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NRL Round 8 Preview: Blockbuster Clashes Galore At Both Ends Of The Ladder

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NRL Round 8 Preview: Blockbuster Clashes Galore At Both Ends Of The Ladder

After another sensational long weekend with five days of footy, it's back to normal for the scheduling of the game. But definitely not for the results!

Here's your preview for all the action coming up in Round 8.

Brisbane Broncos v Cronulla Sharks, Thursday 7.50pm, Suncorp Stadium

The Sharks kick off the round again, this time taking on the Broncos. If both teams play the same as they did last week, we could be in for a very interesting finish!

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The Sharks jumped out to a 32-0 halftime lead, thanks to a wrecking ball performance from their star centre Siosifa Talakai. They eased off the gas a bit too much to allow Manly back into the game, just holding on for a 34-22 victory.

The Broncos were the opposite, doing all their hard work in the back end of their match against the Dogs, coming from 14-6 down with 20 minutes to go to take the win 34-14. Adam Reynolds took the game into his own hands and is really finding his feet now at his new club.

Cronulla are boosted by the return of captain Dale Finucane, with Cam McInnes taking a spot on the bench. Brisbane have kept the same team from last round, including Te Maire Martin who put in a great performance is his first match back since a brain bleed in 2019.

The Broncos are starting to come into a bit of form and will put up a good fight against the Sharks. But I'm sure Craig Fitzgibbon won't allow his boys to switch off early again, Sharks should win this one.

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Dale Finucane. Credit: NSWRL
Dale Finucane. Credit: NSWRL

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

The Panthers and can do no wrong at the moment and the Gold Coast can't do much right.

Penrith cruised to the seventh straight victory against the Raiders last weekend, downing Canberra 36-6, and created a new record of 21 wins straight at their home ground. Seemingly untouchable, they remain in outright first place on the ladder.

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The Titans on the other hand are sitting on two wins and five losses and got trampled last round by the Cowboys 30-4. An ill-fated trial of moving David Fifita to the centres due to a Phillip Sami injury proved costly, as the star back-rower struggled to play his normal game, and the rest of the team seemed to crumble around him.

The same 17 will be running out for the Panthers this round, and why wouldn't they be? Apart from injury, no one in their right mind would change anything! Titans coach Justin Holbrook has gone back to the drawing board and made some significant changes to his side, including Will Smith being added to the halves to partner Toby Sexton, with AJ Brimson back in the number one jersey. Patrick Herbert shuffles into the centres 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 go back to normal. Kevin Proctor moves to the bench but after his last few performances I don't know why he hasn't been asked to cut the oranges.

The changes to the Titans positions won't mean anything if they don't bring heart and effort to this game. Penrith will be looking to keep their unbeaten run this season intact, and I can't see that being a problem again the Titans.

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

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Both teams travel up the F3 to the Central Coast for this match and will wanting to come back down with the two points. Just sitting inside the top eight and coming off last round losses, Souths and Manly will each be looking to move further up ladder.

The Bunnies went down 23-22 in the final minute of their match with the Wests Tigers thanks to a Luke Brooks field goal, and the Sea Eagles second half comeback wasn't enough to topple the Sharks.

Souths have had to make a couple of changes, with the suspended Taane Milne making way for Isaiah Tass and Siliva Havili comes in for the injured Jacob Host.

After looking like a deer in the headlights coming up against Cronulla's Siosifa Talakai, Morgan Harper has been told he's not allowed to play with his friends this weekend, with Tolu Koula coming into the centres. Thankfully for the Sea Eagles they welcome back some much-needed force with Marty Taupau and Sean Keppie both fit to return.

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This match should be a close one, with the Bunnies just sneaking away with the win.

Martin Taupau. Credit: Alamy
Martin Taupau. Credit: Alamy

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

Hooley Dooley. The Warriors come into this match after being absolutely smashed by the Storm last round 70-10, and the Raiders were dealt their fourth loss in a row by Penrith.

The Warriors put on a solid performance in the first half against Melbourne and were only down 14-10 at the halftime break. Then the wheels fell off and the Storm ran rampant. To add to the pain, Josh Curran went off early after suffering a MCL injury, and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak lost a fight with Nelson Asofa-Solomona's knee and was stretchered 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 team and new recruit 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 woeful, with 34 missed tackles and only 39 percent possession. Captain Elliot Whitehead returns this round, and his troops will be hoping he brings them some much needed guidance and leadership.

This is a real tough one to pick, and not for a good reason. But if I had to choose......Warriors.

Canterbury Bulldogs v Sydney Roosters, Saturday 5.30pm, Accor Stadium

The Bulldogs keep putting in the effort, but just can't seem to convert it into wins. The Roosters on the other hand seem to be playing well below their best but have still done enough to find themselves in sixth spot on the ladder.

Canterbury was ravaged by injury and Covid last week and squandered a 14-6 lead with only 20 minutes to go to allow the Broncos not only back in the match but handed them a 34-14 victory on a silver platter. The Roosters put in a poor first half performance against the Dragons on Monday but fought back from 14-0 down to reach 14-12 late in their game. They left their run too late and that's where the scoreboard stopped.

The Dogs welcome back Brent Naden and Jake Averillo after Covid protocls ruled them out last week, and Ava Seumanufagai is also back in the team. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Victor Radley make their way into the starting 13, and Kevin Naiqama comes in for Daniel Tupou who is suspended for coat hanger-ing the Dragon's Mikaele Ravalawa.

Another tough one to pick, because 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 game was scheduled at the start of the season, fans up in Darwin could not have guessed what sensation game was coming their way. Both sides in top form and coming into this round after belting their opposition last week.

The Eels played a superb game and thumped a hopeless Knights side 39-2 on Sunday. As they always seem to do, they have started the season off strong and find themselves in third spot. The surprise packet so far are the Cowboys who are playing some great footy, walloped the Titans 30-4 last round and are sitting pretty in fifth.

Last week the inform five eighth Dylan Brown was moved to the centres with Parramatta coach Brad Arthur's son coming in to wear the number six jersey. Eels' fans were up in arms about the switch, but unlike Fifita the night before, Brown never put a foot wrong out of position. BA has left his side the same this week. Cowboys coach Todd Payten is playing the same hand, leaving his team intact from last round.

This game is going to be an absolute cracker. I'm tipping the outsiders - Cowboys to win in the heat of Darwin.

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

After coming off your fifth loss in a row, with your last outing resulting in being on the wrong side of a 39-2 smashing, the last team you want to come up against is the Storm, who put 70 points on the Warriors. Unfortunately for the Knights and their fans, that is exactly the scenario they face this weekend.

Newcastle have been in very poor form, and last weekend they sank to a major low. Melbourne on the other hand are at their clinical best, with six wins on the board and sitting just behind the Panthers in outright second spot.

One of the only Knights players who has put in constant effort and can hold his head up high is Dane Gagai, who has been ruled out for the next few weeks with a fractured cheekbone. Storm coach Craig Bellamy has named the same team from last round, but just has to wait for Reimis Smith to pass a fitness test before getting the all clear to play.

I can't see this game going any other way then a Storm victory. It's just the margin that I can't pick. Maybe a 1000?

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

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

The Dragons have come out of a form slump to start playing some great footy and are looking at three wins on the trot. They held off the Roosters to take out their annual ANZAC Day clash last round. The Tigers have shaken off a horrible five loss start to the season to finally kick into gear and notched up two field goal thrillers against the Eels and the Bunnies. They will eagerly be looking for their third victory, but I'm sure they will be happy for it to be a normal win, and it doesn't need to be a heart attack finish.

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

Daine Laurie was another NRL player to suffer a MCL injury last week, so he has been replaced by Stafford Toa at fullback for the Tigers. Alex Seyfarth moves to the bench to make way for Kelma Tuilagi.

I can see this being a real gritty game, with both teams wanting to keeps their recent success going. Despite it being in Wollongong, I'm going the Tigers in another close one.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy/NRL.com

Topics: Rugby League, nrl, Australia

Danielle Smith
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