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NRL: Dragons back under the pump

It was another exciting week in the NRL with two games decided by golden point, while the pressure is back on the Dragons.

Week four got underway with another epic game as Parramatta Eels beat the Penrith Panthers courtesy of a Mitchell Moses field-goal in extra time.

South Sydney Rabbitohs also beat Manly Sea Eagles in extra time as the entertainment value continues to soar in the NRL. Elsewhere, Wests Tigers lost again, this time to the Melbourne Storm on Friday night, while the Broncos beat the Dolphins in another thriller on the same night.

The Warriors continue to shine this season as they edged out the Bulldogs 16-14 on Sunday. In the other games of the round he Cowboys beat the Titans, the Knights beat the Raiders and the Sharks hammered the Dragons.

There is a lot to digest  from week four so let’s take a look at the main talking points.

Dragons back in turmoil

The Dragons had a pre-season to forget but put that behind them when beginning the 2023 NRL campaign with an impressive 32-18 win over the Gold Coast Titans.

That victory sparked suggestions they may not be in for a season of struggle after all. However the feel-good factor did not last too long as heavy defeats against Brisbane Broncos and Cronulla Sharks soon followed.

The manner of the 40-8 home loss to the Sharks will have sent shockwaves through the club. Star playmaker Ben Hunt even labelled the performance as ‘very embarrassing’. With pride and bragging rights against one of their Sydney rivals also on the line, a big performance was needed but it did not come.

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Dolphins and Broncos set for derby showdown

It was close at the break with the Sharks just leading 12-8. However the visitors scored five tries in the second half to leave the Dragons faithful heading for the exit doors with 20 minutes to go. The pressure is back on coach Anthony Griffin, who has apparently been told he will have to re-apply for his job with his contract up at the end of the year.

It is hardly a vote of confidence from the powers that be and will not help an already difficult situation. Hunt questioned the decision and said it should have been kept private at the very least. Hunt has also jumped to his defence and says it is the fault of the players for the miserable second-half performance on Sunday.

It is not the first time they have collapsed. It was 18-18 late on against the Broncos last week before they eventually lost 40-18. Something is clearly not right and Griffin is on thin ice it would seem.

Next up is a clash against the Dolphins this week and another bad result will pile even more pressure on. The Dragons need a result and are priced at 1.75 to get it with the Dolphins available at 2.10.

Bulldogs attack disappoints

Canterbury Bulldogs looked to be on the up after back-to-back wins over Melbourne Storm and Wests Tigers but took a step back when losing 16-14 to the Warriors on Sunday.

The defeat has sparked suggestions that new coach Cameron Ciraldo could be left with a difficult decision to make following a dismal attacking display. Kyle Flanagan is playing at halfback but Ciraldo could be tempted to replace him with teenage starlet Karl Oloapu who is the future of the club.

Flanagan is also off-contract at the end of the year and with Oloapu in the ranks, he may not be offered an extension. He was in the spotlight last season with his position in jeopardy and it is no different this season.

It is hard to silence the critics when you do not have a single try-assist to your name this season so Flanagan needs to raise his game in the coming weeks or he could be replaced.

Next up is a big game against the North Queensland Cowboys on Sunday with the Bulldogs priced at 2.00 to win, while the visitors can be backed at 1.82.

Broncos march on

Brisbane Broncos are priced at 8.50 to win the 2023 NRL Grand Final and they made it four wins from four with a 18-12 victory over the Dolphins on Friday night.

The pressure was on the Broncos to put the NRL’s latest addition in their place in front of a packed Suncorp Stadium and they did just that. Credit to the Dolphins they were right in the game until Kotoni Staggs ran the length of the field to score a try at the death, and they will take plenty of heart from the performance.

Towards the end of 2022 this is a game that the Broncos would have lost, instead they showed great spirit to get the job done despite not being at their best.

That is a great attribute for the Broncos to have as they look to challenge at the top end of the ladder this season.

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