View UniBet’s preview of Round 20 of the 2016 NRL home and away season below.
North Queensland v Bulldogs | Thursday, July 21, 7.50pm (AEDT), 1300 SMILES Stadium
With the Origin period behind them, both of these clubs can look forward to less disruption as they look to secure an all-important top four position.
Indeed, Paul Green has admitted to feeling ‘a little excited’ about the run-in and with just Kyle Feldt missing from their best team the premiers remain in good shape, particularly with Michael Morgan amongst the list of returnees.
With much of the Sydney press attention centred around Parramatta’s woes and Cronulla’s impressive streak, the Dogs have quietly amassed a solid six-week stretch of football, although admittedly against lesser opposition and an Origin-fatigued Brisbane.
Both sides should be freshened by the bye.
The Dogs have the size up front to match it with North Queensland for an hour but the Cowboys are unbeaten in Townsville this season and should eke out another win.
Last time they met: Rd 9, 2015 – North Qld 23-16 Bulldogs
Unibet Odds: North Qld $1.43 Bulldogs $2.90
Tip: North Qld
Line tip: Bulldogs +7.5
Brisbane v Penrith | Friday, July 22, 7.50pm (AEDT), Suncorp Stadium
Brisbane will be out for revenge after a stirring second-half comeback by the Panthers handed them their first defeat of the season back in March.
Corey Parker has certainly fanned the flames post-Origin with his critique of the Blues ‘sportsmanship’ and makes a welcome return to the side from suspension.
Anthony Griffin had an interesting take on Bryce Cartwright’s mixed performance as a second receiver after a scrappy win over Parramatta.
Griffin virtually suggesting the 21-year-old had too much ability for his own good and was having to lower his level to mesh with less-talented teammates.
The Panthers did receive some good news during the week though with talented pivot Te Maire Martin set to return in the next fortnight.
Having returned to the winner’s circle you would have to think Brisbane will take their poor run out on someone soon.
Last time they met: Rd 3 – Penrith 23-22 Brisbane
Unibet Odds: Brisbane $1.27 Penrith $3.95
Line tip: Brisbane -10.5
Canberra v New Zealand Warriors | Saturday, July 23, 3pm (AEDT), GIO Stadium
Canberra will have happy memories of their last clash against the Warriors after spanking them by 26 points, a result that sparked an upsurge in form for the Green Machine.
With the club heading for a first finals berth since 2012 it will be interesting to see how their younger brigade handle the extra intensity.
Aidan Sezer has spoken of his excitement at testing himself against some of the game’s elite playmakers.
The Warriors came up short once again in Perth with CEO Jim Doyle having to confirm that young gunTuimoala Lolohea was part of the club’s long-term plans after he was afforded only two minutes of game time.
Think all the travel will work against the Warriors and Ricky Stuart’s side can win comfortably.
Last time they met: Rd 11 – NZ Warriors 12-38 Canberra
Unibet Odds: Canberra $1.47 NZ Warriors $2.75
Line tip: Canberra -6.5 (best bet)
Gold Coast v Parramatta | Saturday, July 23, 5.30pm (AEDT), Cbus Stadium
Neil Henry’s side continue to confound expectations and with a run of three straight games ahead at their Robina base, long suffering fans of the club must be starting to dream of September action.
Konrad Hurrell got through his first full game in Titans’ colours and should give them some extra strike power out wide.
Expect the stands to rattle this week when he marks another big hitter in fellow Kiwi Manu Ma’u, who will fill in at centre for the Eels.
Brad Arthur has performed an amazing job to keep motivating his players and with the board now formally removed and an administrator in place, the club can finally begin to rebuild.
Who would have anticipated Clint Gutherson and Jeff Robson wearing the 6 and 7 jerseys for the blue and golds this season?
It’s a far cry from the days of Brett Kenny and Peter Sterling but that’s how desperate their predicament has become.
At least their forward pack has a modicum of solidity about it.
Last time they met: Rd 21, 2015 – Gold Coast 24-14 Parramatta
Unibet Odds: Gold Coast $1.45 Parramatta $2.80
Tip: Gold Coast
Line tip: Gold Coast -6.5
Melbourne v Roosters | Saturday, July 23, 7.30pm (AEDT), AAMI Park
Melbourne suffered a bit of a comedown off their head-spinning performance in Brisbane but were still able to bank another two points after withstanding a brave Newcastle outfit.
The Storm are bracing themselves for a committed display from the Roosters this week with Craig Bellamy suggesting that they’re in a false position on the ladder.
Indeed, it’s been somewhat of a mutual admiration dialogue in the coaching world this week with Trent Robinson identifying the Storm as the team to beat for the premiership on the strength of some ‘amazing stuff’ this season.
Both teams are unchanged and aside from the round 14 massacre have played some real nail-biters in recent seasons.
The hosts might have one eye on next week’s trip to Townsville but with Kiwi skipper Jesse Bromwichsuiting up for his 150th game they should do enough to get the ‘W’.
Last time they met: Rd 14 – Roosters 0-46 Melbourne
Unibet Odds: Melbourne $1.23 Roosters $4.25
Line tip: Melbourne -11.5
Cronulla v Newcastle | Saturday, July 24, 2pm (AEDT), Southern Cross Group Stadium
It’s first versus last and a complete mismatch on paper with most interest here on whether the Knights can get within a tempting four-try handicap after some competitive efforts of late.
The Sharks weren’t at their best but still managed to overcome the Roosters and Shane Flanagan’s side must now be considered a realistic prospect of breaking the all-time record for consecutive wins (19).
The Knights have built a long streak of their own but not of the desired kind and must be starting to wonder where their next win is coming from.
Off-contract backrower Robbie Rochow may have played his last game for the club after tearing a pec while the embattled Knights could have done without suspensions to both Jake Mamo and Daniel Saifitiwho have both played well in patches.
Don’t think it will be quite as one-sided as their last meeting but comfortable enough for the Sharks.
Last time they met: Rd 10 – Newcastle 0-62 Cronulla
Unibet Odds: Cronulla $1.06 Newcastle $10.00
Line tip: Cronulla -24.5
St.George-Illawarra v Wests Tigers | Sunday, July 24, 4pm (AEDT), ANZ Stadium
The Dragons have a tough month ahead and a loss here could almost spell curtains for their season.
Paul McGregor will surely be looking for a response after their pitiful effort last week but appears restricted by the salary cap and is unlikely to make too many changes to his line-up.
The Jason Taylor-Robbie Farah feud reignited again this week after the hooker was dumped from first grade less than a fortnight after a solid display for the Blues at the highest level.
How can two coaches have such vastly different opinions of a player?
James Tedesco should have derived great benefit from his Origin experience and will look to torment the Dragons will his quick feet.
The Dragons rebounded from consecutive drubbings earlier in the season to win on the Gold Coast and represent some value to upset the applecart here.
Last time they met: Rd 26 2015 – St George-Illawarra 32-30 Wests Tigers
Unibet Odds: St George-Illawarra $2.60 Wests Tigers $1.51
Tip: St George-Illawarra
Line tip: St George-Illawarra +5.5
Souths v Manly | Monday, July 25, 7pm (AEDT), Allianz Stadium
Souths are virtually out of the running for finals action after a horror sequence of defeats and the winds of change must be circling at Redfern with several players on borrowed time.
The return of Adam Reynolds should give them some much needed direction but it’s their defence that has fallen away alarmingly since the opening month.
Manly may have left their run a bit late but their run home is reasonably pain-free so expect them to slowly climb the ladder.
With Souths out of form and the Eagles off a tough contest on the road this game might be something of a slog.
Last time they met: Round 5 – Manly 12-16 Souths
Unibet Odds: Souths $2.20 Manly $1.70
Line tip: Manly -2.5