NRL Round 20 Preview

Mitchell Dale - Editor Rugby League Week
Editor of Rugby League Week, Mitchell Dale, provides TattsBet with an exclusive Round 20 Preview of the NRL.

Broncos v Storm

Suncorp Stadium
Friday July 25 @ 7.45pm (AEST)

This Friday marks the start of a month of footy that will define Brisbane’s season. After the Storm, they face Manly at Brookie, followed by the Bulldogs then Rabbitohs. The good news for Brisbane is they come into the nightmare stretch in form and with their tails up following arguably their finest win of the year against the Warriors last Saturday. Brisbane have now won three of their past four home games . . . but Melbourne, with their cast of Queensland stars, enjoy playing at Suncorp just as much as Brisbane do. Storm have won eight of their past eleven games at Lang Park. On top of that, Melbourne are currently on their longest-ever winning streak against Brisbane – six matches. There won’t be much in this one, but I’m leaning towards Melbourne.

My tip: Storm 1-12

Knights v Roosters

Hunter Stadium
Friday July 25 @ 7.45pm (AEST)

Hunter Stadium is not its usual fortress this year – the Knights have won just one of their past five at home, and average a measly 18.6 points per game there this year – their lowest since 2007 (17.4). The Roosters, on the other hand, looked to turn a corner against Penrith last weekend. The premiers appear to have come out of the bye in round 18 a more determined unit, ready to launch a late-season raid. The top four should be afraid. So too should the Knights this Friday. Newcastle’s year from hell got a little bit worse on Wednesday when Darius Boyd was admitted to a mental health clinic suffering from depression. Boyd has not been in sparkling form for the Knights this year, but his loss will still be felt.

My tip: Roosters 13+

Panthers v Sharks

Carrington Park, Bathurst
Saturday July 26 @ 3.05pm (AEST)

These two teams head to Bathurst with two very different goals. For Penrith, they need to bounce back quickly in order to stay in the top four. The Rabbitohs and Roosters are lurking just behind them now and are poised to leapfrog the Mountain Men if they slip up. Cronulla, meanwhile, just want to get off the foot of the ladder. Due to their rotten for-and-against (-188) not even a win will get the Sharks off the bottom rung, but it would at least give them a shot at moving past the Raiders or Knights – or both – in the coming weeks. It’s a Penrith home game, but they have opted to take it west to Carrington Park. Interestingly, Penrith have won four of their past five ‘home’ games away from Penrith Stadium. They should make that number six on Saturday.

My tip: Panthers 13+

Titans v Eels

Cbus Super Stadium
Saturday July 26 @ 3.05pm (AEST)

I might be going off half-cocked here, but I reckon this weekend will be the end of the line for one of these teams. The winners will live to fight another day, but for the losers, it will just about be curtains for 2014. Both sides sit on 20 competition points – only two out of the eight. But a loss will see them four points adrift of the eighth – a lot of ground to make up over the last six weeks. Gold Coast come into the game with better form – their win over Newcastle last weekend must surely rank among their best in recent seasons. The Titans also have the wood on Parra, having won seven of their past 10 clashes, including the last three. Meanwhile, Parramatta have won only five of their last 42 away games.

My tip: Titans 1-12

Bulldogs v Cowboys

ANZ Stadium
Saturday July 26 @ 7.35pm (AEST)

The Cowboys shook the monkey off their back and tossed the little bugger back in Taronga Zoo last Friday, when they finally registered a win away from home in 2014. Admittedly, it was only against the last-placed Sharks. But at least it was a start. Now they have the more substantial task of knocking off a Bulldogs side coming off an uncharacteristically poor performance last weekend, which had coach Des Hasler seething. Josh Morris returns for Canterbury, along with promising rookie Moses Mbye, who slots in at five-eighth, allowing Josh Jackson to return to the back-row. For the Cowboys, Johnathan Thurston is obviously the key. He was superb last weekend, and will need to reach those heights continually for the rest of the year if North Queensland are any hope of emulating last year’s late-season charge. Interesting stat on JT - he has won only one of 13 matches at ANZ when playing for North Queensland, but saluted in five of seven matches at the same ground when playing for Canterbury.

My tip: Bulldogs 1-12

Warriors v Sea Eagles

Mt Smart Stadium
Sunday July 27 @ 2.05pm (AEST)

They’re a shambles off the field, but on the field it’s the same old Sea Eagles. A group of senior players – headed by Steve Matai, Anthony Watmough and Brett Stewart – might be ready to walk out of the club, but it has been business as usual once the weekend arrives. Despite all their off-field turmoil of 2014, Manly are now the outright competition leaders, and in an ideal spot to go one better than last year. But a trip across the Tasman will be a big test. Manly do have a strong record against the Warriors – NZ have won only one of their past eight games against the Eagles. However, Manly have struggled away from their Brookvale fortress this season, and have registered just one win from their past five games on the road.

My tip: Warriors 1-12

Tigers v Dragons

ANZ Stadium
Sunday July 27 @ 3.05pm (AEST)

How about them Tigers! OK, I admit I wrote them off for dead this time last week. But, boy, didn’t they prove me to be the fool with that walloping of the Dogs! What’s more, that 46-18 win puts them in good stead for this week – the Tigers have won five of their past six outings immediately after posting 40+ points in a game. They have also won their past three at ANZ Stadium when playing as the ‘home’ team. But St George Illawarra have won seven of their past eleven encounters with Wests, including a 44-24 caning in round one . . . which was also at ANZ, only the Dragons were the home team on that occasion. That said, I am a shameless bandwagon jumper, and the Tigers have won me back after last weekend.

My tip: Tigers 1-12

Raiders v Rabbitohs

GIO Stadium
Monday July 28 @ 7.05pm (AEST)

A trip to Canberra for a Monday night game in the middle of winter is probably the last thing anyone wants to embark on . . . apart from Canberra fans, of course. But, given the fact Canberra have scored just 18 points in their past two games at GIO Stadium, now is probably the time to take them on at home. The Rabbitohs were solid in their grinding win over Parramatta last weekend. Like the Roosters, I reckon Souths are about to make a late-season surge. How Michael Maguire juggles his two halfbacks – Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary – will be intriguing. Maguire brought Keary on with 20 to go last Friday and he had an immediate impact – setting up a try with his first touch. I dare say only one of them will be in the top 17 for the finals, so expect big games from both Reynolds and Keary, as each of them try to prove to Maguire he is the right man for the job.

My tip: Rabbitohs 13+

Mitchell Dale - Editor Rugby League Week

Mitchell Dale, Editor Rugby League Week


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