NRL preview panel for round eight
A preview of round-eight matches in the NRL.
PREVIEW OF NRL ROUND-EIGHT MATCHES (all times AEST):
FRIDAY April 21
Canberra v Manly at GIO Stadium, 6.00pm
Head to head: Raiders 20 Sea Eagles 30 Draw 1
Last clash: Round 25, 2016 - Raiders 44 bt Sea Eagles 30 at Brookvale
Tab Sportsbet: Raiders $1.25 Sea Eagles $4
FootyTAB: Sea Eagles +10.5
They call them "Leipana". Not that Manly's defence will need any introduction on Friday night. Centre Joey Leilua and winger Jordan Rapana are poised to run amok again out wide after Manly's left-edge defence struggled last round against Melbourne, conceding five tries. Leilua and Rapana combined for five tries between them last time they met Manly. Canberra are gunning for a fourth-straight win and a top-four berth. Manly - backing up from a tight last-round loss to the Storm - have won five of their past six games in Canberra.
Key: Can halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and fullback Tom Trbojevic spark Manly's attack so they can fight fire with fire against Canberra?
South Sydney v Brisbane at ANZ Stadium, 7.50pm
Head to head: Rabbitohs 11 Broncos 25 Draw 1
Last clash: Round 19, 2016 - Broncos 30 bt Rabbitohs 10 at ANZ Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Rabbitohs $2.70 Broncos $1.47
FootyTAB: Rabbitohs +7.5
Sam Burgess will line up for South Sydney after avoiding a shoulder charge ban at the judiciary - and it seems the Rabbitohs will need all the help they can get against Brisbane. The Broncos have won their past three games against Souths by a combined 107-30. Brisbane have lost winger Jordan Kahu (groin) but have the luxury of injecting ex-Gold Coast flyer David Mead for his 150th NRL game. The Broncos will back themselves to nab three straight wins for the first time since round 24 last year - they have won nine of 13 games against the Rabbitohs in Sydney. South Sydney have won just one of their past four matches.
Key: Can Joe Ofahengaue step up for the injured Tevita Pangai Junior (finger) and keep providing Brisbane's much-improved punch from their bench forwards?
SATURDAY April 22
Parramatta v Penrith at ANZ Stadium, 3.00pm
Head to head: Eels 62 Panthers 45 Draw 1
Last clash: Round 19, 2016 - Panthers 22 bt Eels 18 at Pepper Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Eels $2.25 Panthers $1.65
FootyTAB: Eels +3.5
Can the Panthers finally find some form and have the Eels reignited their season? The Panthers have come in for heavy criticism after losing five of their first seven including their past three. Bryce Cartwright could return to give them some attacking spark, while their halves Nathan Cleary and Te Maire Martin have conceded opposition sides have effectively nullified them this year. The Eels bounced back from a four-game losing streak against the Wests Tigers. Of particular concern is their middle defence which has leaked nine tries this year, the most of any team. After starting the year so promisingly, their fate will depend on halfback Corey Norman rediscovering his best form.
Key: Can the Eels' unsung heroes such as Clint Gutherson and Brad Takairangi continue to fire?
North Queensland v Newcastle at 1300SMILES Stadium, 5.30pm
Head to head: Cowboys 16 Knights 19
Last clash: Round 13, 2016 - Cowboys 46 bt Knights 16 at 1300SMILES Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Cowboys $1.30 Knights $3.50
FootyTAB: Cowboys +8.5
After losing their past two, can North Queensland find some form without inspirational skipper Johnathan Thurston? When Thurston is missing, the Cowboys have lost their past four and 11 of their past 13. The return of premiership-winning winger Antonio Winterstein is a big bonus for Paul Green. The Knights are showing signs of improvement this year - even if they are yet to concede less than three tries in a game. And their record in Townsville isn't great - they've lost six of their past eight at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Key: Can makeshift half John Asiata continue to fire after playing a blinder in his first match in the No.6 jumper, filling in for Thurston.
Cronulla v Gold Coast at Southern Cross Group Stadium, 7.30pm
Head to head: Sharks 8 Titans 6 Draw 1
Last clash: Round 21, 2016 - Titans 18 drew Sharks 18 at Cbus Super Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Sharks $1.25 Titans $4
FootyTAB: Titans +9.5
The third-placed Sharks are rolling off the back of four-straight wins and, minus the sidelined James Segeyaro (arm), are just about at full strength. They're first in a handful of defensive statistical categories, as well as forced dropouts, so strangling teams out of games is their forte. But they take on a Titans side boosted by a handful of key ins, including Jarryd Hayne, Kevin Proctor and Konrad Hurrell.
Key: The defending premiers are flying, but how long will the Hayne plane need to elevate higher?
SUNDAY April 23
Wests Tigers v Canterbury at ANZ Stadium, 4.00pm
Head to head: Tigers 11 Bulldogs 20
Last clash: Round 18, 2016 - Bulldogs 32 bt Tigers 22 at ANZ Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Tigers $2.60 Bulldogs $1.50
FootyTAB: Tigers +4.5
It's the self-proclaimed NRL360 Bowl, a heavyweight individual clash between regular FoxSports panellists and respective club captains Aaron Woods and James Graham, the latter's position believed to be under threat by the Bulldogs' pursuit of his counterpart. It's one of a number of subplots that threaten to overshadow the match, with opposing five-eighths Mitchell Moses and Josh Reynolds also with plenty to prove.
Key: When will Bulldogs coach Des Hasler inject Matt Frawley off his bench this time?
TUESDAY April 25
Sydney Roosters v St George Illawarra at Allianz Stadium, 4.00pm
Head to head: Roosters 16 Dragons 19 Draw 1
Last clash: Round 24, 2016 - Roosters 42 bt Dragons 6 at Allianz Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Roosters $1.60 Dragons $2.35
FootyTAB: Dragons +3.5
Josh Dugan returns from a hamstring injury with Dragons coach Paul McGregor definitively stating he sees him as a fullback, rather than a centre. Ladder-topping St George Illawarra face a litmus test against the Roosters who are only the second team they have played this year currently inside the top eight. Luke Keary and Mitchell Pearce have rejuvenated the Roosters this year and they will be out for bragging rights in a clash which never lacks feeling.
Key: Are the Dragons the real deal? Beating the Roosters will go some way to proving an easy draw isn't the only reason they are top of the pile.
Melbourne v Warriors at AAMI Park, 7.00pm
Head to head: Storm 21 Warriors 16 Draw 2
Last clash: Round 2, 2017 - Storm 26 bt Warriors 10 at Mt Smart Stadium
Tab Sportsbet: Storm $1.27 Warriors $3.25
FootyTAB: Warriors +9.5
The Storm head into the traditional Anzac Day clash with the Warriors with Will Chambers returning from suspension and Cameron Munster in his second game back after a broken jaw. Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson are building a formidable halves pairing for the Warriors. Melbourne will aim to refocus on defence after Manly put 26 points on them last week.
Key: The Storm plugging gaps in defence which leaked more than 20 points last week for the third time in the past two years.
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