There are only six rounds left of the regular 2012 NRL Telstra Premiership season and if ever there was a time for the teams to shoot for a spot in the semis it is now.
It should be a cracking eight-match Round too with plenty on the line and more than a few of the clubs eyeing that Minor Premiership prize.
Upset Round 20 Tip – Dragons to defeat the Rabbitohs on Saturday @ $2.37
The action kicks off right away with two top Friday night footy feasts, one a Queensland derby on the Gold Coast between the Titans and the Broncos, the other a top eight treat featuring the second ranked Bulldogs and the seventh placed Sea Eagles.
Other highlights of the round include the fourth ranked Bunnies looking to continue their good form against the Dragons at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night, and the North Queensland Cowboys hosting the Wests Tigers who are desperately clinging to a spot in the top eight on Monday evening.
As always the team at NRLleague.com.au has our insider NRL preview and betting tips for the week detailed below.
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2012 NRL Round 20 Draw & Preview
Friday July 20, 2012 (7:35pm) – Brookvale Oval
- Manly Sea Eagles ($1.70) v Canterbury Bulldogs ($2.16)
The Sea Eagles are slipping and have found themselves in a position where by the end of the round they could be sitting outside the top eight.
The Bulldogs meanwhile are going great guns and could this be the week where they knock Melbourne off top spot?
Manly will have a bruised ego after last week’s shock 6 – 32 loss to the Knights while the Doggies will be full of confidence having smashed the Eels 32 – 12 in an unsurprising result.
Canterbury have won their last seven on the trot but are the underdogs here, why?
Last time they met it was a close 12 – 10 score favouring Manly but that’s not enough.
Whatever the bookies are thinking we are taking them on.Canterbury by 2
Friday July 20, 2012 (7:35pm) – Skilled Park
- Gold Coast Titans ($2.73) v Brisbane Broncos ($1.46)
In this Queensland Derby the Gold Coast Titans, currently 11th on the ladder, will be playing for pride. The semis aren’t over 100 percent for the struggling club but really it is a pipe dream few of their fans will be entertaining.
Last week they showed some skill however to beat the Radiers 38 – 26 in a high scoring affair, can they post the points again this week?
They face a tough competitor in their older brothers, the Broncos coming off a promising 10 – 8 victory over the Warriors in the wet in Brisbane last Friday night.
They’ve had a full week to recover, they are in third spot but want to rise to the top and are going to prove hard to beat.
When these two last met back in Round 8 the Broncos ran off with a big 26 – 6 win but the Titans won’t be wanting to go down like that again.
While on paper the Gold Coast are a talented bunch it just hasn’t been following through onto the field.
Can’t ignore the consistency and grit of the Broncos even if there is a whiff of an upset here.Broncos by 4
Saturday July 21, 2012 (7:30pm) – Parramatta Stadium
- Parramatta Eels ($4.60) v Melbourne Storm ($1.20)
Well the Eels may have gone down but they weren’t exactly disgraced when 32 – 12 to the Bulldogs last week.
The wooden spoon favourites held it together until probably the final quarter but can they keep it together again against the top of the ladder Melbourne?
It has been a stormy few weeks however for Melbourne who lost again last week this time by four to the Cowboys at AAMI Park, their third straight defeat.
Eels are playing at home, the Storm are going through a mid-season slump but is it enough?
The odds say no, the history (Storm winning 15 of the 25 played) says no, and after trailing 18 nil to win 22 – 18 last time they met in Round 21 last season the Storm says no more.
Bellamy has never let these boys lose four straight and we don’t expect that to change.Storm by 14
Saturday July 21, 2012 (7:30pm) – Mt. Smart Stadium
- New Zealand Warriors ($1.28) v Newcastle Knights ($3.70)
Well the Warriors are one of those teams right on the verge of a spot in the semis. They sit ninth and are eyeing the Wests Tigers in eighth.
The Knights may be further down the ladder in 12th but they too get a chance of a finals berth if they don’t slip up from here on in.
Expect a blockbuster across the ditch for this with both clubs coming off good Round 19 performances.
The Warriors may have gone down 10 – 8 to the Broncos in Brisbane but they didn’t give up and looked almost certain to score and change the result right up to the siren.
The Knights meanwhile will still be celebrating their massive 32 – 6 upset over the Sea Eagles, but can they keep it going?
In Round 23 last year New Zealand got the better of Newcastle in a great 20 – 12 comeback win. It’s pretty even in the stat board between these two over the years but looking at the recent times it is Warriors (winning 10 of the past 12 against the Knights) all the way.
There’s also the home ground advantage with New Zealand also 10 from 12 at Mt Smart.New Zealand by 8
Saturday July 21, 2012 (7:30pm) – ANZ Stadium
- South Sydney Rabbitohs ($1.59) v St George Illawarra Dragons ($2.37)
The Bunnies are bouncing along nicely having moved up to fourth spot on the ladder thanks to their narrow 24 – 22 over the Roosters last Monday night.
It is hard to back a team coming off a Monday night match but the Dragons played on the Sunday so that’s pretty even.
St George showed a glimmer of their former greatness when getting the better of the Sharks 18 – 10 and as the 10th ranked team they will be desperate to add another win to their record this week.
The Green and Red play without the suspended Isaac Luke this week however so they will have to dig deep.
Soward is back for the Dragons which is a boost after they lost Kyle Stanley for up to a year last week, the gun utility rupturing the ACL joint in his knee.
It was a thriller when these two played back in Round 11, a field-goal two minutes ingo golden point giving the Rabbiohs the 19 – 18 advantage.
The Bunnies have had a couple of tough ones and whether they can keep that level going this week is questionable especially without livewire Luke.Dragons by 4
Sunday July 22, 2012 (2:00pm) – Toyota Stadium
- Cronulla Sharks ($1.45) v Canberra Raiders ($2.77)
The Sharkies need to atone after their 18 – 10 loss to the Dragons last week and they are going to have to pull it all out, likely to be a little ragged after their Round 18 draw with the Roosters the week before.
The Raiders however will be low on confidence after posting 26 points but letting the Titans score 38 of their own at Canberra Stadium to lose last week’s match.
Cronulla will want to stay top four while the Raiders probably have no genuine chance of a semis berth from their 13th spot.
Who has the better attitude and who can hang on? That’s the key here. Whoever plays 80 minutes will win.
The Sharks have an imposing advantage winning 19 of the past 26 played against the Raiders at Shark Park and they should be too good here if they stay focused.Sharks by 12
Sunday July 22, 2012 (3:00pm) – Centrebet Stadium
- Penrith Panthers ($1.78) v Sydney Roosters ($2.04)
Panthers under $2 to win? Now punters won’t have seen this for a while. What’s going on here?
They didn’t win last week going down 26 – 18 to a hit and miss Tigers outfit.
But the Roosters didn’t win either going down by two to the Rabbitohs on Monday night.
Ahh Monday night, right. Sydney don’t get much of a rest here. They didn’t have it easy the week before either with the season’s first draw, also on a Monday night.
So will the Panthers – 15th on the ladder – post just their fifth win for the season here?
This really is only playing for pride so which team can keep motivated with the finals dream all but over.
Back in Round 2, before the big cats lost the plot, Penrith kept Sydney scoreless with an 18 – 0 victory at Allianz. We find it hard to see them win so confidently again here but if they can keep their eye on the ball they could just win.Panthers by 4
Monday July 23, 2012 (7:00pm) – Dairy Farmers Stadium
- North Queensland Cowboys ($1.62) v Wests Tigers ($2.30)
The round culminates with a beauty up at Dairy Farmers Stadium, one of the most important of the week.
Can the Tigers stay inside the Top 8? They need to win this and they also need some other Round 20 results to go their way so it’s crucial they hang on.
It will tough however up in North Queensland even though they come off a 26 – 18 win over the Panthers.
Cowboys are one of the teams with genuine upside as we head towards the pointy end of the season as displayed by their upset 20 – 16 win over the Storm at AAMI Park last week.
While their home game record isn’t exactly imposing this year, they will love being home this week and are the deserved favourites.Cowboys by 14