Almanac Rugby League – NRL Round 20: Sorting out time

 

It’s ‘sorting out’ time over the next two rounds of the NRL with several top-of-the-table clashes likely to determine both the minor premiers and the top four. At least we can look forward to matches of real consequence after weeks of either mid-table muddling and/or top v bottom mismatches.

 

Looking back to last weekend, we discovered that the Eels are vulnerable in 4th spot while the Raiders will be a real nuisance to the Storm, Sea Eagles and Roosters in the lead-up to the finals. The Rabbitohs racked up 60 points but it’s hard to gauge how good they are because it was achieved against a vastly understrength Warriors. (It was awful to watch!) The Sea Eagles were impressive but face the Storm, Eels and Raiders in August, a better barometer of their chances. Meanwhile the Panthers and Storm did enough with reduced manpower to stay in the winner’s circle.

 

The business end of the season starts tonight when the Roosters take on the Eels, a match of great significance for both. The good folk of Mackay are the lucky buggers who get to see this heavyweight clash. A win to the Eels (4th) will put them two wins and percentage ahead of the Roosters (5th), probably enough to seal a top four spot. A loss will leave the teams equal on premiership points with Parra ahead on percentages. The Roosters want that top four spot and will be all out to take this opportunity to nudge that little bit closer. They have the Panthers, Rabbitohs and Raiders to come so it doesn’t get any easier. This should be a beauty! My gut is telling me that the boys from Bondi may have a bit of big time experience on their side so I’ll go with them to down the Eels.

 

Tomorrow night is lacklustre with the Tigers taking on the Warriors. The Tigers are, theoretically at least, still in the running for a finals berth – what a joke! The Warriors are severely undermanned with an awful defence. Perhaps the Tigers will maintain the myth for another week. They have a good draw ahead of them and may just scrape in for a one-week stand in September. Later on the Broncos and Cowboys clash in Brisbane with only memories of their epic clashes of yesteryear to draw a crowd. It should be close again with the Broncos showing a bit of heart last time out. But with limited experience up front, I think Brisbane will struggle and the northerners will have enough attack to take this one out.

 

Come Saturday afternoon and the Rabbitohs should continue on their merry way against the disrupted and disreputable Dragons in Rockhampton. At least the locals get the rare opportunity to see the NRL in the flesh, even if it is a modest offering. The Bunnies will need to manage both Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker through these last weeks after both had the hobbles at times last week. Another 50+ scoreline? The Knights host the Raiders in the early evening and I expect the Canberra lads to maintain their good form of late. The Knights have been underwhelming while the Raiders are coming good but, alas, all too late. They might be back to their threatening best in 2022.

 

In the evening we have the other big game of the weekend – Storm v Panthers. Unfortunately the game has been robbed of some of its potential with the likely absence of several key Panther players through injury. Nevertheless, they’re a well drilled squad and will be no pushover for a Storm outfit that was a bit rusty last weekend but have major firepower returning this weekend.  You’d have to favour Melbourne on paper, especially with key parts of Penrith’s spine missing this week.

 

On Sunday afternoon, the Bulldogs play the Titans on the Gold Coast but it’s hard to see the Doggies making much headway. David Fifita is a flat track colossus (after being an Origin underperformer) and he should make life difficult for Canterbury coming off the bench. If only he could play with such impact as a starter. The Dogs are busy putting together their 2022 squad and will endure the rest of this season. Finally, the Sharks take on the Sea Eagles at Redcliffe where we should see a good crowd. Some see the Manly lads as the late-season bolters as they regain their full strength. They’ll need to bag this one because the next three weeks bring the Storm, the Eels and the Raiders. If Manly could get into the top four they might be a handful but I think they’re coming from too far back for that to eventuate.

 

So my winners this week are the Roosters, Tigers, Cowboys, Rabbitohs, Raiders, Storm, Titans and Sea Eagles.

 

Thursday July 29

Roosters v Eels, BB Print Stadium, Mackay, 7.50pm

Friday July 30

Tigers v Warriors, Suncorp Stadium, 6.00pm

Broncos v Cowboys, Suncorp Stadium, 8.05pm

Saturday July 31

Dragons v Rabbitohs, Browne Park, Rockhampton, 3.00pm

Knights v Raiders, Suncorp Stadium, 5.30pm

Storm v Panthers, Suncorp Stadium, 7.35pm

Sunday August 1

Bulldogs v Titans, Cbus Super Stadium, 2.00pm

Sharks v Sea Eagles, Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe,  4.05pm

 

Venues and times are current at the time of publication but please check for late changes.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

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