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NRL round 20 preview panel


Wests Tigers v North Queensland at Leichhardt Oval, 7.50pm

Head to head: Wests Tigers 20, Cowboys 16, drawn 1

Last clash: Round 14, 2019 - Wests Tigers 27 bt Cowboys 26 at Willows Sports Complex, Townsville

The Tigers kept their season alive last week with an enthralling win over Newcastle and return to Leichhardt full of confidence two days after club icon Robbie Farah announced his retirement.

The Cowboys are only two spots back on the ladder but trying to avoid three straight losses. Their skipper, Michael Morgan, returns (concussion) to provide needed guidance for exciting young halfback Jake Clifford.

Key: If the Tigers can contain wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo, who is second in post-contact metres despite missing five games, they should prove too strong.

Tip: Tigers


Warriors v Canberra at Mt Smart Stadium, 6pm

Head to head: Raiders 21, Warriors 19, drawn 2

Last clash: Round 25, 2018 - Warriors 20 bt Raiders 16 at Mt Smart Stadium

Raiders revelation Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad returns to the club that released him last season looking to end their finals hopes. The Warriors welcome back five-eighth Kodi Nokorima but are without hooker Isaac Luke (suspension). Canberra have named the same 17 who stopped seven-in-a-row winners Penrith in their tracks last week. The Green Machine have won six of their past seven and victory in Auckland should clinch the Raiders' second finals berth in seven years.

Key: Nicoll-Klokstad takes on former mentor Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in an enticing fullback contest that will likely shape the result.

Tip: Raiders

Brisbane v Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium, 7.55pm

Head to head: Storm 32, Broncos 13, drawn 2

Last clash: Round 1, 2019 - Storm 22 Broncos 12 at AAMI Park

Despite their worst start to a season this century, the Broncos have muscled their way into the eight but they face the toughest test in rugby league against ladder-leaders Melbourne. Brisbane welcome back Maroons back-rower Matt Gillett (back) but are without Tevita Pangai (suspension). The Storm will be reeling after a golden-point loss to Manly and haven't dropped two games in a row in almost 12 months.

Key: This one will be decided in the forwards and Melbourne star Jesse Bromwich will need to contain NSW representative Payne Haas.

Tip: Storm


Manly v Newcastle at Lottoland, 3pm

Head to head: Sea Eagles 32, Knights 21, drawn 1

Last clash: Round 5, 2019 - Sea Eagles 26 Knights 18 at McDonald Jones Stadium

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown has axed four players as their season hangs in the balance following a disappointing loss to the Tigers. Manly are brimming with confidence after knocking off Melbourne. The test now for Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler is somehow convincing his men they're still underdogs. The battle between star fullbacks Palyn Ponga and Tom Trbojevic will be worth the price of admission.

Key: It's a battle of the State of Origin halfbacks, with Daly Cherry-Evans and Mitchell Pearce locking horns and whoever shows the most composure should lead their side to victory.

Tip: Knights

Canterbury v Penrith at Bankwest Stadium, 5.30pm

Head to head: Bulldogs 58, Panthers 42, drawn 4

Last clash: Round 8, 2018 - Panthers 22 bt Bulldogs 14 at Panthers Stadium

The Panthers have come to a crossroads in their season. They proved their credentials with seven straight wins before losing to Canberra last week, but how they bounce back against the 15th-placed Bulldogs will really show their ticker. Canterbury took it to the Roosters last week but have struggled with their finishing polish, which they'll need to beat Penrith.

Key: Panthers five-eighth James Maloney famously has the worst memory in rugby league, so don't expect his form to waiver despite losing last week.

Tip: Panthers

Cronulla v South Sydney at PointsBet Stadium, 7.35pm

Head to head: Sharks 49, Rabbitohs 43, drawn 4

Last clash: Round 13, 2018 - Rabbitohs 22 bt Sharks 14 at ANZ Stadium

The Sharks snapped a five-game losing streak last week and welcome back guns Andrew Fifta (suspension), Wade Graham (hamstring) and Matt Moylan (hamstring). Second-placed Souths have their own returning star in Sam Burgess (shoulder) making his first appearance in six weeks. The Bunnies are chasing consecutive wins against Cronulla for the first time in eight years.

Key: The teams boast talented backs but this one should be decided up front. Expect Sharks enforcer Fifita to pick out Sam Burgess.

Tip: Souths


Sydney Roosters v Gold Coast at Sydney Cricket Ground, 2pm

Head to head: Roosters 10, Titans 8, drawn 1

Last clash: Round 18, 2018 - Roosters 20 bt Titans 12 at CBUS Super Stadium

The Roosters did just enough against Canterbury last week but a similar auto-pilot effort will probably still see them past the bottom-placed Titans. The premiers are without stars Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (suspension), Boyd Cordner (calf), Siosiua Taukeiaho (calf), Jake Friend (arm) and Ryan Hall (knee) while the Gold Coast welcome back halfback Ryley Jacks (rib). Still, expect the Sydneysiders to make it five straight wins against the struggling cellar dwellers.

Key: It's the second-best attack against the worst defence. If the Titans go behind early, expect a landslide.

Tip: Roosters

St George Illawarra v Parramatta at Jubilee Stadium, 4.05pm

Head to head: Eels 19, Dragons 15, drawn 3

Last clash: Round 8, 2019 - Eels 32 bt Dragons 18 at Bankwest Stadium

Parramatta have proved a surprise packet in 2019 and have their sights on a top-four finish, while the Dragons have been bitterly disappointing. St George are staring down the barrel of five straight losses unless their star-studded line-up can finally pull together an 80-minute performance. The Eels welcome back Michael Jennings (knee), while Dragons fullback Matt Dufty has been dropped.

Key: Eels halfback Mitchell Moses leads the NRL in try assists and if given enough space will cut the Dragons to pieces.

Tip: Eels

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