The 2019 NRL season is fast approaching the crescendo and there is still a tight battle for the last few spots in the all important top eight! We have a full preview and betting tips for all eight games in Round 20 of the season below.
Both the Tigers and Cowboys sit just outside the top 8, which adds extra spice to this Thursday night matchup at Leichhardt. Following the news of Robbie Farah's retirement at season end, Wests will be keen to send him out with one more finals series. Last week, they earned a crucial 2 points in Newcastle as they stopped a 3 game losing streak in the process. Meanwhile, North QLD will be boosted by the return of Morgan and they're coming off a 2 point loss at Shark Park. Despite an injury-riddled season, the Cowboys have travelled well in 2019 and this figures to be another close affair. The two sides met in June and the Tigers took home the points in a golden point thriller. However, the Tigers do hold a 4-0 SU record against the Cowboys at this venue and we think they'll get over the line this Thursday.
It's 4th against 12th to start Friday night's doubleheader as the Raiders travel to New Zealand. Canberra are still after a top-two finish and a home final, so they need to win these type of games against bottom 8 sides. Interestingly, Mt Smart has not been a happy ground for the Warriors this season as they've lost 5 on the trot. The main issue has been scoring points as they average just 11.6 ppg in those 5 losses. So coming up against the Raiders elite defence will likely see them struggle once again. There's also rain predicted for Auckland and that should see the Under salute here. It's 5-2-1 when the Raiders play the Warriors since 2015 as well.
With the Storm coming off a rare loss in 2019, the Broncos will need to be ready for a fired-up Melbourne side this Friday. The Sea Eagles ended their 9 game winning streak on Saturday night in one of the games of the season in the 11-10 result. Now, Melbourne definitely enjoys playing Brisbane as they've won 16 of the last 19 meetings. It's also no different at Suncorp as the Storm hold an 8-0 record over the Broncos here. Brisbane's form is tough to read at the moment after they've easily accounted for the Titans and Bulldogs, but you would expect that of a top 8 side. Looking at the last 3 meetings alone at Suncorp, they've all finished over 50 total points and Melbourne put 64 points in Magic Round this year. So look for the Overs to salute.
Manly's top-four hopes are alive after an impressive 11-10 win over the Storm in Melbourne last week. So they'll be confident against the out of form Knights. Newcastle's 4 game losing streak has seen them drop out of the top 8 and it won't get any easier at Brookvale Oval. The Sea Eagles have enjoyed their last 2 home games, scoring 30+ points against the Dragons and Eels. Meanwhile, the Knights defence is a bit lacklustre at the moment, allowing 30 ppg in this losing streak. So look for Manly's positive Overs record to continue at Brookvale in day conditions (16-9 since 2014). We just can't see Newcastle stopping Tom Trbojevic and the in-form Manly forward pack.
Penrith were no match for Canberra last week but they'll get a good chance for 2 points as they take on the Bulldogs. Canterbury's season is over at this point and they're not much motivation for them here. Whereas, the Panthers are 7th on the ladder and can still earn a home final. So the Panthers defence should be able to keep the Bulldogs in-check and the Under has a good record when these two sides meet. It's 5-1 since 2011 when the Panthers are favourites and that's the way we're headed.
We'll have another big clash on Saturday night in Round 20 as the Sharks take on the Rabbitohs. Cronulla is back in the race for the top 8 after a comeback win over the Cowboys last Thursday. They also welcome back some firepower with Moylan, Fifita and Graham all named to play. It's fair to say Souths got out of jail last week after a game-winning try in the last few seconds over the struggling Dragons. But it keeps their top 2 hopes alive. Games involving the Sharks and Rabbitohs lately have been close finishes so this looks no different. For the Sharks, their last 2 home games have ended with a 2 point margin and we believe this will be a similar result.
It's kind of fitting that the Roosters are back at the SCG on Sunday because they could run up a cricket score on this Titans side. The Gold Coast have obviously checked out for the season after four straight heavy defeats. Which is scary considering the Roosters have scored 38 or more in their last 3 at the SCG. In the end, this could get really ugly for the Titans and with both sides making a number of team changes, this will be a game we're not touching.
It hasn't been a great season for the Dragons but they'll look to damage the Eels ladder position on Sunday. Last week, the Dragons were involved in a last-minute loss against Souths. Meanwhile, the Eels held on for a 2 point win over the Warriors at Bankwest and they've now won 4 of their last 5. Parramatta have the wood over the Dragons lately with two massive victories - 32-18 in May and 40-4 last August. So for the Eels to be underdogs at the moment, seems a bit strange. St. George have only beaten the Eels once in the last 6 years.
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