The line between the NRL’s top eight and the bottom half became more clearly defined after round 7, with Wests Tigers the big movers and Souths sliding down the ladd.
But a slew of serious injuries to key players was the major takeaway from a dramatic weekend and it could have a sizeable impact on the premiership in the period ahead. Cameron Munster, Victor Radley, Sam Verrills, Isaac Liu, Mitchell Moses, Corey Horsburgh and Will Hopoate are all set for significant stints on the sidelines.
Three top-eight showdowns will shake up the NRL ladder this week, while two clubs in turmoil will attempt to dig their way out of trouble when they face off. See how it’s all shaping up with Sportsbet’s NRL round 8 predictions.
MELBOURNE STORM V SYDNEY ROOSTERS: NRL ROUND 8 PREVIEW
THURSDAY 2 JULY – 7:50PM
A face-melting blockbuster to get round 8 underway in Brisbane has been somewhat overshadowed by big injury news. Brilliant Melbourne five-eighth Cameron Munster is facing a month in the casualty ward, while Sydney Roosters have been rocked by season-ending ACL injuries to star tyros Victor Radley and Sam Verrills, as well as a broken rib for underrated forward Isaac Liu.
The fourth-placed Storm were consigned to indefinite nomad status at short notice last week, set to be based on the Sunshine Coast until the COVID-19 situation in Victoria is back under control. But there were no signs of early homesickness as they dismantled the Warriors 50–6 in Sydney – an emphatic bounce back from their round 6 loss to Penrith. Suliasi Vunivalu notched three tries while fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen took the three Dally M Medal votes.
The Roosters made it 5–0 since the restart, overcoming their injury setbacks to put away a spirited St George Illawarra 26–12 with another customary late surge. Five-eighth Luke Keary was magnificent, front-row duo Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sio Siua Taukeiaho both ran for over 200m, Joseph Manu ran for a whopping 310m while filling in at fullback, and the ageless Brett Morris bagged a hat-trick.
The Roosters will get James Tedesco and Josh Morris back in a double boost, while versatile duo Mitch Aubusson and Nat Butcher can be expected to offset the loss of Radley and Verrills. Storm prop Christian Welch is set to miss out with concussion. Ryley Jacks has been named to slot in for Munster but Cameron Smith could fill the halves void.
The Roosters have won three of their last four against the Storm, including the 2018 Grand Final and last year’s gripping preliminary final. Just one of the teams’ last seven clashes were decided by more than eight points (with five decided by three points or less), while only one of the last six produced a total of more than 29 points.
The Storm have fallen short against in-form opposition so far in 2020 and the relentless Roosters deserve their favouritism – but it should be tighter than the midweek odds suggest.
NRL TEAMS ROUND 8
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Justin Olam 4. Paul Momirovski 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Ryley Jacks 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Christian Welch 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 16. Tom Eisenhuth 17. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 18. Cooper Johns 19. Marion Seve 20. Albert Vete 21. Chris Lewis
1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Josh Morris 4. Joseph Manu 5. Brett Morris 6. Luke Keary 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Angus Crichton 13. Nat Butcher 14. Poasa Faamausili 15. Sitili Tupouniua 16. Mitchell Aubusson 17. Lindsay Collins 18. Daniel Fifita 19. Ryan Hall 20. Freddy Lussick 21. Lachlan Lam
NRL ROUND 8 TIPS
Head-to-head: Sydney Roosters
Best bet: Margin – Sydney Roosters 1 to 12
CANBERRA RAIDERS V ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS: NRL ROUND 8 PREVIEW
FRIDAY 3 JULY – 6:00PM
The one-time premiership favourites Canberra Raiders have only genuinely hit their straps once in 2020, in a 22–6 defeat of Melbourne immediately after the restart. But they have lost three out of four since, including a 25–24 golden point heartbreaker against Parramatta in round 7 that was compounded by a long-term injury to rising forward Corey Horsburgh and a suspension incurred by Jordan Rapana.
The Raiders let a half-time lead slip but can take heart from a stunning two-try surge in the last five minutes to force extra time. English halfback George Williams continues to shine, while compatriots Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead weren’t far behind on Saturday night. It feels like it’s only a matter of time before it clicks for coach Ricky Stuart’s charges.
St George Illawarra has recovered admirably from being the most under-pressure club in the NRL just three weeks ago, chalking up back-to-back wins over Cronulla (30–16) and Gold Coast (20–8) before sticking with the hot shot Roosters for more than an hour in a 26–12 loss.
Restoring Matt Dufty to fullback and moving Ben Hunt to the bench continues to pay dividends for the maligned Paul McGregor. Whether that will be enough to save his job beyond 2020 remains doubtful, however.
The Dragons have won five of their last seven against the Raiders, but the Green Machine rumbled to a 36–14 victory in Wollongong in their sole clash in 2019. Fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad scored two tries and scooped three Dally M votes in the convincing win.
The Raiders are back at GIO Stadium for the first time since round 1 and should find a way to get a much-needed win as far as head-to-head NRL round 8 predictions go, but they’re giving away too many points to back against the line.
NRL TEAMS ROUND 8
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Jarrod Croker 4. Michael Oldfield 5. Nick Cotric 6. Jack Wighton 7. George Williams 8. Josh Papali’i 9. Josh Hodgson 10. Iosia Soliola 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Joseph Tapine 14. Curtis Scott 15. Emre Guler 16. Ryan Sutton 17. Siliva Havili 18. Tom Starling 19. Dunamis Lui 20. Matt Frawley 21. Kai O’Donnell
St George Illawarra Dragons
1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jason Saab 3. Euan Aitken 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Adam Clune 8. Blake Lawrie 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tyrell Fuimaono 13. Trent Merrin 14. Ben Hunt 15. Josh Kerr 16. Korbin Sims 17. Jackson Ford 18. Eddie Blacker 19. Tristan Sailor 20. Billy Brittain 21. Tim Lafai
NRL ROUND 8 TIPS
Head-to-head: Canberra Raiders
Best bet: Line – St George Illawarra Dragons +11.5
PARRAMATTA EELS V NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS: NRL ROUND 8 PREVIEW
FRIDAY 3 JULY – 7:55PM
Parramatta has cemented its status as a bona fide premiership contender, moving to the second line of NRL Grand Final winner betting behind Sydney Roosters. The Eels suffered their first loss of the season to the Roosters in round 6 but lost few admirers, then dug deep to edge the Raiders in golden point time last week after losing Mitchell Moses to a calf injury.
It shapes as a testing few weeks without their linchpin. But as matchwinner Clint Gutherson proved against the Raiders, the Eels are no one-man band. Young livewire Jai Field comes into the halves.
North Queensland arrested a three-match losing streak (in which it conceded 99 points) with a surprise 32–20 win over in-form Newcastle at home. The Cowboys have lacked direction and impetus in the halves with Michael Morgan out, but Scott Drinkwater and especially Jake Clifford found their groove as they raced to a 26–0 half-time lead against the Knights.
The incomparable Jason Taumalolo was also at his best, running for almost 300m. Valentine Holmes is set to return at fullback this week, with 18-year-old Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow returning to the wing.
North Queensland boasts four wins in its last five encounters with Parramatta – including a Taumalolo-led 17–10 result in Townsville last year – with the Eels averaging less than 12 points across those five games.
With just one win from their last seven assignments away from Townsville, the Cowboys’ ability to win on the road has again come into question. The Eels’ 13–3 record at Bankwest Stadium looms as a decisive factor in this one.
NRL TEAMS ROUND 8
1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Jai Field 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Marata Niukore 14. Ray Stone 15. David Gower 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Brad Takairangi 18. Stefano Utoikamanu 19. Daniel Alvaro 20. George Jennings 21. Will Smith
North Queensland Cowboys
1. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Tom Opacic 4. Esan Marsters 5. Justin O’Neill 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Jake Clifford 8. Josh McGuire 9. Reece Robson 10. Jordan McLean 11. Shane Wright 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Ben Hampton 15. Gavin Cooper 16. Peter Hola 17. Francis Molo 18. Reuben Cotter 19. Valentine Holmes 20. Corey Jensen 21. Jake Granville
NRL round 8 tips
Head-to-head: Parramatta Eels
GOLD COAST TITANS V CRONULLA SHARKS: NRL ROUND 8 PREVIEW
SATURDAY 4 JULY – 3:00PM
Gold Coast Titans and Cronulla Sharks have both picked themselves up off the canvas recently – but which of the slow-starting outfits can keep their roll going?
The Titans moved from last to 13th with their second win of 2020 on Saturday, blasting the hapless Broncos off the park 30–12. Ever-reliable forwards Moeaki Fotuaika and Jai Arrow were superb, but the most encouraging sign was the performance of maligned half Ash Taylor.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have lurked up to 11th on the ladder with consecutive wins over Canterbury and Manly. The resounding 40–18 defeat of the Sea Eagles on Sunday was a timely reminder of the threat the Sharks pose when their super-talented roster clicks.
Shaun Johnson had the ball on a string and leads the NRL in try assists, while the injury-plagued Matt Moylan produced a blinder from fullback. There’s no shortage of firepower out wide – despite the departure of Josh Morris and unavailability of Bronson Xerri – and the Cronulla pack remains one of the competition’s most dynamic.
The Sharks are currently on a three-match winning streak against the Titans. With Johnson sidelined by injury, Chad Townsend orchestrated a 26–18 victory during the Suncorp Stadium Magic Round last season.
Cronulla is the warm midweek favourite and deserves to be, but Gold Coast are capable of an upset here. Both sides’ games routinely produce more than 40 points and the over is an enticing play.
NRL TEAMS ROUND 8
Gold Coast Titans
1. Corey Thompson 2. Anthony Don 3. Brian Kelly 4. Tyrone Peachey 5. Phillip Sami 6. Ashley Taylor 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Mitch Rein 10. Jaimin Jolliffe 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Keegan Hipgrave 13. Jai Arrow 14. Tanah Boyd 15. Sam Lisone 16. Bryce Cartwright 17. Jarrod Wallace 18. Erin Clark 19. Beau Fermor 20. Jai Whitbread 21. Tyrone Roberts
1. Matt Moylan 2. Sione Katoa 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jesse Ramien 5. Bryson Goodwin 6. Shaun Johnson 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Wade Graham 13. Jack Williams 14. Toby Rudolf 15. Braden Hamlin-Uele 16. Siosifa Talakai 17. Royce Hunt 18. Scott Sorensen 19. Connor Tracey 20. Will Kennedy 21. Nene Macdonald
NRL ROUND 8 TIPS
Head-to-head: Cronulla Sharks
Best bet: Total Match Points – Over 44.5
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS V BRISBANE BRONCOS: NRL ROUND 8 PREVIEW
SATURDAY 4 JULY – 5:30PM
The schedule has aligned for two of the NRL’s most embattled clubs (and it’s a rich category at present) to snare a morale-boosting victory – although it should be remembered that New Zealand Warriors and Brisbane Broncos played out a rare golden point draw when they met last.
The Broncos are arguably at the lowest ebb in their glittering history. The Warriors aren’t far off theirs, albeit from a more tortured existence. Both clubs are legitimate contenders to collect a maiden wooden spoon.
After a couple of promising wins since the restart, the Warriors’ heavy defeats to Souths (40–18) and Melbourne (50–6) in the past fortnight were bisected by coach Stephen Kearney’s shock axing. The players’ on-field response to the tumult against the Storm was deeply troubling, and several players are reportedly angling to end their Australian odyssey and return to family in New Zealand.
Indefatigable Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is serving a one-match ban for a shoulder charge, which will likely see Peta Hiku move to fullback and Gerard Beale come into the centres. Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue has also been rubbed out by the judiciary.
The Broncos are 0–5 since the NRL’s resumption, conceding a reprehensible 170 points and scoring just 42. Saturday’s 30–12 loss to the unfancied Titans was a new low. Struggling to find the right selection rein to pull, under-fire coach Anthony Seibold has this week dumped Origin winger Corey Oates but has controversially retained struggling halves Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft.
The Warriors have picked up three wins and a draw from their last six matches against Brisbane. Last season the Broncos prevailed 8–2 in a dour Auckland affair before an 18-all draw at Suncorp Stadium. The Warriors struggled to contain Payne Haas in both clashes, while Roger Tuivasa-Sheck set a new NRL running-metres record in the latter.
This is comfortably the hardest match to toss up an NRL round 8 prediction for but, if anything, the Warriors have shown more spirit and enterprise, and they provide some value as underdogs at their adopted Gosford home.
NRL TEAMS ROUND 8
New Zealand Warriors
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. David Fusitu’a 3. Peta Hiku 4. Patrick Herbert 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Blake Green 8. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 9. Wayde Egan 10. Agnatius Paasi 11. Jack Murchie 12. Tohu Harris 13. Adam Blair 14. Chanel Harris-Tavita 15. Jack Hetherington 16. Karl Lawton 17. Josh Curran 18. King Vuniyayawa 20. Isaiah Papali’i 21. Adam Pompey 22. Gerard Beale
1. Tesi Niu 2. Jamayne Isaako 3. Herbie Farnworth 4. Darius Boyd 5. Xavier Coates 6. Anthony Milford 7. Brodie Croft 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Issac Luke 10. Payne Haas 11. Alex Glenn 12. Tevita Pangai Junior 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Tom Dearden 15. Thomas Flegler 16. Rhys Kennedy 17. Ben Te’o 18. Corey Oates 19. Cory Paix 20. Richard Kennar 21. Jamil Hopoate
NRL ROUND 8 TIPS
Head-to-head: New Zealand Warriors
Best bet: Line – New Zealand Warriors +5.5
WESTS TIGERS V PENRITH PANTHERS: NRL ROUND 8 PREVIEW
SATURDAY 4 JULY – 7:35PM
This western Sydney derby finds both teams in excellent form.
Wests Tigers have forged ahead to sixth on the NRL ladder after racking up consecutive wins for the first time in 2020. A blistering first-half display got the job done in a 36–20 win over North Queensland in round 6, before the Tigers breezed past last-placed Canterbury 34–6 last Sunday.
The big story of the Tigers’ campaign has unquestionably been the rise of rookie hooker Harry Grant, who arrived at the club from Melbourne on a swap deal. He scooped three votes in both the Tigers’ recent wins to sit second on the Dally M Medal leaderboard.
Surprise packet Penrith are outright second and could so easily be the only unbeaten team in the competition. Run down late by current ladder leaders Parramatta in a round 5 classic, the Panthers have accounted for 2019 preliminary finalists Melbourne (21–14) and Souths (20–12) in the past two weeks.
Halfback Nathan Cleary is in vintage form playing behind a tough, dynamic pack, while hooker Api Koroisau has been one of the buys of the season. The Panthers rose to the third line of NRL premiership betting this week – and their title credentials are getting harder to deny. Josh Mansour is back to take on the Tigers at Brent Naden’s expense.
Wests Tigers overcame a five-match losing streak against Penrith – with four of those defeats coming by 13-plus margins – to blow the Panthers away 30–4 in their most recent meeting, a Magic Round showdown last May with currently-out-of-favour Benji Marshall pulling the strings.
The Tigers are ranked equal-second for points scored but their defence remains suspect. The Panthers have been one of the competition’s most impressive defensive outfits and are experts at capitalising on opposition lapses.
NRL TEAMS ROUND 8
1. Adam Doueihi 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Joseph Leilua 4. Moses Mbye 5. Tommy Talau 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Luke Brooks 8. Josh Aloiai 9. Harry Grant 10. Oliver Clark 11. Luke Garner 12. Luciano Leilua 13. Matt Eisenhuth 14. Elijah Taylor 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Sam McIntyre 17. Michael Chee-Kam 18. Benji Marshall 19. Chris Lawrence 20. Billy Walters 21. Russell Packer
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 3. Dean Whare 4. Stephen Crichton 5. Brian To’o 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 14. Matt Burton 15. Zane Tetevano 16. Moses Leota 17. Billy Burns 18. Mitch Kenny 19. Brent Naden 20. Spencer Leniu 21. Tyrone May
NRL ROUND 8 TIPS
Head-to-head: Penrith Panthers
Best bet: Line – Penrith Panthers -5.5
MANLY SEA EAGLES V NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS: NRL ROUND 8 PREVIEW
SUNDAY 5 JULY – 4:05PM
Manly produced one of their gutsiest wins of recent years against Canberra in round 6 after losing key duo Tom Trbojevic and Dylan Walker mid-game. But the realities of forging on without two of their key players – fullback ‘Turbo’ in particular – hit hard last weekend in a 40–18 loss to Cronulla, easily the Sea Eagles’ worst of the season.
The Sea Eagles have slipped to eighth and Trbojevic’s expected two-month absence has the potential to derail what was shaping as a title-contending campaign. Moses Suli is a big entry for this week, however.
Newcastle has rarely looked anything but top-four material in 2020, losing just one of its first six games. But a 32–20 loss to North Queensland in round 7 – lapped 26–0 in the first half – was a timely wake-up call.
Boom centre Bradman Best returns from a week in self-isolation, but the onus will be on the Knights forward to be switched on from the outset after getting rolled through early by the Cowboys.
Manly has dominated this keen rivalry in recent years, winning nine of its last 11 against Newcastle. The Sea Eagles got the chocolates on both occasions in 2019: a 26–18 early-season win on the road and a 30–6 mauling at home. Daly Cherry-Evans featured prominently in both victories… but so did Tom Trbojevic.
The midweek head-to-head odds were the tightest of any round 8 match-up, but the Knights are a better bounce-back prospect at Brookvale on Sunday.
NRL TEAMS ROUND 8
Manly Sea Eagles
1. Reuben Garrick 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Brad Parker 4. Moses Suli 5. Tevita Funa 6. Lachlan Croker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Danny Levi 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Cade Cust 15. Jack Gosiewski 16. Sean Keppie 17. Taniela Paseka 18. Morgan Boyle 19. Brendan Elliot 20. Abbas Miski 21. Haumole Olakau’atu
1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Edrick Lee 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bradman Best 5. Hymel Hunt 6. Kurt Mann 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. David Klemmer 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Sione Mata’utia 13. Herman Ese’ese 14. Tex Hoy 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Aidan Guerra 17. Pasami Saulo 18. Tautau Moga 19. Brodie Jones 20. Phoenix Crossland 21. Josh King
NRL ROUND 8 TIPS
Head-to-head: Newcastle Knights
Best bet: Newcastle Knights win
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS V SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS: NRL ROUND 8 PREVIEW
SUNDAY 5 JULY – 6.30PM
South Sydney is increasingly looking like a 2020 also-ran – or at the very least a couple of notches below the preliminary final sides of 2018 and 2019.
The Rabbitohs are beating the teams they should – swamping the Titans and Warriors prior to round 7 – but are yet to grab a notable scalp. They went down 20–12 to the Panthers last Friday to slip to ninth on the ladder. Wayne Bennett’s all-star spine is struggling to fire on a consistent basis, and the pack’s aura has faded with the retirement of Sam Burgess and John Sutton.
Last-placed Canterbury’s prospects of climbing out of the premiership cellar appear slim. The 1–6 Bulldogs’ effort can’t be faulted… but dead-coach-walking Dean Pay just doesn’t have the prime cattle at his disposal to mount a revival.
Despite last week’s heavy 34–6 loss to Wests Tigers, the Bulldogs are ranked 12th defensively. But they are last in attack, averaging less than 11 points per game – and an injury to valuable fullback veteran Will Hopoate won’t help their impotence.
Canterbury snapped a four-match losing streak against Souths with a 14–6 upset during a late-2019 revival. Kieran Foran was in superb touch – as he is now – while the Bulldogs’ miserly defence prevented the Rabbitohs from scoring a try. The Bulldogs have not managed more than 16 points in their last five meetings with Souths and only one of the teams’ last seven encounters produced more than 38 points.
Souths’ undoubted strike power should see them continue their trend of beating opponents situated in the bottom half of the ladder. The Bulldogs’ confidence is on empty, and an upset of the majority of NRL round 8 predictions appears unlikely.
NRL TEAMS ROUND 8
1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Meaney 3. Reimis Smith 4. Marcelo Montoya 5. Christian Crichton 6. Kieran Foran 7. Brandon Wakeham 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Adam Elliott 14. Kerrod Holland 15. Dean Britt 16. Renouf To’omaga 17. Sauaso Sue 19. Ofahiki Ogden 20. Jack Cogger 21. Luke Thompson 22. Sione Katoa
South Sydney Rabbitohs
1. Latrell Mitchell 2. Dane Gagai 3. Campbell Graham 4. James Roberts 5. Alex Johnston 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Jaydn Su’A 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Cameron Murray 14. Liam Knight 15. Bayley Sironen 16. Hame Sele 17. Braidon Burns 18. Mark Nicholls 19. Patrick Mago 20. Troy Dargan 21. Corey Allan
NRL ROUND 8 TIPS
Head-to-head: South Sydney Rabbitohs
Best bet: Margin – South Sydney Rabbitohs 13+