NRL Round 20

One of the most anticipated clashes of the season at Brookvale Oval on Friday night when Manly’s premiership winning coach of last season, Des Hasler, brings his Canterbury Bulldogs  back to the northern beaches. Hasler has done an outstanding job with the Dogs and they are now real premiership contenders but Geoff Toovey will have been reading the riot act to the Sea Eagles  this week after their inglorious display at Newcastle last Saturday night. Neither side will lack motivation but on form it is impossible to go past Canterbury and Hasler will have an intimate knowledge of all the Manly weak points. Canterbury Bulldogs 1-12

The southern Queensland derby at Skilled Park on Friday night should also be a belter with two last round winners clashing in an important game from a premiership viewpoint. Brisbane  was good in wet, trying conditions to beat the Warriors while the Gold Coast  put in probably their best performance of the season in trouncing an in-form Raiders in Canberra. If the Titans are to be in the finals’ race, they need two points from this game while the Broncos want a top four finish and can’t afford a slip up against their neighbours. The Titans always play well against the Broncos but form says Brisbane should have a slight edge. Brisbane Broncos 1-12

The Warriors  versus Knights  match at Mt Smart Stadium should be a close affair if the visitors reproduce the form that saw them trounce Manly last Sunday. Newcastle hasn’t given up hope of scraping into the finals but they will have to keep winning and hope some other results go their way. This is a game that the Knights just have to win. The same can be said for the Warriors as their close loss to Brisbane could be costly in the long run. It has already seen them relinquish their spot in the eight. Plenty to play for from both teams but hard to go past the home side who will be still be smarting from a loss in Brisbane. New Zealand Warriors 1-12

After the unbelievable victory on Monday night over the Sydney Roosters can the Rabbitohs  back up for a clash with the Dragons  at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night? Invariably teams struggle with their next match after a Monday night game particularly if it is a shorter turnaround as is the case for Souths. Both sides have a lot at stake here with the Dragons needing to make it back to back wins to keep in touch with the eight and Souths wanting to consolidate a place in the vital top four. The added break helps the Dragons but maybe it is the year of the Rabbit. South Sydney Rabbitohs 1-12

The Storm  should have little trouble getting back into the winner’s circle against the Eels  at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday night. If they don’t win comfortably then it can be said with surety that the Melburnians are definitely in a slump. Parramatta probably weren’t disgraced by Canterbury last weekend and the loss in the first few seconds of Fuifui Moimoi was a severe blow but Parra just find ways of getting beaten. Maybe they will step up against the Storm and produce their best such as in the Round 13 win over Cronulla. But Melbourne just should have too much power and too much to play for. Melbourne Storm 13+

How can you possibly put together the Raiders  last two performances? If it was racing, they would be up on a running and handling enquiry. Canberra was outstanding in beating the Storm in Melbourne then dismal at home against the Titans. It’s anyone’s guess which Raiders’ team will turn up at Toyota Park to take on Cronulla on Sunday. The Sharks  are still below strength without Paul Gallen and Jeremy Smith but are always hard to beat at home. Canberra will have had the riot at read to them this week and they seem to play better away. Possibly the Sharks, as they have much more at stake. Cronulla Sharks 1-12

It’s been a bleak season for both Penrith  and the Sydney Roosters  with neither side going to figure in the playoffs, so it will be pride and the fear of being cut from the playing squad that is motivation for players at Penrith Stadium on Sunday. The Panthers were at least competitive against the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown in the last round and a repeat of that form could see them beat the Roosters. Monday night football is normally a curse for teams in the next round and the Roosters have the added burden of still trying to come to terms with their seemingly impossible loss to arch rivals South Sydney. Penrith Panthers 1-12

Monday night football is at Dairy Farmers Stadium in Townsville and it should be one of the matches of the round as the Cowboys  take on the Tigers , both last round winners. Beating the Storm in Melbourne is a great confidence boost for the home side but the loss of experienced winger Ashley Graham through injury is a blow. The Tigers have Gareth Ellis and Adam Blair back, which is a bonus, but lose prop Keith Galloway. The battle between Thurston and Marshall in the halves and Farrar versus Payne at hooker ensures a top class match. Wests Tigers 1-12

Click here to bet on NRL Round 20 matches