Round 20 previews
21 July, 2017, 12:00 am
The players to watch and predicted results for Round 20 of the National Youth Competition.
Roosters v Knights
Round 20 kicks off with a toss of the coin contest between two sides at opposite ends of the ladder.
The Roosters are 13th and would need at least six wins from their remaining games to make the finals. The defending premiers are fresh from the bye and showed promising signs to earn a draw with the Rabbitohs in Round 18.
The Knights claimed a thrilling win at home when these sides met back in Round 7. Last week’s heavy loss to the Broncos saw them drop out of the top four and another slip up could see them drop out of the top eight by the end of the week.
Tip: Roosters by 6
Sharks v Rabbitohs
It mightn’t look like it on paper, but this is the match of the round.
The Sharks are unbeaten in 13 games and boast the best attacking record in the NYC but they will be tested by a South Sydney team that hasn’t lost since Round 9.
This should be a cracking contest, but expect the Sharks to get the job done at home.
Tip: Sharks by 8
Panthers v Titans
Both teams will be desperate for the two competition points, but for very different reasons.
The Panthers sit in second spot after 19 rounds but a loss could see them drop back to third. Skipper Wayde Egan return at hooker in a huge boost to their attacking stocks.
Penrith’s staunch defence could be the key against a Titans side that has no problem scoring points but has conceded the third-most this season. There’s a lot to like about Gold Coast’s spine and they also boast some strike out wide.
With a top-eight spot on the line, expect the Titans to get home in a thriller.
Tip: Titans by 4
Broncos v Bulldogs
They might be in eighth spot but the Broncos are playing like a side with premiership aspirations.
Brisbane pummelled the Knights last week with Payne Haas and Haydyn O’Hara tearing Newcastle to shreds.
The latter has moved from the halves to centre this week with Josh Fauid named in the No.6 jersey.
Brisbane’s potent attack should be too much to handle for a Bulldogs side that sits in 14th with just one win from their past seven matches.
Tip: Broncos by 20
Raiders v Storm
This shapes as a mini elimination final between two sides still in the race for a top eight berth but with plenty of work to do with seven games remaining.
The Raiders are fresh from a tight win over the high-flying Dragons and will fancy their chances at GIO Stadium where they are 7-2 this season.
The Thunderbolts have lost two on the trot and need to fix their defence if they are to have any hope of reaching the finals for the first time since 2011.
Tip: Raiders by 12
Cowboys v Warriors
The Cowboys will start as heavy favourites against the bottom-placed Warriors but don’t expect the hosts to take them lightly given what’s at stake.
North Queensland are one of four teams locked on 22 competition points and know they must take advantage of an opportunity to boost their for-and-against this weekend.
They might be out of the playoff picture but the Warriors also have plenty to play for with the Kiwis desperate to avoid the wooden spoon. A win on Saturday coupled with a Tigers loss would see them leapfrog the joint-venture club.
Tip: Cowboys by 16
Dragons v Sea Eagles
Blockbusters don’t get much bigger than this with top-four teams the Dragons and Sea Eagles locking horns on Sunday morning.
Back-to-back losses have seen the Red V fall out of the top two but they can take solace from the fact they will remain in third even if they don’t win.
Joe Lovodua has surprisingly been named at hooker while Jai Field retains his spot at the back.
Manly were scrappy at times last week but managed to claim a comfortable 32-22 win over the Tigers.
They boast the second-best attack in the NYC and have the luxury of naming star Billy Bainbridge on the bench.
Tip: Dragons by 1
Wests Tigers v Eels
They’ve only won two of their last six matches but expect the Eels to return to form when they take on the Tigers — a side they beat by 32 points earlier in the season — on Sunday afternoon.
Points differential will be crucial at the end of the year so the Eels will want to play for the full 80 minutes against a plucky Tigers side.