NRL Tips & Preview – Round 8

Palmerbet Blog

Sports writer, JASON OLIVER, looks over all 16 teams and previews this weekend’s Rugby League action with his NRL tips for all Round 8 matches.

Broncos Sharks
Te Maire Martin 1 Will Kennedy
Corey Oates 2 Sione Katoa
Kotoni Staggs 3 Jesse Ramien
Herbie Farnworth 4 Siosifa Talakai
Selwyn Cobbo 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
Tyson Gamble 6 Matt Moylan
Adam Reynolds 7 Nicho Hynes
Corey Jensen 8 Toby Rudolf
Billy Walters 9 Blayke Brailey
Payne Haas 10 Aiden Tolman
Kurt Capewell 11 Briton Nikora
Jordan Riki 12 Teig Wilton
Kobe Hetherington 13 Dale Finucane
Cory Paix 14 Jack Williams
Rhys Kennedy 15 Cameron McInnes
Thomas Flegler 16 Royce Hunt
Keenan Palasia 17 Andrew Fifita

Played 43, Broncos 26, Sharks 17

Last Meeting: Round 24, 2021: Sharks 24 def. Broncos 16

Final Thoughts: The Brisbane Broncos started poorly in Round 7 but came good to thrash the Bulldogs 34-14 in a dominant second-half display. In contrast, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks did enough in the first half to sit back and relax in the second while beating the Sea Eagles 34-22.

Kevin Walters has named the same Broncos 17 from last week. Notably, Billy Walters keeps his spot at hooker. Craig Fitzgibbon has done similar but welcomes back Dale Finucane from injury to start at lock with Cameron McInnes to the bench and Braydon Trindall out of the side.

The Broncos – for whatever reason – look like a different team at home. Their pack looks lively on both sides of the ball, Kotoni Staggs finds super strength in attack, and the whole side completes the orders Adam Reynolds gives them. Once finally clicking into gear last week, the Broncos played like a genuinely good football team. The challenge this week is doing it from the opening whistle against a Sharks side that knows how to fire from the siren. Fitzgibbon spied a weakness in the Sea Eagles defence last week and played straight for it. Expect him to send Siosifa Talakai at Staggs early and perhaps ask the Broncos centre to make a few tackles and therefore negate some of his effectiveness with the ball. But also expect some variety in how the Sharks use Talakai. It’s their specialty at the moment and it won’t be a surprise to see them feed Teig Wilton once or twice on the excellent lines he has run in recent weeks. The Broncos play well at home but the Sharks have proven to be a top tier team and haven’t taken a backwards step all season. They won’t take this one lightly and should pick up their sixth win of the 2022 NRL season.

Tip: Anytime Try Scorer – Teig Wilton @ $4.50

Titans Panthers
AJ Brimson 1 Dylan Edwards
Philip Sami 2 Charlie Staines
Brian Kelly 3 Izack Tago
Patrick Herbert 4 Stephen Crichton
Greg Marzhew 5 Taylan May
Will Smith 6 Jarome Luai
Toby Sexton 7 Nathan Cleary
Moeaki Fotuaika 8 Matthew Eisenhuth
Erin Clark 9 Api Koroisau
Isaac Liu 10 James Fisher-Harris
David Fifita 11 Viliame Kikau
Beau Fermor 12 Liam Martin
Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 13 Isaah Yeo
Tanah Boyd 14 Soni Luke
Sam Lisone 15 Scott Sorensen
Herman Ese’ese 16 Spencer Leniu
Kevin Proctor 17 Jaeman Salmon

Played 22, Titans 7, Panthers 15

Last Meeting: Round 10, 2021: Panthers 48 def. Titans 12

Final Thoughts: The Gold Coast Titans are a shambles at the moment. Always set to struggle while travelling to Townsville, they didn’t turn up to lose 30-4 to the Cowboys. Meanwhile, the Penrith Panthers continued to dominate as they handled the Raiders with relative ease to win 36-6.

Justin Holbrook has hit the panic button and named another Titans spine. AJ Brimson moves to fullback and Will Smith into five-eighth. Meanwhile, Phill Sami returns to the wing which pushes Patrick Herbert to the centres and David Fifita to the backrow. Ivan Cleary, on the other hand, has named the same Panthers 17 for this week.

Desperation is setting in for the Titans as they experiment with new combinations in key positions. David Fifita can’t take all the blame. In fact, there isn’t much more he can do to put the Titans on his back and drag them to victory outside of a handful of tough carries. Instead, it’s up to those around him to pick up the slack. That slack is unlikely to be picked up this week against the defending premiers who are relentless in exposing weakness and driving points straight through them. Given the Gold Coast’s tendency to fall asleep for periods of a match, this one could get ugly fast. It will only take the Panthers scoring two or three unanswered tries before their defence settles in to win the match. The start is crucial for the Titans and the reshuffle to their spine doesn’t help. They’re unlikely to apply early pressure, and from there, the Panthers hit cruise control.

Tip: 1st Half Handicap – Panthers -8.5 @ $1.95

Rabbitohs Sea Eagles
Blake Taaffe 1 Reuben Garrick
Alex Johnston 2 Jason Saab
Isaiah Tass 3 Brad Parker
Campbell Graham 4 Tolutau Koula
Josh Mansour 5 Christian Tuipulotu
Cody Walker 6 Kieran Foran
Lachlan Ilias 7 Daly Cherry-Evans
Tevita Tatola 8 Sean Keppie
Damien Cook 9 Lachlan Croker
Thomas Burgess 10 Martin Taupau
Keaon Koloamatangi 11 Karl Lawton
Jai Arrow 12 Ethan Bullemor
Cameron Murray 13 Jake Trbojevic
Siliva Havili 14 Dylan Walker
Hame Sele 15 Ben Trbojevic
Davvy Moale 16 Kurt De Luis
Liam Knight 17 Toafofoa Sipley

Played 41, Rabbitohs 20, Sea Eagles 21

Last Meeting: Finals Week 3, 2021: Rabbitohs 36 def. Sea Eagles 16

Final Thoughts: The South Sydney Rabbitohs are officially in a little bit of trouble following their 23-22 loss to the Tigers in Round 7. Similarly, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles didn’t give themselves a chance to start their 34-22 loss at the hands of the Sharks.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs have been forced into a reshuffle with Isaiah Tass taking Taane Milne’s spot in the centres. Jacob Host’s should injury allows Siliva Havili to rejoin the side. The Sea Eagles lose Haumole Olakau’atu and Taniela Paseka for this one but welcome back Marty Taupau and Sean Keppie. Ben Trbojevic and Kurt de Luis are also back.

Is this the week it all comes together for the Rabbitohs? They showed some glimpses last week but many of their more promising actions in attack came against 12 men. The left edge isn’t what it used to be and Cody Walker is struggling for form. They need something different, but that something different is sitting on the sideline in the form of Latrell Mitchell. South Sydney’s fix starts with the error count. They’re second in the NRL in errors per game and it’s putting a handbrake on their attack and its development. As for the Sea Eagles, their leaky right edge defence was exposed time and time again last week. The game was over after 30 minutes with Manly’s second half resurgence to be taken with a grain of salt given the lead the Sharks had to sit on. This is still a fairly inconsistent footy side and one that is without an influential attacking figure in Olakau’atu this week. He has been their most reliable source of points and pressure with the ball and will be sorely missed on Friday night. It’s difficult to get a read on either side at the moment, but the Rabbitohs have a chance to get their season back on track against an understrength Sea Eagles outfit. Expect them to take it.

Tip: Doubles – Rabbitohs Half-time/Full-time @ $2.10

Warriors Raiders
Reece Walsh 1 Jordan Rapana
Rocco Berry 2 Nick Cotric
Jesse Arthars 3 Matthew Timoko
Adam Pompey 4 Semi Valemei
Viliami Vailea 5 Xavier Savage
Chanel Harris-Tavita 6 Jack Wighton
Shaun Johnson 7 Brad Schneider
Addin Fonua-Blake 8 Josh Papalii
Wayde Egan 9 Tom Starling
Matthew Lodge 10 Joseph Tapine
Euan Aitken 11 Hudson Young
Bayley Sironen 12 Elliott Whitehead
Jazz Tevaga 13 Ryan Sutton
Taniela Otukolo 14 Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
Bunty Afoa 15 Corey Harawira-Naera
Eli Katoa 16 Adam Elliott
Jack Murchie 17 Corey Horsburgh

Played 42, Warriors 20, Raiders 22

Last Meeting: Round 24, 2021: Raiders 28 def. Warriors 16

Final Thoughts: Both of these sides must be desperate to get back on the field this week. The New Zealand Warriors are coming in off their worst loss in club history after being thrashed 70-10 by the Storm. For the Canberra Raiders, they were never close to the Panthers in their 36-6 defeat.

Nathan Brown has been forced into changes. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Josh Curran and Aaron Pene are all out. Unsurprisingly, Ed Kosi has been dropped. Rocco Berry and Viliami Vailea are on the wing with Jack Murchie and Eli Katoa into the starting side. The Raiders welcome back Elliott Whitehead with Harry Rushton making way.

We’re going to hear a lot about “bouncing back” this week. For the Warriors, in particular, it’s about all they have. They’re an otherwise underperforming and poorly coached side playing well below their potential. A pack featuring Adding Fonua-Blake and Matt Lodge shouldn’t struggle to get up the field like they are right now. We saw what Chanel Harris-Tavita and Shaun Johnson can do with the ball even last week while losing by 60 points. For the Warriors pair to do anything, the forwards must lay the platform. This week they play a Raiders side that is 16th in the NRL in yardage. If there is a week to lay the foundations for the Warriors attack, it’s this week. However, unlike the Warriors who kept it close in the first half last week, the Raiders looked improved to start against the Panthers. They hung with the Panthers without gifting them three easy tries and can take something out of the first 30 minutes. Ricky Stuart’s side are also in need of a bounce back, but not as far as the Warriors.

Tip: Handicap – Raiders -1.5 @ $1.93

Bulldogs Roosters
Matt Dufty 1 James Tedesco
Brent Naden 2 Kevin Naiqama
Aaron Schoupp 3 Paul Momirovski
Jake Averillo 4 Joseph Manu
Josh Addo-Carr 5 Joseph Suaalii
Matt Burton 6 Sam Walker
Kyle Flanagan 7 Luke Keary
Luke Thompson 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
Jeremy Marshall-King 9 Sam Verrills
Paul Vaughan 10 Lindsay Collins
Corey Waddell 11 Angus Crichton
Tevita Pangai Jr. 12 Sitili Tupouniua
Josh Jackson 13 Victor Radley
Bailey Biondi-Odo 14 Drew Hutchison
Joe Stimson 15 Fletcher Baker
Max King 16 Nat Butcher
Ava Seumanufagai 17 Siosiua Taukeiaho

Played 45, Bulldogs 21, Roosters 24

Last Meeting: Round 17, 2021: Roosters 22 def. Bulldogs 16

Final Thoughts: The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs offered a glimmer of hope by taking a 10-0 lead before falling to the Broncos 34-14. Meanwhile, the Sydney Roosters don’t look like themselves at all following their 14-12 loss to the Dragons.

Brent Naden and Jake Averillo are back for the Bulldogs this week with Jayden Okunbor and Jacob Kiraz out of the side. Ava Seumanufagai also returns on the bench in place of Billy Tsikrikas. Daniel Tupou has copped a one-week suspension which brings Kevin Naiqama onto the Roosters wing.

He’s not very forthcoming with journalists and is unlikely to offer much in the way of a response, but Trent Barrett won’t be able to dodge the fact that a loss this week would drop his winning rate as coach to 12.5% – equal as the worst in the club’s history. Surely, if the Bulldogs have anything else to throw at a defence, they throw it this week. The Bulldogs are the worst attacking team in the NRL and it’s not particularly close. They offer next to nothing in good ball outside of flicking it to Matt Burton or Matt Dufty and hoping for the best. Meanwhile, the Roosters have fallen grossly short of expectations to start the year. Sam Walker and Luke Keary are struggling to gel and the side lacks direction with the ball. Similar to the Bulldogs, if there is a quick fix for this, surely, that quick fix is applied this week. Neither side offered much in the way of a form guide. The Bulldogs are bad and the Roosters don’t look like themselves. However, unlike the Bulldogs, the expectation is for the Roosters to turn it around sooner rather than later. This week they face a side that will rarely trouble them defensively. One they can be patient against with the ball knowing 16 points will likely be enough to win. Don’t expect flashy, but the Roosters should look better and more controlled with the ball in this one.

Tip: Total Points – Under 39.5 @ $1.90

Eels Cowboys
Clint Gutherson 1 Scott Drinkwater
Hayze Perham 2 Kyle Feldt
Will Penisini 3 Val Holmes
Dylan Brown 4 Peta Hiku
Bailey Simonsson 5 Murray Taulagi
Jake Arthur 6 Tom Dearden
Mitchell Moses 7 Chad Townsend
Reagan Campbell-Gillard 8 Jordan McLean
Reed Mahoney 9 Reece Robson
Junior Paulo 10 Coen Hess
Shaun Lane 11 Heilum Luki
Isaiah Papali’i 12 Jeremiah Nanai
Nathan Brown 13 Jason Taumalolo
Makahesi Makatoa 14 Jake Granville
Ryan Matterson 15 Tom Gilbert
Oregon Kaufusi 16 Reuben Cotter
Bryce Cartwright 17 Griffin Neame

Played 41, Eels 20, Cowboys 20

Last Meeting: Round 23, 2021: Eels 32 def. Cowboys 16

Final Thoughts: The Parramatta Eels bounced back from their horror Round 6 loss to thrash the Knights 39-2. The North Queensland Cowboys also made easy work of their opposition while beating the Titans 30-4.

The Eels have named an unchanged 17 this week. Strangely, that includes Dylan Brown in the centres with Jakob Arthur to start at five-eighth. Todd Payten has done the same with the Cowboys naming the same 17 again for this one.

If you’d asked NRL fans whether or not Eels v Cowboys would make for an exciting Saturday night primetime game two months ago they’d have said no chance. However, the Cowboys have exceeded expectations to be one of the better-performing sides in the competition right now while the Eels are typically inconsistent. We’ve got two of the best yardage teams in the NRL going head-to-head in this one. The Eels rank 3rd at 1,777 running metres per game while the Cowboys are just behind at 1,699 running metres per game. Winning the middle comes up every week and is always a key indicator to predicting games, but there is little separating these two sides. The Eels play with more movement and passing but the Cowboys have found success in crashing the edges and looking for ruck speed. Both have plenty of points in them. The Eels are the better attacking side overall and have put points on better teams, but they’ve been forced to move Brown to the centres and he won’t have such an easy time of it this week. A full-strength Eels side would be expected to get this done. There are enough question marks around them to suggest the Cowboys can keep this one close, though.

Tip: Tri Bet – Either Team by 10 or Less @ $2.08

Knights Storm
Kalyn Ponga 1 Ryan Papenhuyzen
Edrick Lee 2 Nick Meaney
Simi Sasagi 3 Reimis Smith
Bradman Best 4 Justin Olam
Enari Tuala 5 Xavier Coates
Jake Clifford 6 Cameron Munster
Adam Clune 7 Jahrome Hughes
David Klemmer 8 Jesse Bromwich
Chris Randall 9 Harry Grant
Daniel Saifiti 10 Nelson Asofa-Solomona
Tyson Frizell 11 Felise Kaufusi
Brodie Jones 12 Kenny Bronwich
Kurt Mann 13 Josh King
Phoenix Crossland 14 Brandon Smith
Jacob Saifiti 15 Tyran Wishart
Leo Thompson 16 Trent Loiero
Sauaso Sue 17 Tepai Moeroa

Played 44, Knights 15, Storm 29

Last Meeting: Round 18, 2021: Storm 48 def. Knights 4

Final Thoughts: The Newcastle Knights have dropped five games on the bounce following their 2-0 start. They’re now backing up a 39-2 loss to the Eels with a game against a Melbourne Storm who just hung 70 points on a hapless Warriors side on ANZAC Day.

Dane Gagai will miss a month with his fractured cheekbone and is replaced by Simi Sasagi in the centres with Sauaso Sue onto the bench as the only change for the Knights. Unsurprisingly, the Storm will run out with the same side this week. Tyran Wishart taking Chris Lewis’ spot on the bench is the only adjustment.

We’ve not had too many of these games throughout the 2022 NRL season, but it’s not a case of whether or not the Storm will win, but by how much. They made scoring 70 points look easy in Round 7. The Knights, on the other hand, are one of the worst attacking teams in the competition and their defence isn’t doing enough to keep them in games either. Kalyn Ponga’s return has hindered the Knights attack more than help it. Neither Adam Clune nor Jake Clifford are able to take on the role of a dominant halfback with Ponga popping up around the ruck and the Knights lack direction with the ball as a result. Meanwhile, everybody within the Storm system knows where to be and when depending on where they are on the field and what the defence is doing in front of them. They’re a well-oiled machine and it’s difficult to see the Knights keeping this remotely close. Perhaps they can slow things down in the ruck given what the rules now allow. Playing at home might inspire some fight early. However, expect the Storm to pull away in the end.

Tip: Time of 1st Try – 8 minutes or later @ $1.80

Dragons Tigers
Moses Mbye 1 Starford To’a
Mathew Feagai 2 David Nofoaluma
Moses Suli 3 Luke Garner
Zac Lomax 4 Oliver Gildart
Mikaele Ravalawa 5 Ken Maumalo
Jack Bird 6 Luke Brooks
Ben Hunt 7 Jackson Hastings
Francis Molo 8 James Tamou
Andrew McCullough 9 Jacob Liddle
George Burgess 10 Zane Musgrove
Tariq Sims 11 Kelma Tuilagi
Josh McGuire 12 Luciano Leilua
Jack de Belin 13 Joe Ofahengaue
Talatau Amone 14 Jock Madden
Blake Lawrie 15 Alex Twal
Aaron Woods 16 Thomas Mikaele
Tyrell Fuimaono 17 Alex Seyfarth

Played 40, Dragons 20, Tigers 20

Last Meeting: Round 12, 2021: Tigers 34 def. Dragons 18

Final Thoughts: The St. George Illawarra Dragons put in an incredible performance to beat the Roosters 14-12 on Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Wests Tigers made it two in a row with their 23-22 win over the Rabbitohs.

Jack Bird has been named for the Dragons despite his arm injury last week. Josh McGuire takes the place of Jaydn Su’A on the edge with Tyrell Fuimaono joining the bench as the major change. For the Tigers, Starford To’a starts at fullback for the injured Daine Laurie with Luke Garner and Oliver Gildart to start in the centres. In positive news, Kelma Tuilagi is back on the edge.

Here we go again… The Tigers are looking to win their third consecutive game in a season for the first time since Round 6, 2018. We’ve been here a couple of times but they’ve always found a way to keep their winning streak to two. They face a Dragons side that impressed against the Roosters in Round 7 without playing particularly well. This one is shaping up as a grinding affair. Neither will want to provide the other with an easy way out and both have proven they’re willing to get into the grind and defend their way to victory. Two high-touch halfbacks in Ben Hunt and Jackson Hastings will decide this one. Hunt is in superb form and proved against the Roosters that he can put the team on his back and drag them to victory. Hastings’ 102 touches last week, on the other hand, surely can’t be repeated. The potential for the Tigers to be forced into an adjustment as the Dragons apply inside pressure and play to Hastings on the field isn’t something they’re likely to handle well. Especially with Daine Laurie not available. We’re relying on Anthony Griffin – who isn’t a noted tactician – to force a change in the Tigers. Still, it’s obvious enough and should disrupt the Tigers attack enough for the Dragons to finish up on top.

Tip: Handicap – Dragons -3.5 @ $2.78