Brisbane Broncos vs Cronulla Sharks – Thursday night – Suncorp Stadium
The Sharks haven't lost a game since they lost to the Broncos, although that wasn't that long ago. This time around the game shifts north of the border and the Broncos need to play like they did last week and not like they did the week before. Inconsistency isn't a word used to describe the Broncos as a rule, but they've been up and down more than an elevator mechanic in season 2018. Some doubts over Wade Graham and Jason Bukuya taking the field. Given the importance of this contest I have a feeling both will play, although the clock is ticking given the Thursday timeslot. If the Cronulla forwards can pester and pressure the Broncos halves and put them off their game the Sharks will win. I assume that's their game plan, and I assume the Broncos know that's their game plan. Take note that Isaako is a possible out for the Broncos while he tries to overcome a leg injury. If he doesn't play I would change my tip, but for now:
Verdict – Broncos by 4
Result – Broncos 12 defeated Sharks 10
North Queensland Cowboys vs Newcastle Knights – Friday night – 1300SMILES Stadium
The Cowboys are tied for last right now but somehow....somehow...they are a red hot favourite on Friday night. Perhaps people think they will realise they're running last, and pull themselves out of a funk. Why now? They've been pretty funky all year. Kalyn Ponga looks likely to return for the Knights and he joins a team that's won two in a row. The Cowboys haven't won at home since round seven (against the Titans). I'm putting favouritism aside and tipping the team that's winning.
Verdict – Knights by 2
Result – Cowboys 20 defeated Knights 18
Canterbury Bulldogs vs Wests Tigers – Friday night – ANZ Stadium
The Tigers defence has been first-rate all season, and the inclusion of Farah, Marshall and Mbye has given them an attack to match. They may be outside the top eight, but this team has beaten every side in the top four, and they've beaten the Storm twice. The Bulldogs attack has been pedestrian at best, and I can't see how they could possibly penetrate the Tigers on Friday night.
Verdict – Tigers by 14
Result – Bulldogs 16 defeated Tigers 4
Manly Sea Eagles vs Penrith Panthers – Saturday afternoon – Lottoland
It's not often you have two teams facing each other after conceding 50 points in their previous outing – welcome to one of their more interesting matches this round. The best we've seen from Penrith in recent weeks was when their virtual reserve grade played for them. Rumours persist that key players at Penrith aren't big fans of the coach won't go away, and the performances on the field seem to indicate all is not well at the foot of the mountains. With no confidence I'll tip them here though – at least they have a finals berth to fight for and they've had two extra days to prepare for this one.
Verdict – Panthers by 4
Result – Panthers 28 defeated Sea Eagles 24
South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Parramatta Eels – Saturday night – ANZ Stadium
The Eels did win last week, but they scored just the two tries against a pretty ordinary Bulldogs (and one of those was an intercept). They'll need to be better than that against the Bunnies...and they aren't.
Verdict – Rabbitohs by 20
Result – Rabbitohs 26 defeated Eels 20
Melbourne Storm vs Canberra Raiders – Saturday night – AAMI Park
The Storm have warmed up as the season has progressed and have worked their way to the top of the ladder. With six games to play (and four at home) they'll be doing all they can to win the minor premiership from here. One has to think the Raiders have all but conceded their finals prospects this season after that deflating loss to the Sharks last week. The only risk for the purple machine is that they already have one eye on their tantalising contest against the Bunnies next week. It's a risk but not much of a risk – the Storm aren't the sort of team that lose focus on the task at hand.
Verdict – Storm by 8
Result – Storm 44 defeated Raiders 10
Gold Coast Titans vs New Zealand Warriors – Sunday afternoon – Cbus Super Stadium
For years I've been telling the Warriors they need to improve their record in Australia, and they've finally listened to me. Unfortunately their record at home has fallen off a cliff. It seems the Warriors can do one thing well but two things well is a bridge too far. The Gold Coast is one place the Warriors usually play well at. The last time I checked the Gold Coast population was about 25% expat Kiwis so it's a home away from home really. There's every chance there will be more black jerseys in the stands than blue jerseys on Sunday. Daytime conditions seem to suit the visitors too.
Verdict – Warriors by 20
Result – Titans 36 defeated Warriors 12
Sydney Roosters vs St George Illawarra Dragons – Sunday afternoon – Allianz Stadium
I mentioned last week that the Dragons win over the Roosters on ANZAC Day was about when their season peaked, so this will be a good test of how far they have fallen (assuming they have). It's also a test of how much the Chooks have improved – I have no doubt they've been getting better as the season has worn on. In that sense, they are on a similar trajectory to the Storm. Melbourne and the Roosters look like the two most likely at the minute. The Dragons won away from home over a shaky Cowboys while the Chooks racked up half a century away from home over the Sea Eagles. I'm leaning the tricolours way here, and if Napa plays (and he might) I'd be leaning their way even more. It's the game of the round, and if they can't get 25,000 to the ground I'd be disappointed. If I were in Sydney it's where I would be.
Verdict – Roosters by 4
Result – Roosters 36 defeated Dragons 18
Wally Lewis - round twenty selections (in bold)
Note: tips from Wally will be published on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
- BRONCOS vs Sharks
- COWBOYS vs Knights
- Bulldogs vs TIGERS
- Sea Eagles vs PANTHERS
- RABBITOHS vs Eels
- STORM vs Raiders
- Titans vs WARRIORS
- ROOSTERS vs Dragons