Wests Tigers and North Queensland Cowboys will put their seasons on the line when they meet in a crucial game to open NRL Round 20.
There are some crucial games in the race to the finals and we make our predictions for Round 20 below.
Wests Tigers vs North Queensland Cowboys
It’s a must-win game for both the Tigers and Cowboys as the two teams attempt to break into the top eight over the course of the next six weeks. The Tigers and Cowboys are two of the six teams that are trying to propel themselves into the top eight, with the Tigers one point adrift on 18 points and Cowboys three behind the eighth-placed Broncos on 16. I give the Tigers the edge at Leichhardt. They’ve won the two meetings between the teams, are coming off a confidence-boosting victory last week and won their last clash at Leichhardt against the Cowboys in 2016. It should be close, but the Tigers have the momentum and home ground advantage.
Prediction: Wests win ($1.57 TopBetta)
New Zealand Warriors vs Canberra Raiders
The Raiders have set their sights on a top two finish after their brilliant win last week over the Panthers – can they keep their momentum rolling across the Tasman when they meet the desperate Warriors on Friday night? This will be their first clash in 2019, with the Warriors winning both of their 2018 matches by four points or less. This is a different Raiders side though, and if the Green Machine are tight with their defence again, they should have enough class to make it through this one.
Prediction: Raiders win ($1.62 TopBetta)
Brisbane Broncos vs Melbourne Storm
Melbourne look to bounce back from their loss to Manly last week and continue their dominant record over Brisbane as the two sides lock horns on Friday night at Suncorp. The Storm and Sea Eagles played out one of the best matches of the season last week, but it was Manly who came out on top, beating Melbourne at their own game as they emerged 11-10 winners in golden point. Brisbane are trying to extend their unbeaten run to five matches and maintain their spot in the top eight after a great last month or so. The Storm have a tremendous record over Brisbane ever since they lost the 2006 Grand Final, and they rarely lose back-to-back games. It will take an enormous effort from the Broncos to win this one.
Prediction: Storm by 13+ ($3.05 TopBetta)
Manly Sea Eagles vs Newcastle Knights
In-form Sea Eagles look to keep their winning momentum going against the Knights on Saturday afternoon. Manly produced one of the best performances of the season last week as they held on to edge competition leaders Melbourne 11-10 in a thrilling golden point triumph. The win over Melbourne cemented the Sea Eagles in fifth spot on the ladder and now they can make a push for the top four, with the club only two points behind the Roosters and Raiders. The Knights are in all sorts of strife at the moment after blowing a big lead to lose 28-26 at home to the Tigers last week. The Sea Eagles are on fire, and at home, it’s unlikely they are going to turn up flat to this one. Combined with Newcastle’s horrendous form, expect Manly to claim another win and continue their charge towards the top four.
Prediction: Manly by 13+ ($2.44 TopBetta)
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Penrith Panthers
The Bulldogs have been defying all the odds this season by pushing their opposition to the limit and last week’s 20-12 loss to the Roosters was a glowing example. They were in the game til the very end, actually finishing the stronger of the two sides. The Panthers saw their seven-game winning streak come to an end as they went down 30-18 to the Raiders. The Bulldogs hold a handy lead in the head to head stats but the Panthers have a lot more to play for as they are still well in contention for a finals berth. They weren’t that bad last week in that loss to the Raiders and will be looking to bounce back to winning form here. It is a Bulldogs home game but played at Bankwest Stadium, it’s only a short trip to Panthers territory and their will plenty of Penrith fans on deck this weekend. With the influence and talent of James Maloney, I see the Panthers winning this one.
Prediction: Panthers by 1-12 ($2.60 TopBetta)
Cronulla Sharks vs South Sydney Rabbitohs
The Sharks and Rabbitohs came from behind to register close wins in the dying stages last week – who backs it up with another victory on Saturday night when the two sides clash for a vital two points? Cronulla snapped a five-game losing run against the Cowboys, but it wasn’t impressive by any means. South Sydney came up trumps in a crazy game against the Dragons last week to remain in second spot for another week. Neither side is impressive right now, and I can see a real scrap playing out on Saturday night. With some of their big stars back, I’m going to back the Sharks home in another nail-biter.
Prediction: Sharks win ($1.94 TopBetta)
Sydney Roosters vs Gold Coast Titans
Reigning premiers the Roosters can’t afford a slip-up as they come up against the struggling Titans at the SCG on Sunday afternoon. After overcoming the Bulldogs last week, the Roosters face another of the competition’s cellar-dwellers and they will be hoping for a more convincing performance than their shaky 20-12 victory over the Dogs. It’s been a nightmare season for the Titans and they have a lot of work to do in order to avoid the wooden spoon. After finishing 15th in 2017 and 14th last year, the Titans are on course for a 16th and last-placed finish in 2019, signalling just how poor the club has been for a while now. Gold Coast don’t look like turning things around either, losing their last match 34-14 to the Broncos in Round 19. At home and needing to make an impact heading into the finals, the Roosters should be winning this by a comfortable margin.
Prediction: Roosters by 13+ ($1.50 TopBetta)
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Parramatta Eels
Parramatta will be hoping to make a statement as they square off against the 14th-placed Dragons in Kogarah on Sunday afternoon. However, the Eels will need to improve on their poor away form this season if they are going to come away with the two points and prove they are a genuine force in the competition. The Eels are 2-6 on the road in 2019 and have saved their best football for Bankwest Stadium – including a 32-18 win over the Dragons back in Round 8. It’s well and truly last chance saloon for the Dragons, who remain six points out of the eight following last week’s heartbreaking 20-16 loss to the Rabbitohs. Parramatta are a different side away from Bankwest and the Dragons showed promising signs last week. St George Illawarra to keep their faint finals hopes alive for another week.
Prediction: Dragons by 1-12 ($3.25 TopBetta)