NRL ROUND 8
Raiders v Sea Eagles
Ricky Stuart would have been very happy with the Raiders second-half performance against the Warriors last weekend in holding them scoreless, unfortunately for us they came up one point shy of the 13 and over margin but they did face a very spirited Warriors performance.
The Sea Eagles do welcome back Martin Taupau and Nate Myles for this clash but even with their inclusion the Raiders forward pack still has the wood on them for size and I suspect effort levels too playing at home and with the top four in touching distance.
The Raiders backline is one of the more electric in the competition which is evidenced by the 182 points they have scored so far this season (second highest in the competition) and against what is a flimsy Sea Eagles defence (143 points conceded) they could well have a field day with the usual suspects of Leilua, Rapana and Croker all likely to ask plenty of questions.
Despite the large line the bookies have put out for the Raiders to cover I can still see them doing so as they have a much more complete team and more sizeable forward pack who will bend the Sea Eagles defensive line all game off the back of which the Raiders halves will be able to launch from. We will take the home team to win by plenty. Pick – 2 units on Raiders to win by 13 points and over
Eels v Panthers
The Panthers were dreadful on attack last week and even worse on defence against a rampaging Sharks team, a result I did not see coming as I thought the Panthers would respond to the off-field controversy, and their surprise standing on the table, in style. They have a good chance to get their season back on track here though at what is a fairly neutral ground which despite it being an Eels home game ANZ Stadium is likely to have an even spread of both sides fans, and I suspect playing away from Pepper Stadium will alleviate some of the game day pressure the Panthers will be under.
The Eels are a gutsy team but do lack players that can open a game right up; Corey Norman is under a lot of pressure to perform the role of number one play maker and has at times struggled with the load. The same cannot be said for the Panthers who are choc-full of game breakers who unfortunately are just low on confidence at present but one gets the feeling they are just one game away from regaining it.
Something tells me that this week will be the week that the Panthers click as a team and regain their confidence - we will back them to win and cover the narrow line on offer. Pick – 4 units on Panthers -2.5 point start (BEST BET)
Tigers v Bulldogs
The Bulldogs have discovered their attaking mojo over recent rounds and put the Rabbitohs to the sword last weekend in an impressive display. The Tigers meanwhile will consider themselves unlucky after leading for most of the game against the Eels only to lose it at the end by four points, they were nonetheless still very impressive and are obviously responding well to Ivan Cleary as coach.
This game really is a tough one to split given the rise of both teams recently and it could really come down to the toss of a coin. Where I am leaning is at the total combined points line as both sides have shown a propensity to throw the ball around to good effect, both sides have handy attacking weapons who are playing with confidence and clashes between these two are often entertaining.
This is a day game scheduled to be played in dry conditions which will suit both attacks nicely – we will take the total combined points to go ‘over’ here. Pick – 3 units on total combined points over 41.5
Roosters v Dragons
The Roosters snapped their losing streak last week with a convincing win over a spirited Knights side, whilst the Dragons marched on with their surprising table topping form in dealing with the Cowboys.
This traditional Anzac Day clash is always full of emotion and given the surprising form of the Dragons there is added spice after several years of Roosters dominance.
A lot of punters out there will, like me, be waiting for the Dragons to have a bad patch but they keep defying the odds and have turned up each week; a lot of the praise needs to go to their forward pack along with Gareth Widdop who is orchestrating the attack brilliantly. I’m fairly sure the Roosters pack will be lying in wait for the Dragons here though and a definite ambush is on the cards.
Given the Dragons recent form it is hard to back against them but back against them I will; man for man the Roosters have the stronger side and I think a monumental clash like this will be enough to bring the best out of them. We will take the Roosters to cover the narrow line. Pick – 3 units on Roosters -3.5 or better point start