will travel to Brisbane this Sunday night to take on the Broncos after suffering a massive loss at the hands of the Dragons last week. It has been a disappointing start to the season for the Gold Coast club and new coach Garth Brennan will have his troops fired-up to avoid three consecutive losses. Their opposition in Brisbane performed admirably in their controversial 9-7 victory over the in-form Tigers last week as the Broncos’ spine looks to be building into form.
The Titans will field a shuffled pack as Bryce Cartwright shifts to the bench and captain Ryan James moves to the front-row. Max King will also join the interchange for the Gold Coast. Meanwhile, the Broncos will replace the injured Corey Oates and Tevita Pangai Jr with Jonus Pearson and Jayden Su’a in their only changes.
Brisbane will enter the match as heavy favourites after they have displayed a good deal of composure in their last two performances. The Titans certainly have a lot of potential but need to settle their shaky defence before they can reach top-form. The Broncos’ proficiency without the ball should get them over the line.
Betting Tip: Titans +12.5 @ $1.92 (Ladbrokes)
Tigers v Eels
Mon, Apr 2, 4:00pm
In the pre-season, a match between the Tigers and Eels would have seen the Parramatta club installed as heavy favourites. However, the Tigers’ wonderful form in the opening rounds – particularly in their defence – has the bookies struggling to split these teams. The Eels have struggled to find coherency, particularly between their spine players in a concerning trend that belies their top-four position in 2017.
Wests have named an unchanged outfit for the clash, while Parramatta will replace the injured Bevan French and Jarryd Hayne with Will Smith and George Jennings as Peni Terepo and Tony Williams also join the interchange.
The Tigers’ form has been wonderful so far this year, but their performances have centred around defence, with very few tries scored. Against an out-of-form opponent the match may be far more free-flowing than their previous games – but even so Ivan Cleary’s troops will hope their opposition do not bring their A-game. Based on their results of 2017, the Eels are capable of matching it with the competition’s best – and it may only be a matter of time before they rediscover their spark. The Tigers should get the win but if the Eels can return to something resembling their best, we are in for a fantastic game of football.
Manly v Canberra Total Match Points Over 44.5 @ $1.91 (Ladbrokes)