Round 8 is the Anzac round and two clashes which have been a mainstay in the NRL over recent years will take centre stage once again.
Cronulla Sharks versus Gold Coast Titans
Saturday, 22 April
Kick-off: 7:30pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium
The Titans were incredibly unlucky to go down in the manner which they did last weekend to the Broncos and will be desperate for a victory against one of the in-form teams in the competition, the Cronulla Sharks.
The Sharks played magnificently in Penrith, frustrating their opponents and showing a touch too much class in all areas on the day.
The Sharks are not expected to make any changes for the match. The Titans are likely to welcome back fullback Jarryd Hayne after the ankle injury he suffered against the Knights in Round 2. Kevin Proctor and Konrad Hurrell are an outside chance to play. Joe Greenwood joins the bench in place of Max King who has an injured hand.
The Sharks have started to develop some consistency over the past fortnight with great wins away in Melbourne and Penrith. The Titans will throw caution to the wind, much like Penrith tried and failed to do against them last week.
The Sharks defence is as resolute as they come in the NRL this season. The Titans will score more than the meagre two points scored by the Storm and Panthers, but won’t have enough patience and discipline to get over the line in this one.
Prediction: Cronulla by 10.
Wests Tigers versus Canterbury Bulldogs
Sunday, 23 April
Kick-off: 4:00pm at ANZ Stadium
It has been another trying week for the Tigers off-field this week. Lots of murmurs about whether or not Ivan Cleary will grant Mitchell Moses a release or not. The stories swirling about James Tedesco and Aaron Woods already being signed by rival clubs.
The good news for the Tigers is that Luke Brooks has re-committed to the club. One out of four ain’t bad. Jamal Idris misses out this week with a hamstring injury and Michael Chee Kam starts at centre for Wests.
The Bulldogs had a resurgent ten minute period mid-second half against the Rabbitohs which totally broke that game open. It coincided with Sam Burgess coming off the field which was no fluke.
David Klemmer returns to lock and Matt Frawley has been named in the reserves. As has been customary the past few weeks, he is very likely to come into the starting 17 on game day.
The Tigers are an inconsistent football side and have a number of off-field distractions. They played well in patches against the Eels but were unconvincing.
The same can be said about the Dogs. They had to hang in for large periods of their game against Souths and came under significant defensive pressure but did not buckle.
They seized their opportunities when they arose though, something which their opposition did not. The Dogs will have a bit too much class in this one. Prediction: Bulldogs by 8.
Sydney Roosters versus St George Illawarra Dragons
Tuesday, 25 April
Kick-off: 4:00pm at Allianz Stadium
The Roosters and Dragons will clash in their historic Anzac Day fixture with both sides in the top four at the start of Round 8. The Roosters did enough against the Knights without being super impressive.
There was a patch of football they played between the 35th and 55th minutes which was below the standard they would be expecting of themselves and had the Knights capitalised it would have made for an interesting final 25 or so minutes.
The story was much the same for the Dragons last weekend. A strong and dominating first half was matched by a sluggish second half. Teams are bound to go through ups and downs throughout a season though and the fact that both sides managed wins when not playing at their best illustrates their potential.
The Dragons welcome Josh Dugan back to fullback, with Jason Nightingale reverting to the wing. Kurt Mann drops back to the bench. For the Roosters, Jake Friend starts while Kane Evans replaces Ryan Matterson. Paul Carter is on the bench, with Connor Watson named on the extended reserves.
This will be a great game one way or another. The Roosters have more offensive firepower, but the Dragons have shown this season that they are no slouches in that department either. I think the Dragons are due for a loss and the Roosters live for these big matches. In a close, see-sawing contest, I think the Roosters will win off the back of a late try. Prediction: Roosters by 4.
Melbourne Storm versus New Zealand Warriors
Tuesday, 25 April
Kick-off: 7:00pm at AAMI Park
Just as the Roosters and Dragons have laid claim to Anzac Day, so have the Storm and Warriors in recent years. These two sides clashed already in round 2 at a waterlogged Mt Smart Stadium where the Storm ran out convincing winners.
The last time they were in Melbourne, the Warriors were thumped 42-0. They will be looking to avoid a repeat of that score-line and back-to-back losses after they fell short against Canberra last weekend.
Will Chambers returns at centre for the hosts after serving his one-game suspension. Cameron Munster is on the bench and may make the starting side at the expense of Ryley Jacks on game day. The Warriors will be happy to welcome back Ben Matulino although it is unclear who will make way for him.
The Storm at home are a tough prospect for the best of sides and the Warriors are not one of the best in the competition. The Storm already showed their class against this outfit once this season, although that was without Kieran Foran.
The New Zealand international should be able to inject a bit more spark into the Warriors line-up but the Storm as recently history has suggested, have the Warriors number. Prediction: Storm by 14.