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Sunday, July 25, 2021

NRL round four: 5 reasons to watch

Round four of the NRL has plenty of mismatches on paper but there are some interesting storylines that could emerge. Here are five reasons to watch the league this weekend.

1. Match of the round – Titans vs Raiders

This is clearly the match of the round with both sides two wins and one loss after three rounds.

The Titans have beaten up on the Broncos and Cowboys so this should provide a real test to see how much they have improved since last year.

Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and David Fifita have added plenty to their forward pack and should be ready to go against a possibly fatigued Raiders pack.

The Raiders middle forwards were forced to play huge minutes against the Warriors last week after three early injuries.

The entire team looked understandably gassed at the back end of that game, so it remains to be seen how well they back up after such a taxing game.

Fortunately, they get Hudson Young back from injury and his matchup with Fifita will be something to savour.

The Raiders won convincingly against the Titans twice last year, but this shapes as a much closer contest.

2. Will we see the first major upset of the season, or just three blow outs?

While there has been the odd upset here and there this season, we are yet to see a genuine premiership contender lose to a rank outsider. Well, the opening three matches of the round present that opportunity.

The Panthers come into their Thursday night game against Manly as red-hot favourites and with Nathan Cleary back it could be just a question of how much they win by.

Manly have been the worst team this season and are still missing Tom Trbojevic so it would take a remarkable turnaround in form to get the win.

The first Good Friday match between the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs looks like another mismatch.

The Rabbitohs looked irresistible for the first 50 minutes against the Roosters last week before the sting went out of the game while the Bulldogs haven’t scored a point in their last two games. It feels like the Bulldogs may need a Good Friday miracle to beat the Bunnies.

The second Friday game is between last year’s premiers and wooden spooners with the Storm taking on the Broncos.

The Storm have suffered two straight losses but are still playing at a high level. They were involved in the match of the year so far last week, just going down to the Panthers in a high quality affair.

The Broncos won their first game for 259 days against the Bulldogs last round, but it was far from convincing.

They get Payne Haas and Matt Lodge back to bolster the front row and may be the team most likely to cause a major upset.

3. Knights looking to slay the Dragons

Sorry about the terrible headline but this one looks like it could be a good contest, especially with the Knights under some pressure.

The Knights are coming off a shock loss to the Tigers at home last week while the Dragons are in 5th spot and looking for their third straight win.

Things were looking rosy for the Knights after winning their first two games, but the loss to the Tigers has brought the doubters out once more. They need to respond with a win here if they are to be taken seriously as a top four chance.

The Dragons are somewhat of a surprise this season after many tipped them for the wooden spoon. However, their victories have come against the winless Cowboys and Manly so it’s hard to get a proper gauge on them yet.

This is a huge opportunity for them to claim the scalp of a good team and possibly put them in the hunt for a finals spot.

4. The new look Roosters

The Roosters were dealt a major injury blow last week with star halfback Luke Keary going down with a season ending ACL injury.

Lachlan Lam also went down with a knee injury meaning the Roosters will have a new look halves pairing of Drew Hutchison and young gun Sam Walker.

There are massive raps on the 18-year-old Walker and while he may not be expected to perform like Keary, he is walking into a pretty good outfit around him.

With the likes of James Tedesco, Joey Manu, the Morris brothers, Siosiua Taukeiaho, Angus Crichton and the returning Victor Radley around him, it’s certainly not the worst situation for a young half to walk into.

Expect the likes of Tedesco and Radley get even more involved in the ball playing to help out their rookie number seven.

They’re taking on a tough side in the Warriors so expect this to be a good test for the youngster.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 29: Sam Walker passes during a Sydney Roosters NRL training session at Kippax Lake on March 29, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Sam Walker will take over as halfback for the Roosters in the absence of Luke Keary. Getty

5. Tigers taking on the Eels

The Tigers were panned over the first two rounds of the competition but responded with an upset win over the Knights in round three.

Their defence looked much better without Joey Leilua in the side while their forward pack measured up well against a formidable opponent.

The problem with the Tigers over recent years is that they seem to follow up a good performance with a dismal one and can never play consistent footy.

Taking on a quality Eels side presents a great chance for the Tigers to really get their season back on track with two upset wins in a row.

The Eels have started the year well once again with three straight wins and are boosted by the return of Ryan Matterson.

The big question mark over the Eels is whether they can maintain their form over the course of an entire season and finals.

This could be a tricky game for them after the Tigers almost knocked them out of the top four in the final round last year so expect a good contest here.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Clinton Gutherson of the Eels kicks the ball during the round 20 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Parramatta Eels at Bankwest Stadium on September 26, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
The Tigers and Eels played a thrilling game in the final round last season. Getty

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