South Sydney Rabbitohs host Brisbane Broncos to launch NRL Round 8 action on Thursday night.
There is a 2016 NRL Grand Final rematch as Melbourne Storm and Cronulla Sharks clash on Friday night, while Sydney Roosters host Wests Tigers as they look to keep pace with the leaders.
We preview each of the games below:
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Brisbane Broncos
An old school grudge match kicks off Round 8 of the NRL on Thursday night as the Rabbitohs and Broncos collide at ANZ Stadium. Brisbane haven’t been playing too poorly and last week were rewarded for their efforts, easing past the Sharks by a 29-6 scoreline.Souths meanwhile have been going through the motions since impressive wins over the Roosters and Dragons to start the season, but they were forced to go to another level by an improved Panthers outfit last week, prevailing 22-18 at the foot of the mountains. Brisbane have had the wood over Souths in recent matches, winning their last seven encounters, but I think the Rabbitohs will edge this one. Bennett simply won’t accept a loss in this match-up, and with Souths playing marginally the better football coming into this one, they should be able to grind out a victory at home.
Prediction: Rabbitohs win ($1.51 TopBetta)
North Queensland Cowboys vs Gold Coast Titans
An all-Queensland derby awaits on Friday night as the Cowboys and Titans square off in Townsville with both struggling sides desperate for the two points. Currently occupying two of the last four rungs on the competition ladder, the 13th-placed Titans and 15th-placed Cowboys are well off the pace at the moment and already face an uphill battle to play finals football this season. North Queensland have dominated this match-up in recent times, winning their last seven encounters, and at home, they should have the slight edge. Neither of these sides have been convincing for a while now, and this match is probably a toss-up, but I’ll lean with the Cowboys to make up for last week in front of their own fans.
Prediction: Cowboys win ($1.70 TopBetta)
Cronulla Sharks vs Melbourne Storm
Neither Melbourne or Cronulla are playing their best football at the moment – who comes away triumphant in a rematch of the 2016 Grand Final? While Cronulla’s predicament is certainly much more dire, Melbourne haven’t been operating as their usual slick selves over the last few weeks, losing their first game of the season to the Roosters before edging out the Warriors by one point on ANZAC Day. With a come-from-behind win needed to beat the Bulldogs as well, it’s clear the Storm have dropped off since their blistering start to the season. The Sharks dropped out of the top eight after their lacklustre 29-6 defeat to Brisbane last week and have a losing record of 3-4 to start the season. These two sides have split their last four meetings at two wins apiece and each have enjoyed wins over one another on enemy territory. I’d back Cronulla at home if they’re were in better form and had Johnson available, but the Storm should be able to dig out another scrappy win as they continue to search for their own top level.
Prediction: Under 38 points ($1.85 TopBetta)
Canberra Raiders v Penrith Panthers
Canberra will be determined to bounce back from last year’s second loss of the season to Manly and record a first win since 2016 over Penrith when the two sides meet in Wagga Wagga on Saturday. Penrith can almost kiss goodbye their hopes of finishing in the top four if they lose this one, but the Panthers have won the last four meetings between these teams. However, this is a different Raiders side this season. Penrith have scored 20+ points in all of those wins, but I’d be surprised if this new defensive-minded Canberra leaked 20+ points for a second week running. I think the Raiders edge this.
Prediction: Raiders win ($1.61 TopBetta)
Manly Sea Eagles v Canterbury Bulldogs
Manly are back playing gritty football and already miles better than last season, but they have been hit hard with injuries. It didn’t affect the Sea Eagles against an in-form Canberra last week as they carved out a 24-20 win at home. Canterbury have plenty to play for in this one as they search for back-to-back wins for the first time this season after beating the Cowboys 24-12 last week. I’m backing the Sea Eagles to grind out a tough one at home.
Prediction: Manly by 1-12 ($3.00 TopBetta)
Sydney Roosters v Wests Tigers
On a six-match winning steak and at the top of the competition ladder, the Roosters appear like they can become the first team in almost three decades to win back-to-back premierships. Ever since an opening round loss Souths, the Roosters have been brilliant. The Tigers famously beat the Roosters in Round 1 last season and played them close in a 16-14 loss later in the year, but I can only see one winner on Saturday night. The Roosters are on fire and did win their last 10 against the Tigers before that game.
Prediction: Roosters by 13+ ($1.90 TopBetta)
New Zealand Warriors vs Newcastle Knights
Level on points with identical 2-5 records over the first seven rounds, the Knights and Warriors already find themselves in must-win territory if they don’t want to fall too far behind in the race for a top eight spot. The Warriors have won five of their last six meetings and should have the slight edge if they can play like they did last week. It’s all in the head for the Warriors – if they can remain disinclined and focused, they can match it with anyone. It’s always a toss-up where the Warriors are concerned, but I think they can give their home fans something to cheer about on Sunday.
Prediction: Warriors by 13+ ($3.10 TopBetta)
Parramatta Eels vs St George Illawarra Dragons
The Eels have dominated this match-up in recent times, winning eight of their last nine meetings, including a big 40-6 victory in Round 22 last year. However, I’m liking the Dragons in this one. Parramatta are still very up and down for me, while you know you’re going to get a spirited performance from the Dragons – and if they can play like they have over the last month, they will be in a position to close this one out. Eighth spot on the ladder probably doesn’t do justice to how well the Dragons have played over the last month – and they will be determined to return to the winners circle and continue their climb up the ladder.
Prediction: Dragons win ($2.00 TopBetta)