NRL ROUND 20
Cowboys v Bulldogs
Both these sides are sitting at 11 wins for the season and in all likelihood the Cowboys will make it 12 here as they’re welcoming back no less than seven star players from origin / injury and they’re playing at their Townsville fortress which has been a very unhappy place for visiting sides in 2016.
As good as the Bulldogs have been this season they are capable of going off the boil when things don’t go their way and with the Cowboys defence in their face all game the likes of Reynolds and Mbye will be the first to get the wobbles, followed promptly by the rest of the team.
I can see the Cowboys star-studded forward pack having the wood on the Bulldogs up front, giving Thurston and Morgan lots of time and space to work their brilliance in the halves. We’ll take the Cowboys to cover the line on offer. Pick - 3 units on Cowboys -7.5 or better point start
Broncos v Panthers
The Broncos got their spiralling season back on track last week with a 20-point victory over the Bunnies in Sydney and back home for this clash, with a full complement of players available for the first time in a long while, they’re going to be very tough indeed. Parker is back in the side having served his first ever NRL suspension and will be fizzing to take the field, he joins a star-studded forward pack which is the envy of most clubs in the competition, Penrith included.
It took a half-time serve from Anthony Griffin to get the Panthers going last week against a severely understrength Eels side and despite coming away with the four-point win they made it look hard all the way with poor execution and some pretty shoddy defence which the Broncos will exploit here.
Consistency in performance is what Wayne Bennett will be hammering home to his side with it being imperative they back up last week’s effort with an even better one here which is scary for the Panthers given the side they’re lining up against. Take the Broncos to cover the start. Pick – 2 units on Broncos -11.5 or better point start
Raiders v Warriors
The last time these sides met was in Taranaki and the Raiders ran riot over the Warriors, dominating them up front with their big men, making the most of some pathetic defence; despite the upturn in the Warriors season since that game I can see a similar result unfolding here as the Green Machine have turned Canberra into a very unhappy hunting ground for visitors.
If the game was to follow a similar pattern to their round eleven clash then I wouldn’t be surprised – the Raiders forward pack is much bigger and have gone from strength to strength, whilst Sezer, Austin, Wighton, Croker, Leilua and co have turned into one of the more electric backlines in the competition.
The Raiders will know that as long as they turn up with the right attitude and intensity then they’ll have the Warriors number here and a big win to the home side would not surprise. Pick – 4 units on Raiders -6.5 or better point start
Storm v Roosters
The fact the Roosters are languishing in the second to bottom place on the table is not an accurate reflection of the quality of footy they’ve been playing of late with a number of close games against quality opposition, their most recent being Monday night’s loss to the Sharks where they fought valiantly for most of the 80-minutes. Meanwhile the Storm just edged out the bottom-placed Knights by four points.
It’s quite a start the Roosters are being given by the bookies here which is in line with the two sides relative standing on the points table but is a tad too high when you compare the sides on paper and their recent performances. Any side that has the quality of Moa, Guerra, Liu and Evans on the bench is a force to be reckoned with and even though they’re now out of finals contention the Roosters have shown they’re not going to lie down and will be very much up for this.
I can see this going right down to the wire with the chance of an upset on the cards. Pick – 3 units on Roosters +11.5 point start
Sharks v Knights
The last two games of the Knights have seen them lose in golden point away to the Raiders and then by four points against the Storm – two very gutsy performances which indicates they’re definitely trending upwards as the season tails off. The Sharks meanwhile won their 14th match on the trot with their Monday night victory over the Roosters; they’ve generally not been putting their opposition to the sword though with a number of very closely fought matches and whilst this should be a regulation win they will be made to work hard for it.
Whilst these sides conflicting records speak for themselves I can’t help but feel the Knights are getting better each week and with Mullen back at five-eighth against the Storm they looked more composed with his leadership on both attack and defence. The huge start on offer is too tempting to pass up given how close the Knights have pushed two very good sides in the past two weeks. Pick – 3 units on Knights +24.5 point start
Dragons v Tigers
I’m really not going to go into too much depth for this match given it’s all been said over the past few weeks but I am going to give the Dragons one more chance to repay the faith I’ve shown in them this season, against a Tigers side who are one of the least predictable in the competition. The Robbie Farah side show won’t have helped the preparation this week for the Tigers and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were off the boil.
The Dragons are a better side than what we saw against the Titans and with Marshall named to play his 250th NRL game and Jack de Balin his 100th, plus the fact their season is on the line, they should be absolutely fizzing. The odds on a Dragons victory are good but given how much hurt they’ve dished out to us this season we’ll just have a little nibble. Pick – 2 units on Dragons to win
WEEK RESULTS STAKES ROI BEST BET Grand Final
Week Three Finals
Week Two Finals
Week One Finals