NRL Round 20: Friday Match Previews & Betting Tips

The Warriors felt robbed by officials last week – but they’ll have no excuses if they can’t keep their season alive at home to Canberra. Melbourne got ambushed last week and will be on high alert to avoid a rare double slip-up against the increasingly confident Broncos.

James Baxter
Wed, 31 Jul, 12:00 AM

New Zealand Warriors vs. Canberra Raiders – Mt Smart Stadium - 6pm

Any punters hearing multiple whistles Friday night will not need their hearing checked – the Warriors management issued a cheeky suggestion for fans to dress as referees complete with whistles as a protest after their controversial 24-22 defeat to Parramatta.

After wrong officiating decisions almost cost them a Cronulla win last round, this time a lopsided 9-2 penalty count, incorrect strip calls combined with a dubious call on a late forward pass to deny them victory became breaking points for their frustrations.

Four officials involved in the game were subsequently benched but it’s hardly compensation for the outcome. The win would have been a massive boost to their finals chances – instead, the Warriors remain outside the eight with time running out.

Perhaps one positive from the loss was the Warriors certainly performed. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck continues to amaze and remains in the hunt for consecutive Dally M medals, crunching out 239m and going a long way in covering for the injured half Kodi Nikorima.

Ken Maumalo is also a contender for leading NRL tryscorer with another double – it’s remarkable to think the Warriors could boast such firepower and still not make September. This is the price they’re paying however for their scratchy 2019 start combined with their poor home record.

Issac Luke will miss three weeks after failing to overturn a dangerous throw charge, the veteran hooker a costly loss. We’re approaching now or never for the Warriors’ final chase – can they truly be trusted?

Canberra’s impressive 2019 continued with their deserved 30-18 win at Penrith maintaining their fourth spot and adding further self-belief to the Green Machine. Penrith entered with seven straight wins including top four scalps but Canberra’s second-half blitz has all but ended the Panthers’ top four hopes.

There was plenty of attacking glitz with Aidan Sezer’s try courtesy of an unlikely combo of John Bateman, Jordan Rapana, Michael Oldfield and a kick one for the highlight reels, yet it was defensive steel proving the biggest difference.

Penrith dominated the game’s opening however remarkably found themselves trailing 12-6 at the break, with Canberra showing they’re no longer the nervy side who’d crumble under pressure as in the past two campaigns.

It’s always a sign of a successful season when two of your signings are in the mix for best NRL recruit of the year, and in Bateman and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad the Raiders had two more extremely valuable contributions in a crucial win.

Bateman looks a NRL veteran, not an Englishman in his rookie Australian season. The English international iced the match with a try to go with 159 run metres and 39 tackles for a single miss and is as comfortable on an edge as he is in taking the pressure off his middle forwards with strong hit-ups.

CNK meanwhile got another try and is wowing coach Ricky Stuart with his ability to marshal the defensive line from the back – it’s incredible to think it’s his first year as a fulltime NRL fullback. Sezer is being linked to Huddersfield – which makes sense with 2020’s arrival of Wigan half George Williams – and is doing any asking price plenty of favours with his halves combination with NSW rep Jack Wighton developing every week.

A top four spot is Canberra’s to lose but life is never easy in NRL. Just as they make a statement with their Penrith win, the Raiders are now tasked with a five-day turnaround combined with a New Zealand trip. It’s a tough ask but coach Stuart wouldn’t have it any other way.

Key Stats:

- Canberra have won 6 of their last 7 starts, being the first to 20 points in the 4 most recent wins.

- The Warriors have lost their last 5 matches at Mt Smart Stadium.

- In 3 of their last 4 away games Canberra have won halftime/fulltime.

Tip: Raiders

Best bet: Race to 20 points - Canberra - $2.12* (Sportsbet)

Value bet: Away team to win both halves - $3.10* (Unibet)

Brisbane Broncos vs. Melbourne Storm – Suncorp Stadium - 7:55pm

Brisbane showed no mercy to their under-siege Queensland rivals, putting the Titans away 34-12 to keep them in the thick of the finals chase. The Titans offered little resistance and the Broncos took full advantage to build confidence with Anthony Milford having his best outing since returning to fullback.

Matt Lodge and Payne Haas are now fully in their stride as a starting prop duo, notching a combined 372 run metres compared to the Titans’ 238m to give the platform for their classy backs to finish off.

Kotoni Staggs is still learning his trade as an NRL regular but his talent is clear, scoring a double inside the first half and it seems a centre role long-term is his to lose. Coach Anthony Seibold is appearing far more relaxed in recent times – amazing what a few wins can do for a side.

Brisbane have emerged from rep season in season-best form and their side finally appearing to have balance. Tevita Pangai Junior’s moment of madness to illegally smash Philip Sami earned the big man a sin bin and a week’s suspension which could prove costly considering the size Melbourne’s pack contains.

Brisbane’s disastrous season start has made their margin for error in chasing the top eight small – simply a good performance against a motivated Melbourne isn’t good enough, the Broncos need the win.

Melbourne’s nine game win streak came to a sudden halt last Saturday, Daly Cherry-Evans’ 89th minute field goal the difference in a 11-10 loss to Manly. The match was played with finals intensity and after some relatively easy wins recently, the Storm will likely be better for the result and coach Craig Bellamy could have some added motivation to keep his team focused on the main prize.

The Minor Premiership may as well be shipped to Storm HQ but there’s still plenty of time for Melbourne to finetune for September and facing a resurgent Broncos outfit firming as a finals chance by the week will be another beneficial test for the competition frontrunners.

Field goal practice could be the first item on the checklist, with five unsuccessful shots between Cameron Munster, Cameron Smith and Brodie Croft eventually proving telling. Despite the outcome there were positives for Bellamy to work with.

Fullback Jahrome Hughes was outstanding in saving a Manly try and his 83rd minute HIA absence following a dangerous Jake Trbojevic tackle deprived the Storm of perhaps their most underrated playmaker. Brandon Smith had a strong performance as a middle forward and Dale Finucane joined the Kiwi in tackling himself into the AAMI Park turf.

When these sides faced in round one it was billed as a potential September preview. Should Melbourne maintain their extremely high standards, they can make life extremely difficult for the Broncos to even reach the business end.

Key stats:

Melbourne boast a huge psychological edge over Brisbane. They’ve won their last 6 head-to-heads and 16 from the last 18.

- It’s been over 10 years since Brisbane last beat Melbourne at Suncorp – the Titans have beaten Melbourne in Brisbane more recently than what the Broncos have managed.

- It’s also been nearly an entire calendar year since Melbourne last lost consecutive matches.

- Josh Addo-Carr has 6 tries in 6 games against the Broncos in his career.

- Melbourne’s last 5 victories over Brisbane have come by an average margin of 20 points.

Tip: Storm

Best bet: Storm -4.5 - $1.91* (Bet365)

Value bet: Josh Addo-Carr anytime tryscorer/Melbourne - $2.85* (TAB)

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