Round eight of the 2021 NRL Premiership promises to provide more drama for a competition that had its fair share of it last week.
Canberra face a white-hot South Sydney Rabbitohs side, and it almost feels like it will be a referendum on the Raiders’ season. If they fail to get a result, the money will start to trickle in for the Green Machine to miss the top eight.
The Cowboys could move into the top eight with a win on the Central Coast, and that prospect seemed inconceivable only a month ago. There were legitimate questions surrounding Todd Payten’s future as the coach just four weeks into his first tenure, but he is quickly putting any doubts to bed.
There will be a ton of good footy, so let’s take a deep dive into the entire round.
Canberra Raiders vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
The early $1.60 at Sportsbet for the Rabbitohs looks like the best price the punters will get all week for this contest. South Sydney showed their class against the Titans to overcome a 14-point deficit and secure a huge win on the road, so their confidence in managing every situation in a game is as high as it gets. A night game in Canberra is never a fun prospect, but when you get to play them when their confidence is close to rock bottom, it’s an awesome break in the schedule from the footy gods. Ricky Stuart tried to make some changes to his side last week and was let down by a poor display in the second half, so what rein does he pull for this game to get an important two points? There will no doubt be plenty of tough conversations in the ACT this week.
Melbourne Storm vs Cronulla Sharks
It feels like not that long ago this was the grudge match footy fans loved. The Melbourne Storm continue to prove their unreal consistency, while Cronulla have lost two very winnable games since sacking John Morris as coach. Losing is one thing, but to get dusted by the Bulldogs in the manner they did was embarrassing. There is too much talent for the Sharks to be giving up 18-point head starts, so expect to see a huge shift in attitude. It won’t be anywhere near enough, but expecting a bounce back factor will see plenty of punters look towards the long +18.5 line the online bookies are giving them down at AAMI Park.
Brisbane Broncos vs Gold Coast Titans
It’s evident the Titans love to score points, but their defence is still suspect against good sides. The Broncos aren’t a good side, however, and the $1.31 favourites tag for the Gold Coast is money for jam, despite Brisbane’s improved form at Suncorp Stadium in 2021. David Fifita will make his return to play at The Cauldron and will no doubt pile on more misery for Broncos fans. Fifita’s form in Titans colours has justified every cent of the enormous price they paid to get him, as he has scored nine tries in his first seven games at his new club. Steve Menzies in 1995 was the last forward to break the 20-try barrier in a season, but that mark is going to be shattered if this form keeps up. Fifita will no doubt score a try – possibly two – in this game, and there will be plenty of money put down on the Queensland star.
Penrith Panthers vs Manly Sea Eagles
Six weeks ago, the good folks of Bathurst would have been politely asking the NRL to bring a different game to town, such was Manly’s abhorrent start to the season, but the Sea Eagles’ stunning form reversal has transformed this into a matchup of enormous interest. Manly may be $5 to get the win, but there could be value in them at the +14.5 line thanks to the Tom Trbojevic factor. Penrith still look too strong across the park, but you should expect an extremely different Manly side to the one that was obliterated by the Panthers in round three at Lottoland. Penrith are rightly the hot favourites at $1.18, but do they finally lose a game when no one is expecting it?
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Parramatta Eels
Canterbury breaking through and finally getting a win on the board for season 2021 was an awesome moment, but that brief moment of euphoria will be forgotten pretty quickly when they take on the Eels. Parramatta made light work of Brisbane in their last start, and their fans will expect the same on Saturday evening; however, the last three games between these two clubs have produced dour affairs, which plays into the theory of ‘throw out the form guide for a derby game’. The Eels have put the cleaners through their last two opponents, but how much confidence will the Bulldogs have gained by finally breaking through for a win? The +18.5 line seems long, but Parramatta should still cover that even if Canterbury make them earn it.
Newcastle Knights vs Sydney Roosters
The Knights are a Kalyn Ponga miracle try away being on a five-game losing streak, yet they are only $2.60 with NRL bookmakers for their home clash against the Roosters. Injuries have ravaged the Knights squad, and they have nothing in attack unless Ponga produces something out of thin air, so that price will no doubt blow out the longer the week goes. The Roosters have come through their last month of football in good shape and will begin to get big-name players trickling back in the coming weeks, but the one that is already carving a path is 18-year-old halfback Sam Walker. He is the frontrunner to be named Rookie of the Year, and with James Tedesco a huge chance to not play after a failed HIA, more pressure falls onto Walker’s young shoulders. Get on early at $1.50, as Sydney’s price will shorten the longer you leave it.
New Zealand Warriors vs North Queensland Cowboys
A month ago this game looked like a stinker, but now it is shaping as an enormous fork in the road for both teams. New Zealand Warriors fans will be buoyed by an exciting debut from Reece Walsh in Melbourne, while North Queensland can move to the precipice of the top eight with another upset win. If the Warriors lose at their adopted home, it will be to a direct competitor for those last couple of spots in the finals, essentially making this a four-point game. NZ have a strong record on the Central Coast, but the $2.60 on offer for the Cowboys will attract a lot of attention. The overs will be breached in this game too, based on the huge improvement of the Cowboys attack.
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Wests Tigers
After two straight losses, the best thing a team could hope for is to play the Tigers. Wests have conceded more points than anyone in the NRL after seven rounds, made the worst start to a season in club history, and been forced to deny speculation they’re about to sack coach Michael Maguire. It looks like a lay-up for St George Illawarra at the $1.37 price down in Wollongong, but are they about to fall into a deep hole themselves? Their performance against the Roosters in round seven was concerning, as they looked passive in defence. The last thing you want to do in a fixture like this is turn it into a game of touch football, but despite their own issues, they should have too much class with the expected return of Ben Hunt.
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