The 2016 NRL season continues over the Anzac Day long weekend with action kicking off on Friday night. Continue reading for our NRL Round 8 Preview and Betting Tips!
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Brisbane Broncos vs South Sydney Rabbitohs (Friday 7.45pm AEDT)
The Rabbitohs are continuing to slump since their solid start to the season. They came out on fire but injuries have derailed their season as fullback Greg Inglis seems to be running around on old and damaged legs, Sam Burgess hasn’t been the same since his neck injury and John Sutton will remain on the sidelines for at least two months. Adam Reynolds returned to the side on Friday when they were blown off the park by the defending champions the Cowboys but he did show a lot of positives. Throughout the early stages of the match he kept them competitive with a strong kicking game and they did show more in attack with Luke Keary moving to five-eighth.
The Broncos earned their biggest win of the year as they held the Knights to zero points whilst they scored 53 of their own. They were helped by the fact the Knights lost three players to concussion, including Jarrod Mullen in the opening minute of the match. However, the match was always going to turn out in a Broncos victory as they continue to show they and the Cowboys are by far the best team in the competition. The halves pairing is dominating matches on the back of their strong forward pack and their attacking weapons will continue to fire this weekend.
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Gold Coast Titans (Saturday 3pm AEDT)
The Titans had one of their worst performances of the season as they dominated possession in the second half against the dragons but weren’t able to find a way to score until it was too late for the side. Whilst the Dragons showed strength in defence, the Titans attack was dull and they seemed far too reliant on cross-field kicks that weren’t paying dividends.
Meanwhile the Bulldogs are one of the most inconsistent teams in the competition right now. They will pick up a great victory one week and then the next week they are looking sloppy, poor defensively and will find a way to lose. In their defence they had a five-day turn around and had to travel from Melbourne straight to Wellington but that shouldn’t hinder their performance to that extent. Kerrod Holland was a shining light for the side as he scored two tries and set up another from the centre position. However, their halves are the pivoting point in this team and they need to find consistency and put together back-to-back performances together if this side is going to make it in the finals series this year. Their forward pack will be superior this weekend and if their defence can be at its best they will win this match comfortably.
Canberra Raiders vs West Tigers (Saturday 5.30pm AEDT)
The Tigers put on their best performance since their second round match and if James Tedesco wasn’t forced from the field for a concussion test than the side could have easily defeated the Storm. They had their best defensive performance whilst the Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses were making smart decisions, especially towards the end of the match when they were chasing a six-point lead. Twice they missed field goals that would have won them the match and despite losing, there are a lot of positives that the young Tigers can take out of this match.
The Raiders have had two straight blowouts against them against the Eels and then the Sharks. It is a worrying side for a club that has finals aspirations but the team has been suffering from injuries since the opening match this season. They are currently without two of their best forwards Jeff Lima and Iosia Soliola whilst Blake Austin missed the match on the weekend with a reoccurring knee injury. The injuries to Lima and Soliola has hurt their go forward whilst their defence has also taken a hit with Soliola being of their best defensive players that can lift his side with a good shot. However, the Raiders losses were against two top four sides and we are expecting them to return to winning ways this weekend on home soil.
North Queensland Cowboys vs Parramatta Eels (Saturday 7.30pm AEDT)
This could be one of the best matches of the round as the defending champions take on one of the most in form teams this season. The Eels defeated the Cowboys on home soil in week 2 whilst the Cowboys haven’t lost on home soil and have been winning all of their matches in Townsville by at least 30 points.
The Eels won their opening matches on the back of their defence but over the last two weeks they have proven they have a strong attack too whilst they also showed a lot of composure against the Sea Eagles. Kieran Foran has clearly made an impact on the side as his experience has paid dividends for the entire team and especially Corey Norman. The Eels five-eighth has been given a lot of room to play what he sees in front of him as Foran does the majority of the organising. Meanwhile Beau Scott has been another great addition for their forward pack and the hard man always his best matches against Johnathan Thurston as that is the sole reason why he has been picked for the Blues in recent years. Scott puts a target on Thurston and has been criticised for his hard treatment of Thurston throughout matches but it appears to throw him off his game and it contributed to the Eels victory earlier this season as well as the Knights success against the Cowboys last season.
The Cowboys currently have the best attack in the league and despite continually playing at a high level, they always seem to step it up another gear when the game is on the line. In recent weeks Michael Morgan has regained his mojo from last week whilst fullback Lachlan Coote is arguably the most underrated player in the competition as his involvement in this team is critical to their success. I am expecting the Cowboys to continue their success on home soil but the Eels defence and newfound attack will keep the match close.
Cronulla Sharks vs Penrith Panthers (Sunday 4pm AEDT)
The Panthers earned their third win of the season in a sloppy contest against the Roosters on Monday night. They should have won the match by a lot more as they had the majority of the possession and territory throughout the match. The conditions didn’t help the side find the try line but Matt Moylan continued to show how special he is with his brilliant hands, strong runs and playmaking ability. The Panthers captain was involved in everything and he will continue to grow in confidence and ability as he returns from injury.
Meanwhile the Sharks are showing that all the preseason hype about their side was justified as they picked up a massive victory in Canberra. Ben Barba has now proven he is the fullback for this team as he crossed for a double whilst his impact in attack set up another two tries. Their right side is clearly their strongest attack weapon as they have Chad Townsend, Barba, Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes. Bird looks dangerous every time he has the ball in his hands, as he is a strong runner that can break the first tackle and can find the right pass after spending last season in the five-eighth position.
The Panthers have lost a lot of close matches this season whilst their three victories have been by narrow margins. I am expecting them to keep this one close but the Sharks forward pack will be too strong whilst their back line will be too classy.
Newcastle Knights vs Manly Sea Eagles (Monday 2pm AEDT)
The Knights were on the wrong end of the scoreboard against the Broncos on the weekend but they can contribute the flogging to finishing the match with 14-men and losing Jarrod Mullen in the opening minute of the match. However, the Knights were never in the contest and didn’t show much in attack whilst their defensive line was broken far too easily. They face an easier opponent this weekend and the Sea Eagles injuries have continued with Matt Parcell ruled out for a few weeks with a hamstring strain. This will again reshuffle their spine as they are currently without Daly Cherry Evans.
The Sea Eagles were competitive against the Eels but ultimately they weren’t able to find enough in attack to crack their solid defence. The Knights defence will be easier to crack this weekend and if they can hold their composure then a big win could be on the cards.
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Sydney Roosters (Monday 4pm AEDT)
The traditional Anzac Day match has a lot of history of putting on great matches between these two sides and we expect nothing different despite the struggles of both sides this season. The Dragons were able to put their two scoreless matches behind them as they defeated the Titans in their third straight away match. They were again without Benji Marshall as the halfback is continuing to battle with a hamstring injury and he hasn’t been involved in any of the side’s victories this season. It is an interesting situation between the playmaker and the club as they have withdrew an offer for a contract extension after Marshall publically stated that he was being lowballed. The Dragons defence was able to hold off the Titans second half push but their attack was still lacking and they had a bit of luck on their side as a lot of Titans mistakes let them off the hook.
The Roosters put on another performance worthy of a victory against the Panthers as the side is beginning to show a lot more confidence. Dylan Napa had another strong game but it is hard to have an impact like he did against the Bunnies in every match. However, he will be worked up for this game with a lot of hype surrounding it. Jake Friend also had his best match of the season as he played his part in all three of the Roosters tries whilst he was constantly causing havoc out of dummy half. There is a massive chance Boyd Cordner and Jared Warea-Hargreaves will return to action this weekend, which will bolster their forward pack with two internationals. This will give the side a lot of go forward and it will allow Jackson Hastings to play off the back of that whilst Dylan Napa will have more impact as well as their will be more momentum with the Roosters running.
Melbourne Storm vs New Zealand Warriors (Monday 7pm AEDT)
The Warriors suffered a massive blow to their aspirations for the season with star recruit and international Roger Tuivasa-Sheck suffering a season ending ACL injury. The star fullback had begun to find his feet in recent weeks as his running game had begun to resemble what he did at the Roosters. He had made the most metres of any player in the competition and the New Zealand side will miss him. However, the side still has a lot of class and luckily Coach Andrew McFadden has a few options that he can choose from to replace his spine. Tuimoala Lolohea is the obvious replacement at fullback as he played a lot of last year in the position whilst he moved there on the weekend. He has a strong running game with quick stepping feet similar to Tuivasa-Sheck but it is a shame he won’t be able to build a partnership in the halves with Shaun Johnson. McFadden could recall experienced half Jeff Robson to partner Johnson whilst Thomas Leuluia played well when coming on against the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile the Storm earned a narrow victory against the Tigers on the weekend, as they were their own worst enemy in the first half. They threw two intercept passes when they were on the attack with one of those resulting in six-points for the Tigers. It was an uncharacteristic 40-minutes for the Storm and a lot of it can be credited to the injuries they have suffered to their back line. Whilst Cooper Cronk was able to show he is still the iceman by hitting his 13th clutch field goal since 2012, he and Cameron Smith have had slow start to the seasons by their standards. I am backing them to continue to struggle this weekend as their poor record against the Warriors continues whilst the New Zealand side will want to rally together after losing their star fullback to injury.
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Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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