NRL Round 8: Match-by-match preview

After another sensational long weekend with five days of football, it’s back to normal for the match schedule. But certainly not for the results!

Here’s your preview of all the action to come in Round 8.

Brisbane Broncos v Cronulla Sharks, Thursday 7:50 p.m., Suncorp Stadium

The Sharks restart the round, this time taking on the Broncos. If both teams play the same as last week, we could have a very interesting finish!

The Sharks took a 32-0 lead at halftime, thanks to a wrecking ball performance from star center Siosifa Talakai. They let off the gas a little too much to allow Manly to get back into the game, holding on just for a 34-22 victory.

The Broncos were the opposite, doing all their hard work late in their game against the Dogs, coming 14-6 up with 20 minutes to go to clinch a 34-14 victory. Adam Reynolds has taken the game into his own hands and is really finding his feet in his new club.

Cronulla is boosted by the return of captain Dale Finucane, with Cam McInnes taking a place on the bench. Brisbane retained the same squad from the final round, including Te Maire Martin who put in an excellent performance in his first game since suffering a brain haemorrhage in 2019.

The Broncos are starting to get in a bit of shape and will put up a good fight against the Sharks. But I’m sure Craig Fitzgibbon won’t allow his boys to die out sooner, the Sharks should win this one.

Dale Finucane. Credit: NSWRL

Gold Coast Titans v Penrith Panthers, Friday 6pm, Cbus Stadium

The Panthers and can’t do any wrong at the moment and the Gold Coast can’t do much right.

Penrith picked up the seventh straight win against the Raiders last weekend, beating Canberra 36-6, and created a new home record of 21 straight wins. Seemingly untouchable, they remain in first place in the standings.

The Titans, meanwhile, sit on two wins and five losses and were trampled in the final round by the Cowboys 30-4. An ill-fated try to move David Fifita to centers due to an injury to Phillip Sami proved costly, as the star rower struggled to play his normal game, and the rest of the squad appeared to fall apart. collapse around him.

The same 17 will be short for the Panthers this round, and why wouldn’t they be? Apart from an injury, no one in their right mind would change anything! Titans coach Justin Holbrook has gone back to the drawing board and made significant changes to his squad, including the addition of Will Smith to halves for partner Toby Sexton, with AJ Brimson back in jersey number a. Patrick Herbert sneaks through the crosses to make way for Sami on the wing who has returned from injury, allowing Fifita and the fans a big sigh of relief that he can return to normal. Kevin Proctor moves on the bench but after his last performances, I don’t know why he hasn’t been asked to cut the oranges.

Changes to the Titans’ positions will mean nothing if they don’t bring heart and effort to this game. Penrith will be looking to keep their unbeaten streak intact this season, and I don’t see that as a problem again for the Titans.

South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly Sea Eagles, Friday 7.55pm, Central Coast Stadium

Both teams are going up the F3 to the central coast for this game and will want to come down with the two points. Just sitting in the top eight and coming off a final round loss, Souths and Manly will each be looking to move up the ranks.

The Bunnies lost 23-22 in the last minute of their game against the Wests Tigers thanks to a basket from Luke Brooks, and the Sea Eagles’ second-half comeback wasn’t enough to topple the Sharks.

The Suds had to make some changes, with Taane Milne suspended making way for Isaiah Tass and Siliva Havili replacing the injured Jacob Host.

After looking like a deer in the headlights against Cronulla’s Siosifa Talakai, Morgan Harper was told he wasn’t allowed to play with his friends this weekend, with Tolu Koula entering the centres. Luckily for the Sea Eagles, they welcome a much-needed force with Marty Taupau and Sean Keppie both fit to return.

This game should be close, with the Bunnies just slipping away with the win.

Martin Taupeau.  Credit: Alamy
Martin Taupeau. Credit: Alamy

New Zealand Warriors v Canberra Raiders, Saturday 3pm, Moreton Daily Stadium

Hooley Dooley. The Warriors come into this game having been absolutely crushed by the Storm in the last round 70-10, and the Raiders suffered their fourth consecutive loss by Penrith.

The Warriors put in a strong first-half performance against Melbourne and trailed just 14-10 at halftime. Then the wheels fell off and the storm raged. To add to the pain, Josh Curran left early after sustaining an MCL injury, and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak lost a fight with Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s knee and was stretched off the field with a severe concussion. Both players are out for this round and Kodi Nikorima has been dropped due to recent form. Bayley Sironen and Rocco Berry return to the squad and new signing Daejarn Asi will make his debut for the club.

The Raiders seem completely lost at the moment, with so many questions and no answers. Their efforts against Penrith were dismal, with 34 missed tackles and just 39% possession. Captain Elliot Whitehead returns this turn, and his troops are hoping he will provide them with much-needed guidance and leadership.

It’s really hard to choose, and not for a good reason. But if I had to choose… Warriors.

Canterbury Bulldogs – Sydney Roosters, Saturday 5:30 p.m., Accor Stadium

The Bulldogs keep trying, but just can’t convert them into wins. The Roosters, meanwhile, appear to be playing well below their best but have still done enough to find themselves in sixth place in the standings.

Canterbury were ravaged by injury and Covid last week and squandered a 14-6 lead with just 20 minutes to go to get the Broncos not only back into the game but gave them a 34-14 win over a silver platter. The Roosters put up a poor first half performance against the Dragons on Monday but fought back from 14-0 down to 14-12 late in the game. They left their race too late and that’s where the scoreboard stopped.

The Dogs are welcoming Brent Naden and Jake Averillo after Covid protocols ruled them out last week, and Ava Seumanufagai is also back on the team. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Victor Radley work their way into the starting 13, and Kevin Naiqama replaces Daniel Tupou who is suspended for hanging Mikaele Ravalawa from Dragon.

Another tough one to pick, as the Dogs definitely have the ability and the heart to win, but the Roosters have the talent to destroy at will. Roosters win, sorry Dogs fans.

James Tedesco.  Credit: Alamy
James Tedesco. Credit: Alamy

Parramatta Eels v North Queensland Cowboys, 7.05pm, TIO Stadium Darwin

I bet when this match was scheduled at the start of the season, Darwin fans couldn’t have guessed what a sensational match was in store. Both teams in great shape and entering this round after beating their opponent last week.

The Eels played a great game and beat a hopeless Knights 39-2 on Sunday. As they always seem to do, they started the season strong and find themselves in third place. The surprise package so far are the Cowboys playing good footy, beating the Titans 30-4 in the last round and are pretty much fifth.

Last week, fifth-eighth Dylan Brown was transferred to centers along with Parramatta coach’s son Brad Arthur, who wore the number six shirt. Eels fans were angry at the change, but unlike Fifita the night before, Brown never put a foot wrong out of position. BA left his side the same this week. Cowboys coach Todd Payten plays the same hand, leaving his team untouched from the final round.

This game is going to be an absolute cracker. I tip the underdogs – the Cowboys to win in the heat of Darwin.

Newcastle Knights v Melbourne Storm, Sunday 2pm, McDonald Jones Stadium

After suffering your fifth straight loss, your last outing resulting in a 39-2 crush, the last team you want to face is the Storm, who have put 70 points on the Warriors. Unfortunately for the Knights and their fans, that’s exactly the scenario they face this weekend.

Newcastle have been in very bad shape and last weekend they fell to a major low. Melbourne, on the other hand, is at its clinical best, with six wins on the board and just behind the Panthers in second place.

One of the only Knights players who has put in consistent effort and been able to hold his head high is Dane Gagai, who was ruled out for the next few weeks with a fractured cheekbone. Storm coach Craig Bellamy has named the same team as in the last round, but he only has to wait for Reimis Smith to pass a fitness test before he gets the green light to play.

I don’t see this game going any other way than a Storm victory. It’s just the margin that I can’t choose. Maybe a 1000?

St George Illawarra Dragons v Wests Tigers, Sunday 4pm, WIN Stadium

A few weeks ago, would any of us have chosen this match as the match of the round?

The Dragons have come out of a crisis of form to start playing good football and are eyeing three wins on the trot. They held off the Roosters to eliminate their annual ANZAC Day clash in the final round. The Tigers shook off a horrible five-game losing start to the season to finally kick things into high gear and land two field goal thrillers against the Eels and Bunnies. They’ll be looking forward to their third win, but I’m sure they’ll be happy that it’s a normal win, and it doesn’t have to be a heart attack.

Jaydn Su’A is injured for the Red V so Josh McGuire takes his place in the back row. Tyrell Fuimaono is back from suspension and Jack Bird was selected despite an arm injury in his last game.

Daine Laurie was another NRL player to pick up an injury at MCL last week so he was replaced by Stafford Toa at the back for the Tigers. Alex Seyfarth drops to the bench to make way for Kelma Tuilagi.

I can see it’s a real gritty game, with both teams wanting to maintain their recent success. Although he is in Wollongong, I am going to the Tigers in another close.

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Raymond I. Langston