The following are previews with betting tips for Round 20 of the 2017 NRL season.
Broncos v Bulldogs
Thu July 20, 7:50 pm, Suncorp Stadium
Both teams will come into this contest having won their last game against the Newcastle Knights, with the Broncos producing an unconvincing win in their first game after the State of Origin series last week. They will be facing a Bulldogs outfit fresh from a week off and buoyed by a miraculous comeback win but with reinforcements inbound, Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett will be looking for a much improved performance.
The Broncos will welcome back Origin stars Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire in a massive boost to their forward stocks, while Kodi Nikorima has been elevated to the starting fullback role, despite being named in the reserves. The Bulldogs have similarly named Origin trio Brett Morris, Josh Jackson and David Klemmer to return in the only changes to their squad.
The Bulldogs will have a psychological edge after a comeback win over the Broncos in round five. However, with so many returning players in recent weeks for the Brisbane club, expect a much improved performance from last week as Wayne Bennett’s men push for a top four berth. Brisbane to get the win.
Betting Tip: Broncos -9.5 @ $1.95 (Crownbet)
Roosters v Knights
Fri July 21, 6:00 pm, Allianz Stadium
The Sydney Roosters will return fresh from a bye after a shaky performance against the Rabbitohs in their last game, but with a number players down, the 2013 premiers will go into this match looking to consolidate their top four position. Roosters’ coach Trent Robinson will be wary of a Knights outfit who pushed the Broncos to their limit last week, and who have been brave in defeat throughout 2017.
The Roosters have lost Michael Gordon and Jake Friend with Connor Watson and Mitchell Cornish named at fullback and hooker respectively. Origin stars Mitchell Pearce, Dylan Napa and Blake Ferguson will also return to the side, in addition to Victor Radley on the bench. For the Knights, new-signing Shaun Kenny-Dowall will make his club debut against his former team with Luke Yates also joining the side on the interchange.
Despite being a far better team than their win-loss record indicates, the Knights failed to close out the second half against the Broncos and the Roosters will take advantage of Newcastle’s inexperience. But with a number of missing players for the Sydney club – two of which belong to their spine – don’t expect a polished performance from either side. Roosters to get the points.
Betting Tip: Knights +15.5 @ $1.95 (Unibet)
Sharks v Rabbitohs
Fri July 21, 7:50 pm, Southern Cross Group Stadium
Slumping to 14th on the competition ladder after a disappointing loss to the Cowboys last week, the Rabbitohs will be looking to their calculators if they have any hope of making the finals. Against a Sharks outfit looking for redemption after an embarrassing loss to the Titans, the Rabbitohs will look to salvage their season. Sharks coach Shane Flanagan will be unhappy with his squad’s performance last week but will be relieved after his hooking crisis eased somewhat with the successful return of James Segeyaro.
James Maloney will return for the Sharks in their only change, while the Rabbitohs will welcome back Aaron Gray and Damen Cook to their side in a boost for the struggling Souths team.
The Sharks should go into the match as heavy favourites and, sitting equal fourth on the competition ladder, will be looking to push into the top four. Expect an improved performance from the Cronulla club with the Sharks sure to understand the importance of a top four berth. Souths will struggle to keep pace as the Sharks get serious at the back-end of the season.
Betting Tip: Sharks 13+ @ $2.30 (Bet365)
Panthers v Titans
Sat July 22, 3:00 pm, Pepper Stadium
In a clash between two teams who have resurrected their premiership campaigns after a horrendous start to the 2017 season all but ruled out a finals appearance, both the Titans and Panthers will view this contest as a must-win game. The Titans produced an enormous upset over the Sharks last week in a morale-boosting win, while the Panthers will be happy beating the Warriors soundly in New Zealand.
Matt Moylan and Peter Wallace will return for Penrith in a massive boost for the club, while the Titans have included Morgan Boyle on the bench in their only change.
For either side to stand a chance of making the finals, they will need to win almost all their remaining games for the year. This reality for both teams should produce an intense contest as both squads fight for their season and with both clubs naming strong line-ups it is a very hard game to pick. Titans to get the points in a close contest.
Betting Tip: Titans Head to Head @ $2.60 (Unibet)
Raiders v Storm
Sat July 22, 5:30 pm, GIO Stadium
In the pre-season, this contest would likely have left many of the Raiders’ fans salivating at the prospect of another prized scalp, but instead Raiders faithful will feel a sense of dread facing a clinical Storm outfit who have only lost four games this season. The Victorian club return fresh from a bye but suffered a poor loss to the Eels in their last game without their representative stars, while the Raiders managed to keep their season alive after a win against the Dragons in extra-time.
Melbourne will welcome back their full representative contingent in Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith, Will Chambers, Tim Glasby and Cameron Munster, while the Raiders have included Michael Oldfield on the bench in their only change.
Melbourne will go into the contest as heavy favourites with coach Craig Bellamy sure to be eager to re-establish his club’s supremacy after losing last week. If the Storm have an off-game, the Raiders certainly stand a chance, but expect a clinical performance from the Victorians, led by the Queensland spine. Melbourne to get the points.
Betting Tip: Storm -6.5 @ $1.93 (Bet365)
Cowboys v Warriors
Sat July 22, 7:30 pm, 1300Smiles Stadium
The Warriors are one of a number of sides hoping to squeeze into the top eight but their chances took a serious blow last week after star halfback Shaun Johnson went down with a knee injury which could rule him out for the season. The Warriors face a difficult away trip against the Cowboys, who were impressive in their win over the Rabbitohs last week, while their counterparts produced a poor performance against the Panthers in their last game.
The Cowboys will go into the match unchanged, while Mason Lino will replace Shaun Johnson at halfback in the Warriors’ only change.
With a home-ground advantage and good recent form, the Cowboys should go into the match as favourites. Te Maire Martin’s continued development will hold the Cowboys in good stead for the finals but the Queenslanders should be wary of a desperate Kiwi outfit. Expect the Cowboys to get the points in a high-scoring affair.
Betting Tip: Warriors +9.5 @ $1.94 (TopBetta)
Dragons v Sea Eagles
Sun July 23, 2:00 pm, WIN Stadium
The Sea Eagles returned to the winner’s circle last week after their round 18 loss to the Panthers broke a long winning streak for the resurgent club. Now sitting well inside the top four at third – but still on the same competition points as the sixth placed Cowboys – Manly will be looking to consolidate their top four position against a Dragons side who have slumped to eighth spot after a poor loss to the Raiders in extra-time.
Euan Aitken, Tyson Frizell and Jack de Belin all return for the Dragons in a huge boost for the joint venture club with Blake Lawrie joining the interchange. Manly will be without Apisai Koroisau and Matthew Wright as Jackson Hastings and Brad Parker come in as cover.
The Sea Eagles will go into the game as favourites but with a key player in Api Koroisau absent and the Dragons fielding a strong line-up this game will be closer than recent form indicates. The Dragons will be desperate to end their free-fall with a solid performance but expect Manly’s attacking potency to give them the edge. Sea Eagles to get the win.
Betting Tip: Sea Eagles -2.5 @ $2.05 (TopBetta)
Tigers v Eels
Sun July 23, 4:00 pm, ANZ Stadium
The Eels have surged up the ladder during the Origin period and now find themselves in a position to contend for a top four berth, sitting only one win behind equal third on the competition ladder. The Eels will be fresh from a bye and looking for their fourth consecutive win against a struggling Tigers outfit who went down against Manly last week.
Matt McIlwrick, Tim Grant and Michael Chee-Kam will join the Tigers’ squad while the Eels will welcome back Manu Ma’u at the expense of David Gower.
The Eels will go into the match as heavy favourites with the Tigers struggling for form. The joint-venture club are going through a transition period with new coach Ivan Cleary and it will be short-term pain for long-term gain while Cleary builds his roster. Eels coach Brad Arthur will be sympathetic for his opposition’s plight after enduring the same process at the Eels, but his squad will be hungry for finals football after doing extremely well to get through a difficult period of injuries. Eels to get the points.
Betting Tip: Eels -8.5 @ $1.93 (Bet365)
Sharks 13+ @ $2.30 (Bet365)