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NRL Power Rankings: Round 4 - Tigers in finals mix? Panthers’ challengers falling by the wayside, Roosters lay an egg

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1st April, 2024
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Wests Tigers. NRL finals. It’s too early to put those two terms in the same sentence but their fans can dare to dream once more after the Benjaissance delivered a second straight boilover.

Benjolution? Benjovation? There’s something there. And there’s plenty brewing at the Tigers after adding Parramatta’s scalp to Cronulla’s in two straight rounds. 

After two straight wooden spoons, literally anything is an improvement but why can’t they keep rising up the ladder to give the finals a shake for the first time since 2011?

They have enough hard-heads in the pack making hard yards in the middle third, more experience and tactical nous with Api Koroisau and Aidan Sezer calling the shots, then an array of young talent ready to run off them, headlined by Lachlan Galvin and Jahream Bula. 

Tigers fans are right to be wary after so many false dawns over the past decade-plus but with the Dolphins and Dragons on the schedule over the next fortnight, Benji Marshall’s side is well placed to rise even higher than their current sixth rung on the ladder. 

The other main takeaway from Round 4 is that we are still waiting for the challenger most likely to give Penrith a run for their money to materialise.

Manly, the Roosters and Parramatta had fleeting moments in the early rounds where they looked capable of emerging from the pack but after a depleted Panthers outfit overcame the Tricolours, it now appears Brisbane and Melbourne are shaping up as the most likely candidates to get in the way of Ivan Cleary’s pursuit of a fourth straight premiership.

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Team by team, here’s how the Power Rankings stack up after Round 4.

1 Panthers (last week 1): Their odds of a fourth title on the trot are shortening by the round. You’d think that Nathan Cleary and James Fisher-Harris being sidelined would mean they’d struggle against a team that seemingly was primed to knock them over but the Roosters were roadkill and the 22-16 scoreline flattered them.

If the Blues selectors stick with James Tedesco, then surely Dylan Edwards finally gets a run somewhere for NSW, on the wing or as a bench utility. He never has a bad game and his impact is as consistently high as his output.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 28: Mavrik Geyer of the Panthers celebrates winning the round four NRL match between Sydney Roosters and Penrith Panthers at Allianz Stadium on March 28, 2024, in Sydney, Australia.

Penrith debutant Mavrik Geyer. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

2 Broncos (6): A much-needed bounce-back win over the Cowboys. Reece Walsh is their most dynamic player, Payne Haas is their most impactful up front but Adam Reynolds is their most important. 

His kicking excellence was reminiscent of the greats of yesteryear like Ricky Stuart, Greg Alexander and Peter Sterling in their prime, and saved the grand finalists from going 1-3 to start the year.

3 Storm (5): They rise during their bye as others fall. The week off came at a perfect time for them, giving Cameron Munster an extra round to overcome his groin injury before making his first appearance of the season. They host Brisbane on Thursday night for bragging rights to main contender for the crown status.

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4 Eels (3): You can’t be too harsh on the Eels at the moment given they are missing their most important player in Mitchell Moses, forcing Dylan Brown to halfback, which in rugby league parlance, is not his go, and a second-gamer in Blaize Talagi to five-eighth. 

Clint Gutherson was outstanding in trying to drag his team to victory on Easter Monday but they need another creator with Bryce Cartwright’s absence also stripping them of another attacking option.

5 Roosters (2): Just when you think they’ve got all the pieces together, they lay an egg, which is not what you’d expect from the Roosters. 

Their attack was flat and they seemed intimidated by the Panthers, who have now racked up nine wins over them on the trot. If they’re going to be serious contenders, they need to chance their hand more in attack and stand up to the Penrith pack – unfortunately for them, the player who can do that is Spencer Leniu, who was serving a ban instead of locking horns with his old teammates.

6 Sea Eagles (4): The good news is Tom Trbojevic will never play that poorly again. His rods and cones were all screwed up in Wollongong on Saturday night, making fundamental errors which proved contagious with his teammates. 

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Manly are another maybe when it comes to title contenders. On their day, they have the firepower to be heavy hitters but they still have days like this one where they constantly gifted the Dragons possession and field position. 

7 Sharks (8): They only get a slight uptick because they weren’t that great and they fell 18 points behind a team that Ricky Stuart labelled as awful. 

Cronulla get a few troops back after this week’s bye which is also timely for them with Dale Finucane and Braden Hamlin-Uele on the comeback trail.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 31: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak of the Warriors charges forward during the round four NRL match between New Zealand Warriors and Newcastle Knights at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart, on March 31, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

8 Warriors (9): They clicked on Sunday in Auckland and the Knights did well to ensure they hung with the Warriors for most of the match. 

Andrew Webster is adamant Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is not their best option at fullback despite the former Dally M Medal winner running rings around Newcastle from the back. He gets the benefit of the doubt after his highly successful rookie coaching campaign but RTS seems kind of wasted at centre.

9 Dolphins (12): They’ve only beaten the Titans and Dragons and copped a flogging from the Cowboys so their formline doesn’t tell us too much. 

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But, courtesy of their Round 3 bye, they’re up at the highest rung of the NRL ladder so they must be doing something right. 

They host a red-hot Tigers team this Sunday before getting another test of their playoff credentials the following week when they take on the Broncos.

10 Cowboys (7): They had a chance to show they were not the beneficiaries of a soft draw in the opening three rounds when they travelled to Brisbane on Friday night. But they proved their critics right. 

While the back three struggled with Adam Reynolds’ kicking game, that was not the only part of the game where the visitors struggled and for all the big names in their pack, they were outgunned by a Broncos side missing Payne Haas and Brendan Piakura.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 01: Aidan Sezer of the Tigers celebrates with team mates after kicking a field goal during the round four NRL match between Parramatta Eels and Wests Tigers at CommBank Stadium, on April 01, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Aidan Sezer celebrates with teammates after kicking his field goal. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

11 Wests Tigers (15): They were outgunned by Parra in pretty much every key statistic at CommBank Stadium but they were the better side and it would have been a travesty if they had been sunk after the siren from Gutherson’s long-range penalty attempt.

The Tigers are showing toughness, not just in the physicality they’re displaying, but by rolling with the punches when calls don’t go their way, which has been a rare sight in recent years. When Galvin was sin-binned they held their nerve and their defensive line and that proved crucial in the final wash-up.

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12 Raiders (10): There has been a lot of criticism about Xavier Savage being shunted to the wing when he was supposedly the young star that Canberra could build their backline around.

He showed why he has great potential with a top-notch solo try against the Sharks and then also why he still has a lot to learn when he gifted the opposition six points with a lazy kick-chase late in the first half. 

13 Knights (11): They still haven’t found what they’re looking for when it comes to a halves combination and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Adam O’Brien shakes up the Jack Cogger-Tyson Gamble duo at the selection table this week. 

If not for Kalyn Ponga’s incisive runs and conjuring up half-chances on the edges, the Knights would not have troubled the scoreboard attendant in Auckland. He’s good enough to evade defenders when they load up on him but he can’t carry an entire team.

14 Rabbitohs (13): While a win is welcome relief, the four-point triumph over Canterbury did little to prove this team has turned a corner. 

Jack Wighton’s talent is being squandered at centre – he scored two tries against Canterbury but could have created more with the ball in hand more often. However, Jason Demetriou seems intent on sticking with his high-priced recruit out wide. 

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15 Dragons (16): They’ve been more hot and cold than Katy Perry’s moody ex-boyfriend in the first month of the season which is an improvement on last year being consistently “Cold As Ice” like Foreigner’s romantic muse. 

Playlists aside, Ben Hunt is quietly putting together another top-shelf season to lead the NRL in try assists with seven.

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 30: Tom Trbojevic of the Sea Eagles offloads to set up a try during the round four NRL match between St George Illawarra Dragons and Manly Sea Eagles at WIN Stadium, on March 30, 2024, in Wollongong, Australia.

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

16 Bulldogs (14): They are showing spirit and there are building blocks there for Cameron Ciraldo to get this team heading in the right direction. 

But the persistence with Blake Taaffe, who would be much better served as the bench utility, is holding them back. If not Stephen Crichton, then Connor Tracey – who had a few standout performances at Cronulla when filling in at the back – would give them more impetus from the backfield to start their sets.

17 Titans (17): It’s a worrying sign that three games in and Des Hasler is already resorting to withering sprays to get the best out of his team. 

Titans fans are used to mediocrity but even they have their limits – the Cbus Super Stadium grandstands are going to start looking like Clive Palmer’s old Gold Coast United A-League disaster soon.

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Any road trip is tough for this team but with visits to North Queensland, Canberra and Auckland over the next four weeks with a home game against Manly, it’s hard to see when their next win will come.

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