The Roosters desperately need Cooper Cronk to step up against the Dragons.
The Roosters desperately need Cooper Cronk to step up against the Dragons. BRENDAN ESPOSITO

NRL previews for round eight

TONIGHT

DRAGONS V ROOSTERS

Allianz Stadium, 4.10pm

History: Played 37, Dragons 19, Roosters 17, drawn 1

Last met: Roosters 13-12, round 8, 2017

While pure 2018 season stats point to a Dragons win, history tells us that this Anzac Day clash will be another nail-biter. Despite last week's loss to the Warriors, the Dragons are off to a superb start and will again field an unchanged 17 - for the eighth successive week. Add to that the best attack and third-best defence in the competition and $1.81 appears good odds. But Allianz Stadium, against the Roosters, is not their favourite venue. The Roosters have won 15 of 25 there, including six of the past eight. In their 6-nil win over the Bulldogs last week the Roosters weren't pretty, but in true Anzac style they bogged down in the trenches and defended magnificently. If under-pressure halves Cooper Cronk and Luke Keary can add some gloss to the stuttering attack, this appeals as another blockbuster, although the powerful Dragons forwards may not allow their opposition to build a commanding platform.

TIP - Dragons

STORM V WARRIORS

AAMI Park, 7pm

History: Played 40, Storm 22, Warriors 16, drawn 2

Last met: Storm 20-14, round 8, 2017

While the Dragons-Roosters clash is hailed the traditional Anzac Day match, this appeals as the "genuine" one - Aussies v Kiwis. And it, too, shapes as a ripper. Both sides were outstanding last week with the Warriors downing the previously unbeaten Dragons, and the Storm bouncing back to their lethal best in Brisbane - a sign their mojo has returned. But unlike many clubs, the Warriors do not fear AAMI Park, where their record is a respectable three from eight. The forward clash should replicate a battle royal, although the Storm will sorely miss the power of Jessie Bromwich. And while rookie halfback Mason Lino has performed admirably in the absence of Shaun Johnson, these are the matches in which the great No.7 shines, and his brilliance will be also missed by the Warriors. As much as the Warriors have been the surprise packet of the season, after last week's performance the Storm looks to be back in business, and should win.

TIP - Storm

TOMORROW

RABBITOHS V BRONCOS

ANZ Stadium, 7.50pm

History: Played 36, Broncos 26, Rabbitohs 9, drawn 1

Last met: Broncos 24-18, round 14, 2017

If Darius Boyd wants to play State of Origin this year, it is the perfect time to start his resurrection tonight when he comes up against Maroon certainties Greg Inglis and Dane Gagai. Boyd has been well below his best and, like new boy Jack Bird, needs to lift his involvement against the red-hot Rabbitohs, who will be weaker without Sam Burgess. But the Broncos are also less potent without defensive mainstay Andrew McCullough, and the switch of Joss McGuire to dummy half robs them of vital go-forward. The Broncos have an imposing 26-9 record against the Rabbitohs, but that will mean nothing if Brisbane's leaky defence doesn't improve.

TIP - Broncos

Darius Boyd gets the chance to press his State of Origin selection claims when he comes up against Maroon certainties Greg Inglis and Dane Gagai in the clash between the Broncos and the Rabbitohs. Picture: Glenn Hunt/aap
Darius Boyd gets the chance to press his State of Origin selection claims when he comes up against Maroon certainties Greg Inglis and Dane Gagai in the clash between the Broncos and the Rabbitohs. Picture: Glenn Hunt/aap

FRIDAY

SEA EAGLES V KNIGHTS

Lottoland, 6.00pm (AEST)

History: Played 49, Sea Eagles 31, Knights 18

Last met: Knights 19-18, round 1, 2018

Pressure is mounting on the troubled Sea Eagles and unless they find some form, and composure, they could be headed for more strife. Already under salary cap restraint and without two key forwards for the season, they now have two wingers sidelined - all adding to their internal issues. But despite those tribulations, the Knights may suffer more from the likely season-ending injury to Mitchell Pearce, who has been integral to their huge improvement. Both teams need to re-group, and the noise of the Manly faithful at Brookvale might just give the home side the edge.

TIP - Sea Eagles

PANTHERS V BULLDOGS

Panthers Stadium, 7.50pm

History: Played 93, Bulldogs 52, Panthers 38, drawn 3

Last met: Bulldogs 20-18, round 3, 2018

While last week's unexpected loss to the Sharks was a downer, it might well shake the impressive Panthers back to reality. They appeared uncharacteristically out of sorts at the weekend but are still sitting pretty in third sport despite their long injury list. Conversely, the Bulldogs backed up their impressive win over the Cowboys with a gutsy losing effort against the Roosters and won some new admirers. But nil scores don't win matches and now they need to find some spark in attack. Sitting 14th with just two wins but a 23-21 record at Penrith, the Dogs can certainly spring an upset if the Panthers again take their eye off the ball.

TIP - Panthers

SATURDAY

TITANS V SHARKS

Cbus Super Stadium, 5.30pm

History: Played 17, Titans 8, Sharks 8, drawn 1

Last met: Titans 30-10, round 19, 2017

Surprisingly, the Titans have won the past three clashes between these clubs and, at home for just the second time this season, they will be hell-bent on continuing that streak in front of their faithful. But having conceded 27 points a game after seven rounds - the most in the competition - they don't appear to have a hope in hell against the back-to-form Sharks unless they put their bodies on the line. Bryce Cartwright at five-eight for the Titans is a mystifying selection.

TIP - Sharks

COWBOYS V RAIDERS

1300SMILES Stadium, 7.35pm

History: Played 39, Raiders 21, Cowboys 18

Last met: Cowboys 31-18, round 17, 2017

After finally breaking through for a victory last weekend, the Cowboys could well go on a winning run. While most of the players have struck form, Maroons incumbent Michel Morgan is still struggling. But against a Raiders side conceding 23 points a game, Saturday could be his night. The hapless Raiders have issues other than form, with several high-profile players off contact and reportedly looking elsewhere. It is not an ideal time to head to Townsville, where they won have just seven times in 19 visits - their last victory 12 years ago.

TIP - Cowboys

Cowboys playmaker Michael Morgan has been struggling to reproduce his form of 2017.
Cowboys playmaker Michael Morgan has been struggling to reproduce his form of 2017.

SUNDAY

EELS V TIGERS

ANZ Stadium, 4.10pm

History: Played 36, Eels 20, Tigers 15, drawn 1

Last met: Tigers 30-20, round 4, 2018

It is again reunion time for the Tigers - the second time in 2018 they have played the same team twice within two months. And while they already have two wins against the Storm, a rejuvenated Eels may be a poser on Sunday. The Tigers are still well positioned in fourth place after last weekend's surprise loss to the Knights, and have the best defence in the competition, but the Eels looked electric last weekend and if they bring that same energy could cause a boilover. The return of Chris Lawrence is a plus for the Tigers.

TIP - Tigers

COMPILED BY TONY DURKIN



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