The 2016 NRL season continues with the Men of League round to be played this weekend. Continue reading for our Round 20 Preview and Betting Tips.
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North Queensland Cowboys vs Canterbury Bulldogs (Thursday 7.50pm AEST)
NRL Round 20 will kick off with a huge contest, as the third placed Cowboys will host the fourth placed Bulldogs. Both sides are sitting on 26 points and a loss could see them drop to sixth place whilst a win would keep them in touch with the top two sides.
The Cowboys are undefeated at home this season and are coming off a much-needed bye. Almost half of their side has come out of a gruelling Origin series and they will now be focusing completely on the competition and defending their crown. Michael Morgan is expected to return this week, which will be a massive boost for the side as he will bring his attacking spark to the back line.
The Bulldogs have begun to hit their best form and have won their past four matches. The return of Brett Morris from injury has been a revelation for the side as he has crossed the white stripe seven times in three matches as he is forming a lethal partnership on the left edge with his brother Josh. His return to the wing has kept Will Hopoate at fullback and it seems to be paying dividends thus far as Morris is arguably the best winger in the game. The Bulldogs have a formidable forward pack and this is where they have the majority of their impact as their halves pairing of Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds still needs to find consistency. As the Dogs are up against another strong and mobile pack, the back line of the Cowboys will get the advantage and they will remain perfect at home by securing a narrow victory.
Brisbane Broncos vs Penrith Panthers (Friday 7.50pm AEST)
The Broncos were able to return to winning ways last week but it was against a struggling Rabbitohs side that were without their two best players Greg Inglis and Adam Reynolds. There were periods when they looked back to their best but they weren’t able to put together a full 80-minute performance. However, the side will continue to improve leading into the finals series as the impact from Origin will lessen and their stars return to full health. They were without Corey Parker through suspension and Matt Gillett who picked up an injury in Origin and both should take the field this Friday night. It will be the first time the Broncos will be playing at home since their record 48-6 defeat at the hands of the Storm and they will want to make amends in front of their fans.
Meanwhile the Panthers will take confidence into the match after picking up a victory against the Eels on the weekend. They also were the first side to defeat the Broncos this season when they overcame a 16-point deficit to pick up a one-point victory. However, the biggest issue for the Panthers is their defence. Bryce Carwright is one of their best player’s but he has moved from the backrow to five-eighth and he has been caught out defensively throughout the last few weeks. He will be forced to make tough decisions this weekend, as he will be up against Anthony Milford’s pace and passing ability. Milford will either burn Cartwright himself or make the correct decision for the Broncos to reap massive rewards against the Panthers right edge defence.
Canberra Raiders vs New Zealand Warriors (Saturday 3pm AEST)
The Warriors missed out on a vital two competition points last week as they failed to capitalise on all of the opportunities they created against the Sea Eagles. They have now lost all eight of their matches in Perth and they will be praying they never travel that far west again. Shaun John continues to play at a high level but in the terrible conditions he wasn’t able to have a huge impact on the match. On a Saturday afternoon in Canberra it is more likely the conditions will suit the style of the Warriors and it could be the most entertaining match of the round as both sides tend to focus on their attack more than their defence. The loss for the Warriors has kept them in a tough position on the ladder as they are tied with four other teams on 20-competiton points.
The Raiders are in a more comfortable position after earning a tough come from behind victory against the Knights and then earning the two points last week due to the bye. The side will come into this match fresh and they will be looking to avoid the start they had against the Knights. The Raiders are second in points for this season behind just the Sharks as they have one of the best attacks in the competition. It is quite remarkable considering their halves pairing of Aiden Seizer and Blake Austin haven’t quite found the right combination yet and it is Jack Wighton at fullback who is pulling the strings. We suggest backing the Raiders to win this one by a close margin with the Warriors to be competitive in this contest but come out second best on the road.
Gold Coast Titans vs Parramatta Eels (Saturday 5.30pm AEST)
The cracks are starting to show for the Eels as they fell away in the second half against the Panthers, although it was largely due to the side being unable to catch a break as they lost Michael Jennings to a hamstring injury. It is just another star player to be put on the injured list as the disaster season for the Eels continues. In one positive for the side, Clinton Gutherson was a revelation at five-eighth and he could find himself with a bigger role for the remainder of the year whilst Bevan French continues to impress grabbing two tries.
The Titans grabbed a big win against the Dragons to push into the top eight and they are favourites to pick up the victory on Saturday night. Ashley Taylor is playing well beyond his years whilst Konrad Hurrell had a great game in his second appearance for the Titans. Hurrell can be the x-factor in the backline that the side needs, as he was able to make a lot of damaging runs and broke the Dragons defence open. Due to the numerous injuries the Eels have and with Corey Norman unlikely to play due to his indiscretions off the field, we have the Titans coming out on top.
Melbourne Storm vs Sydney Roosters (Saturday 7.30pm AEST)
The Storm were lack lustre against the Knights and they were forced to do it the hard way for their four-point victory. A lot of that can be credited to Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith backing up from Origin along with Cameron Munster and Will Chambers returning to the line up after long stints on the sidelines. They will have improved after the run and Craig Bellamy also said the side was rusty after he gave them a seven day break over the bye period.
When these two sides met earlier in the season the Storm had a field day as they ran away with it in a 46-0 victory. It was the official coming out party for Cameron Munster as he had a starring role in the match. However, he spent the next month watching from the sidelines but with a match under his belt he should be able to be back to his best this weekend.
The Roosters have been competitive over the past month with the side coming out on the wrong end of a lot of close matches. The team only has themselves to blame as crucial errors at important stages has cost them dearly. They can’t afford to make those mistakes against a side that can capitalise on any chance and the Storm should put a big score line on their opponents on home soil.
Cronulla Sharks vs Newcastle Knights (Sunday 2pm AEST)
The Sharks are searching for their 15th straight victory this weekend as they continue to extend their club record winning streak. A lot of experts have them already pencilled in for that mark as they come up against the cellar dwellers the Newcastle Knights who have just one win to their name this year. However they have put together two solid performances in the last two weeks. It is a big positive for the Novocastrians and it will give them some hope for the future. Jarrod Mullen made a successful return from injury and the side should have Dane Gagaii back in the line up this weekend. Unfortunately, they are up against a side that defeated by 62-0 just two months ago. The Sharks should do it comfortable this weekend by with a line of over 24 points we believe it is best to just steer clear from this match.
Update: The Knights season continues to worsen as they have been hit by injuries to two key players. Robbie Rochow will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his pectoral muscle whilst Sione Mata'Utia will miss 4 weeks with a broken jaw.
TIP: No bet
St George Illawarra Dragons vs Wests Tigers (Sunday 4pm AEST)
The Dragons are on a downward spiral and we are predicting they aren’t going to make the eight this season. The team has lost its solid defence that earned them crucial wins to start the year whilst their attack hasn’t seen any improvement. They will be without Josh Dugan for at least the next month as he suffered a broken jaw in Game 3 of the Origin series but Benji Marshall should return this week to play his 250th career NRL game.
The Tigers are heading in the opposite direction as they are beginning to click similar to what they did in the opening two rounds of the competition. They welcome back Robbie Farah, Aaron Woods and James Tedesco from Origin duties and the bye week would have helped to refresh the side. Tedesco is key to the Tigers success as he is a dangerous ball runner and very creative. On the back of good balls from Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses, Tedesco will be able to cause a lot of panic for the Dragons defence.
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Manly Sea Eagles (Monday 7pm AEST)
These two sides have had disappointing and injury ravaged seasons but with the Sea Eagles earning an important win on the weekend they are still in finals contention. However, they will need to come out on top in almost all of their remaining matches with this match being a must win. The Sea Eagles shining lights this year have been the Trbojevic brothers. Tom and Jake bring their everything into every game and leave it all on the field. The two even have a little combination they have developed with Jake finding Tom with a short pass in the middle of the field that is looking dangerous.
Meanwhile the Rabbitohs will be without Greg Inglis through suspension and it is unknown whether Adam Reynolds will be able to take the field this weekend. If he is out injured then any chance of the Bunnies causing an upset will be taken away but with the halfback they still only have slim hope.
Take note: Any of the tips in this article are simply the author’s opinion, so bet at your own risk and always gamble responsibly. Also be sure to check out the Before You Bet Twitter Page for all our thoughts in the lead up to bets! Happy punting!
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