We have previewed round eight of the NRL season.
Thursday, July 2 (10:55am)
Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters
We start off round eight with a bang as two of the league’s biggest heavyweights in Melbourne and Sydney do battle. Despite being relocated to a new venue due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in Victoria as well as losing Cameron Munster for the entire second half, it did nothing to negate the Storm’s mauling of the Warriors last week. The Roosters may have had a battle on their hands against St George Illawarra but as the famous saying goes ‘cream always rises’ and in the end the Trent Robinson’s men coasted to a win over the Dragons. Both these sides are two of the most dominant teams in the league over the last 10 years and they are sure to make this one another spectacle.
Team news: Melbourne will be without star playmaker Cameron Munster (knee), with Ryley Jacks coming in as his replacement. Josh Addo-Carr and Christian Welch suffered head knocks last week so they will need to be monitored.
Jake Friend and Nat Butcher replace Sam Verrills (ACL) and Victor Radley (ACL) while James Tedesco and Josh Morris make their returns to the Roosters backline. Ryan Hall moves to the extended bench.
Friday, July 3
Canberra Raiders v St George Illawarra Dragons (9am)
Despite defeat, the Dragons showed plenty of heart and determination against Sydney and they are certainly going to need that again as they come up against another stiff test in 2019 runners up Canberra. The Raiders saw their third loss in four games after a heartbreaking golden point loss to Parramatta in round seven and to prevent further slipping away from the top four they will certainly need a win here. However, if the Dragons can perform in similar fashion to how they did against the Roosters then the Raiders may not always have it their own way in this one.
Team news: Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has opted for a few changes as Curtis Scott drops to the bench with Michael Oldfield taking his place at centre while Jordan Rapana drops out of the squad altogether, with Bailey Simsonsson moving back on the wing. Joseph Tapine returns form injury and replaces Corey Horsburgh (foot).
The Dragons make no changes to the side that faced the Roosters last week.
Parramatta Eels v North Queensland Cowboys (10:55am)
The Cowboys hit back following an embarrassing first half display against the Tigers in round six with a win over a tough Newcastle side by keeping the Knights’ offensive power at bay for most of the game. They now have to take all that confidence into this game as they face another big test against Parramatta who continue to show all the determination of true title contenders after snatching a victory against Canberra.
Team news: A big change in the Parramatta halves sees Jai Field replace an injured Mitchell Moses (calf).
The Cowboys have been given a slight boost as Valentine Holmes looks to make his return from an ankle injury after being included amongst the reserves.
Saturday, July 4
Gold Coast Titans v Cronulla Sharks (6am)
The Titans were nothing short of inspirational in their win over a lacklustre Brisbane side and even notched their biggest ever win over their Queensland rivals, winning 30-12. The victory sees them climb to 13th on the ladder but they now face a Cronulla side on a major high after taking full advantage of a Manly side without Tom Trbojevic to run in 40 points. The likes of Shaun Johnson, Chad Townsend, Matt Moylan and Sione Katoa were heavily impressive, with Johnson now leading the league in try assists and Katoa recording the second most tries so far this season.
Team news: Tyrone Peachey moves to centre for the Titans and Bryce Cartwright makes his way back into the squad on the interchange bench.
Andrew Fifita has been named to start at prop for the Sharks, with Braden Hamlin-Uele back on the bench.
New Zealand Warriors v Brisbane Broncos (8:30am)
The Warriors just had no answer for the Melbourne juggernaut last week and with it no clearer as to when they can relocate back to New Zealand, it does not look to be getting much easier for Todd Payten’s men. The Broncos are staring at a rather bleak situation themselves right now as they are winless since the restart to the season.
Team news: Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Agnatius Paasi, David Fusitu’a and Wayde Egan all make their way back into the starting 13 for the Warriors. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck misses the game due to a one-game suspension for a shoulder charge.
Anthony Seibold continues to show plenty of faith in his Brisbane squad despite facing criticism. The only changes for the Broncos see Corey Oates dropped to the reserves with Jamyane Isaako taking his place on the wing. Pat Carrigan moves back in at loose forward with Joe Ofahengaue suspended.
Wests Tigers v Penrith Panthers (10:35am)
Despite an unusually poor goal kicking performance from Nathan Cleary, Penrith grinded out a tough and narrow win over South Sydney. The Panthers have been in impressive form so far this season with Cleary showcasing to be a great catalyst for a side that now sits in second place and is starting to turn some heads after standout victories over both Melbourne and South Sydney. The Tigers, meanwhile, come into this one on the back of three straight victories.
Team news: The Tigers remain unchanged.
Penrith will be bolstered by the returning Josh Mansour with Brent Naden moving to the reserves.
Sunday, July 5
Manly Sea Eagles v Newcastle Knights (7:05am)
It just was not Newcastle’s day against North Queensland last week as Adam O’Brien’s side found themselves on the end of a disappointing loss to the Cowboys. The likes of Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga and that impressive forward pack were given no room to work at Townsville but they now renew an old rivalry as they come up against a Sea Eagles side that showed just how critical the likes of Tom Trbojevic and Dylan Walker are alongside captain Daly-Cherry Evans after giving up 40 points against the Sharks.
Team news: Moses Suli is back at centre for Manly while Martin Taupau moves back into front-row for Sean Keppie after the pair swapped spots last week.
After a week in quarantine, teenage sensation Bradman Best is back for Newcastle at centre while Tim Glasby is out after a failing a HIA so Herman Ese’ese starts at loose forward.
Canterbury Bulldogs v South Sydney Rabbitohs (9:30am)
The Rabbitohs were their own worst enemy in the loss to Penrith with too many errors costing Wayne Bennett’s men as they failed break down a tough and resilient Panthers side. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, continue to struggle to get a win under their belts and now sit in bottom place on the NRL ladder. Both teams gave up points cheaply last week so the defensive lines will certainly need to be much more assured this week.
Team news: The Bulldogs will be without impressive duo Will Hopoate (ankle) and Jake Averillo (head knock) which forces Dean Pay into a backline reshuffle. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak moves to full-back, Reimis Smith and Marcelo Montoya take the centre spots and Nick Meaney and Christian Crichton move to the wing. New Canterbury recruit Luke Thompson has been included on the extended bench and could make his debut come Sunday.
The only change for the Rabbitohs sees James Roberts replaces Braidon Burns at centre.
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