The unbeaten Dragons are riding a wave of confidence but face an acid test on Friday night against the Warriors in New Zealand. Picture: Craig Golding/AAP
The unbeaten Dragons are riding a wave of confidence but face an acid test on Friday night against the Warriors in New Zealand. Picture: Craig Golding/AAP CRAIG GOLDING

NRL PREVIEWS: Round 7

THURSDAY

BULLDOGS V ROOSTERS

GIO Stadium, 7.50pm

Played 172: Roosters 87, Bulldogs 80, drawn 5

Last met: Roosters 24-18, Round 11, 2017

The Roosters may be in the top eight and removed from the somewhat desperate situation of other early season favourites, but they are still short of the form many have expected from this star-studded roster. Their comprehensive loss to the Rabbitohs seven days ago highlighted forward deficiencies, as well as a distinct lack of playmaking cohesion. Finding form against the Bulldogs tonight, who improved markedly in their shock win over the Cowboys, is not set in stone.

TIP - Roosters

FRIDAY

WARRIORS V DRAGONS

Mt Smart Stadium, 6pm (AEST)

Played 26: Dragons 21, Warriors 5

Last met: Dragons 30-14, round 11, 2017

If the Warriors have a bounce-back factor in their much-improved game of 2018, this is the genuine acid test. The magic Dragons have cruised into round seven unbeaten, averaging 32 points a match and conceding on average just two tries. Despite their slip last weekend, the Warriors have looked as calm and commanding as at any time in their history and this challenge, at home, will tell us much about their bona fides as premiership contenders. While the forward battle will be absorbing and pivotal, the tactical nous of the halves is just as crucial.

TIP - Dragons

BRONCOS V STORM

Suncorp Stadium, 7.50pm

Played 43: Storm 29, Broncos 13, drawn 1

Last met: Storm 30-nil, preliminary final, 2017

In recent years the Storm has totally dominated the Broncos, forging an overall 29-13 winning record, including a commanding 12-3 tally at Suncorp Stadium. And even though the home side found some good form last week, they might struggle tonight against a much-improved and confident Storm that welcomes back Origin centre Will Chambers. Broncos coach Wayne Bennett's decision to again pair Bird and Milford in the halves could work against an equally inexperienced Storm duo.

TIP - Storm

Will Chambers, pictured on the right rumbling with the Sharks' Paul Gallen, is back for the Storm.
Will Chambers, pictured on the right rumbling with the Sharks' Paul Gallen, is back for the Storm.

SATURDAY

RABBITOHS V RAIDERS

Central Coast Stadium, 3pm

Played 52: Raiders 31, Rabbitohs 21

Last met: Raiders, 32-18, round 21, 2017

A neutral ground may give some hope to an unchanged Raiders side that has won two on the trot after a woeful start, and conceded just 12 points in those two victories. But the Rabbitohs are starting to hit their straps and with Sam Burgess back to bolster a rampaging pack in which his twin brothers are shining, and Greg Inglis slipping into top gear, Souths are deserved favourites.

TIP - Rabbitohs

TIGERS V KNIGHTS

Scully Park, Tamworth, 5.30pm

Played 24: Tigers 12, Knights 12

Last met: Tigers 32-12, round 17, 2017

Many NRL fans - and even the most strident Tigers supporters - are waiting for the inevitable bang of the bubble that just doesn't look like bursting. Tipped by most to be near the bottom of the ladder and not equal second, as they currently are, the Tigers deservedly go into this clash at Tamworth at their shortest odds of the season. But the Knights were better than their comprehensive scoreboard loss indicated last week and make this a must-watch contest.

TIP - Tigers

COWBOYS V TITANS

1300SMILES Stadium, 7.35pm

Played 19: Cowboys 11, Titans 8

Last met: Cowboys 20-8, round 13, 2017

Cowboys supporters seeking some kind of miracle to get their team back on track will be hoping the re-signing of coach Paul Green has done the trick. Instead of biting the bullet against the Bulldogs last weekend, the Cowboys produced arguably their most inept performance in recent years. They were woeful, with big guns Thurston, Scott and Morgan again firing blanks. The Titans weren't much better, albeit against the front-running Panthers, and this could go down to the wire.

TIP - Cowboys

Johnathan Thurston has the confidence of Cowboys coach Paul Green, but he needs to lift. Picture: Evan Morgan
Johnathan Thurston has the confidence of Cowboys coach Paul Green, but he needs to lift. Picture: Evan Morgan

SUNDAY

EELS V SEA EAGLES

ANZ Stadium, 2pm

Played 138: Sea Eagles 83, Eels 51, drawn 4

Last met: Sea Eagles 54-nil, round 2, 2018

Until they comprehensively flogged the Eels in round two, it had been four seasons since the Sea Eagles last beat their long-time enemy. But while the Eels have continued to struggle since that loss - averaging a miserly seven points a game - the Sea Eagles have fared little better and last weekend's humiliation by the Tigers, aided and abetted by a player revolt, has them looking ripe for the picking in this.

TIP - Sea Eagles

SHARKS V PANTHERS

SCG Stadium, 4.10pm

Played 88: Sharks 47, Panthers 38, drawn 3

Last met: Sharks 28-2, round 7, 2017

The Sharks may have lost just 14 of their 44 home games against the Panthers, but a victory in this without forward leaders Gallen and Graham is certainly a bridge too far. Not only are the Sharks depleted, but the Panthers - also down on troops - are on fire and totally deserve to be sitting second on the table.

TIP - Panthers

- COMPILED BY TONY DURKIN



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