The 34-14 final scoreline looked good for Brisbane, considering they were down by 8 with 25 minutes to go against the Bulldogs, but will take a lot out of their second half demolition. Off season recruit Adam Reynolds had his best game of the season, with the likes of Selwyn Cobbo and Corey Paix feeding off the former Rabbitoh who scored a try to go along with his 3 try assists. Whilst much has been written, Siosifa Talakai’s first-half for the ages set up the Sharks round 7 win, with the side leading 32-0 at halftime before taking their foot off the gas to win 34-22. Such is the turnaround this year, I don’t see the Sharks having another second half like they did against Manly and even though the Broncos will be bolstered by a big home crowd, the Sharks will be too good on Thursday night.
Gold Coast looks like a side without many answers, winning just two games – against fellow bottom 8 sides, theWarriors and Tigers. Coach Justin Holbrook has reshuffled his backline again with David Fifita shifted away from centre after playing there for just one week. An assignment against Penrith couldn’t come at a worse time with Panthers playing even better than in 2021, and have a seemingly endless production line of talent with Isaak Tago and Taylan May looking like bonafide superstars in recent weeks – although playing with the likes of Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo is no doubt helping both young players. Penrith has won seven of its last eight against Gold Coast, including a 48-12 Magic Round drubbing in the teams’ sole 2021 clash and I can’t see the Titans getting close to the Panthers on Friday night.
Seventh plays eighth in this blockbuster Friday night game on the Central Coast between the Rabbitohs and the Sea Eagles. Both sides are coming off disappointing losses, with the Rabbitohs being taken down by everyone’s second favourite side the Tigers, whilst the Sea Eagles could have hit the showers at half time against the Sharks. A second-half rally saved Manly from embarrassment, but the axe has still been swung with Morgan Harper dropped from the right side defence which leaked so many points. Remarkably, Souths are on a five-match winning streak against Manly, including a 36-16 in the preliminary final last year but are not the side they were in 2021. The returns of Martin Taupau and Sean Keppie offset Hamole Olakau’atu and Taniela Paseka missing through suspension and injury respectively and I think the price on offer for Manly is too good to ignore.
Saturday 30th April, 3:00PM, Moreton Daily Stadium
Both teams would no doubt have done a lot of soul searching through the week, with both sides seemingly in the game for the first half of each game before crumbling in the second half.
The Warriors have made a number of changes after the heavy loss to Melbourne with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Josh Curran, Aaron Pene and Edward Kosi all out of the side, while star halfback Shaun Johnson does appear to be carrying an injury based on his form. The Raiders are among the weaker attacking sides this season and are averaging just over 13 points, however will appreciate coming up against the worst defensive side in the competition, with the Warriors having conceded 182 points – albeit a large majority of those coming last week. I found this game extremely tough to select a win each way, but the overs looks a sound bet good considering the relatively weak defensive efforts of both sides so far in 2022.
An interesting battle is ahead on Saturday evening, with the struggling Bulldogs hosting the Roosters, who are playing some uncharacteristically poor football, punctuated by their ANZAC Day loss to the Dragons. Though well short of their best overall, the Roosters’ defence remains strong, having only conceded 112 points (4th least in the comp) but are struggling to find their mojo in attack. The Bulldogs are averaging just 10 points per game and haven’t scored more than 16 in 2022 – and on the back of late changes before their round 7 loss to the Broncos, are now dealing with internal turmoil between Trent Barrett and Gus Gould. This does come as an ideal game for the Roosters to find their attacking shape, with the Bulldogs poor attack compounded by their poor defense, having let in 179 points across the opening 7 rounds.
The Eels responded to their shock loss to the previously winless Tigers by thumping the Knights 39-2 in Newcastle while the Cowboys put away the Titans 30-4 and continue to improve week on week. Todd Payten’s side has conceded the second-least points in the NRL – but have played just one other current Top 8 team so far which resulted in a 28-4 loss to the Roosters in Townsville. The Eels are capable of blowing most teams off the park, but the Cowboys are playing with confidence and cohesion on both sides of the ball and getting a nice start here. Even in games with significant blow outs this season, teams are often competitive through the first 40 minutes, and the Cowboys are playing good enough football that I will stick with them to cover the line at half time.
Melbourne won by 60 points last week and Newcastle lost by 37, so based off that formline a cricket score may be on the cards this Sunday. Xavier Coates finished with four tries – all scored in the second half in what was the biggest route in recent memory in the NRL. One would think the resigning of Kalyn Ponga could have motivated the Knights, however they were demolished 39-2 at home by the Eels and look nothing like the side which won their opening two games. The Storm are on a 10-match winning streak against the Knights, including a 44 point win last season in their only meeting and I fail to see anything different here.
You wouldn’t have picked this to be potentially one of the games of the round 2 weeks ago, but here we are. Both sides breathed life into their flagging seasons (and coaches) with back-to-back wins in the past fortnight with the Saints overcoming the Knights, before a hard fought upset over the Roosters on Anzac Day. The Tigers have recorded two wins via field goal in that space, with Jackson Hastings seemingly turning around both the attitude and fortunes of the side on his return from injury. The Tigers have the recent edge over the Dragons with two big wins in 2021 and I can see them making it three on the bounce against their fellow merger club.
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