Durkin previews Round 8 of NRL
TONY Durkin previews Round 8 of the 2012 NRL season.
Broncos V Titans:
At Suncorp Stadium, 7.35pm
Head-to-head: Played 11, Broncos 8, Titans 3
Last meeting: Broncos 30-10, round 19, 2011
This is a danger game for the Broncos. Not only did the Titans finally find some form with a 26-14 win over the premiers in their last outing, but after seven weeks near the top of the pile the Broncos - statistically - are due for a mental let down. Alternatively, this could also be the night the Broncos string 80 minutes together, something they have not done in 2012. The local derby is another factor, and the Titans may consider this their grand final. The forward battle should be frenetic, although the Titans will miss workhorse Ashley Harrison. But Greg Bird, Luke Douglas, Nate Miles and Luke Bailey present a formidable challenge. Peter Wallace returns to the Broncos to pit his guile against the scheming Scott Prince, but it is out wide where the Broncos should dominate.
Bulldogs V Sea Eagles:
At ANZ Stadium, 7.35pm
Head-to-head: Played 113, Sea Eagles 60, Bulldogs 48, draws 5
Last meeting: Bulldogs 27-16, round 24, 2011
Has there been a more anticipated clash in 2012? Des Hasler won a premiership with the Sea Eagles, then deserted and took half his staff with him. Now that he is endeavouring to poach champion five-eighth Keiran Foran merely adds to the melodrama. But the premiers want to win this for more than the satisfaction of payback - they need to put their stuttering season back on track. The return of Foran and brothers Brett and Glenn Stewart is a massive step fillip, and while the 'Dogs were courageous in their 12-6 loss to Melbourne in round seven, the public on-field spat between Michael Ennis and Josh Reynolds was a worrying sign.
Rabbitohs V Cowboys:
At ANZ Stadium, 7.30pm
Head-to-head: Played 21, Rabbitohs 11, Cowboys 9, draws 1
Last meeting: Rabbitohs 26-24, round 24, 2011
Both these sides have been disconcertingly erratic in 2012 and whichever team turns on the tap tomorrow night will win this. But the historical odds are stacked against the Cowboys - they have not won at ANZ Stadium since 2006 and have won only five times on their past 30 visits to Sydney. The Cowboys look to have a massive edge where it counts - in the forwards - and will be boosted even further if Matt Scott plays. Matt Bowen and Johnathan Thurston are again the keys, while Greg Inglis and Dave Taylor remain Souths' greatest threats.
Raiders V Sharks:
At Canberra Stadium, 2.30pm
Head-to-head: Played 56, Sharks30, Raiders 26
Last meeting: Sharks 26-12, round 18, 2011
Two questions will be answered on Sunday afternoon - can the Raiders still be a premiership force without Terry Campese, and are the Sharks actually the real deal in 2012. The Raiders usually play better at home and if they start well could cause an upset, while a win will move the Sharks back in to clear third. Continued outstanding leadership from Paul Gallen will almost assure a Sharks victory.
Eels V Tigers:
At Parramatta Stadium, 3.00pm
Head-to-head: Played 24, Eels 15, Tigers 8, draws 1
Last meeting: Tigers 31-12, round 24, 2011
If Tim's much-vaunted Tigers are to make any kind of a serious run at the 2012 title there is no better time to start than this coming Sunday, and no easier opponent than the hapless Eels. The Tigers do not lack the ability to sing their own praises and coach Sheens has done it again this week. Sitting rock bottom and with Hayne, Sandow and Hindmarsh all floundering, the Eels look a hopeless case.
Knights V Panthers:
At Hunter Stadium, 7.00pm
Head-to-head: Played 35, Knights 19, Panthers 13, draws 3
Last meeting: Knights 16-12, round 15, 2011
Wayne Bennett is aware that at Newcastle he lacks the star line-ups he had at the Broncos and Dragons, and concedes a premiership is a season or two away. But he will be banking on two points against the Panthers, who have not scored a point in three hours of footy, at the same time conceding 60. And with skipper Kurt Gidley back on deck, Danny Buderus well rested and Big Willie on the bench, this could be a cakewalk for the Knights, too. Apart from Luke Lewis and Sam McKendry, the Panthers pack is hugely undermanned