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Round 20 Preview ? This one could
The comp is an absolute pineapple at the moment. Just when you think you?ve got things figured out a crazed posse of Mongols ride into town and rearrange your saloon. This situation was typified by the plight of the Dragons on Sunday afternoon. A loss would have seen them reeling in 11th position but their big victory over the Sea Eagles propelled them into 6th.
The Rabbitohs surprised everyone including themselves up in Townsville, coming away with two points and showing up the Cowboys as pretenders. Canberra?s effort was much the same, although the Eels can be taken a little more seriously and it was at home for the Green Machine.
In the end I can hold my head high, taking New Zealand to upset the Roosters handed me a five from seven in an otherwise difficult round, although the Warriors carded some heart-wrenching material. That leaves me with 74 from 125 as we approach this very exciting weekend of footy ? there?s footy in three states and two countries, the Broncos come to Sydney and there are two classic matches to be played out in our fabulous suburban grounds.
Bulldogs v Broncos
Well, the Bulldogs are shooting for three in a row against the Broncos who look pretty good right now. This game should have some great confrontations in the forwards, with Petero, Shane and co taking on O?Meley and Mason who are starting to dominate again after overcoming injury.
The Broncos displayed their class at home last week, educating the Storm on the sort of 80-minute football that will determine semi-finals. In the end, Brisbane simply ran over them as Melbourne back-peddled and couldn?t foot it with the big boys.
The Bulldogs claimed the scalp of the Panthers but the have looked anything but lethal in the last few weeks, with narrow wins over Penrith and the Warriors following a shellacking at the hands of Melbourne. They will rise to the occasion here, but the Broncos will take the honours.
Warriors v Raiders
Next we travel to the Island of the long white cloud, where both of these two teams will have a lot to play for.
The Raiders are surprising people again and last week?s effort against Parramatta was typical of the sort of footy they can play, which is unpredictable. I don?t think you can have an orderly defensive plan against Canberra as they seem to make it up as they go. They score tries from opportunistic plays and really get up the opposition?s nose plenty. They also coped well without Woolford.
The Warriors have heaps to play for though. They are a slim chance of making the finals and could really make a mess of a few teams along the way. Their run home is somewhat favourable and veteran forward Ruben Wiki will want to have a big one against his former club, so I?m favouring the home team.
Incidentally, we ran a feature article yesterday titled ?The Beautiful loss? by Thickos, one of our forum seven?s participants, and it can still be found on the main page. Written from a Canberra fan?s perspective, it detailed the classic semi-final clash between these two teams in September 2003 and is an excellent read.
Cowboys v Panthers
Unfortunately, this game will be anything but classic?Penrith?s season is over and the Cowboys might find themselves in real trouble if they don?t get back in the winner?s circle.
North Queensland have certainly lost their momentum and are a long way from the bold predictions of an all-Queensland Grand Final that were being bandied about earlier in the season. The loss of Carl Webb might also be having a bigger impact that the alleged Origin hangover, and it will be interesting to see how new half Brett Firman goes.
I?m not sure what this game represents for the Panthers, judging by their line-up they?re still holding the delusional belief that they can make the top 8. If I were them I?d be promoting a few youngsters and testing them out for 2006, particularly after the news they?ve lost rookie Ben Pomeroy to the Sharks who?s touted as something special.
Despite last week?s humiliation, the Cowboys will win up in Townsville.
Eels v Knights
Both last start losers, the Eels and Knights match-up at Parramatta Stadium in the conclusion to this week?s Super Saturday.
The Knights are playing spoil-sports well, almost getting the goodies last week at Shark Park and can count themselves a little unlucky. Their forwards are starting to get moving and they still want to avoid the wooden spoon, so an upset here could really shake the tree.
But I think that?s a fairly unlikely scenario. Although Parra looked a little flat last week and have been struggling away from home, I?m sure Brian Smith has sent a barrage of text messages this week to make sure they turn up with their game faces on. It might also be a haunting experience for Joey, who 18 months ago lay writhing in agony on the turf at this stadium, clutching at his knee after rupturing the ACL inside it. Eels by a few.
Storm v Roosters
Olympic Park is our next venue, with the Storm facing a desperate Roosters outfit and both teams wanting the cash.
Melbourne?s exceptional for and against virtually provides them with another win when you sit them on the ladder. Following last week?s defeat at the hands of Brisbane, facing the Roosters might be just what they need. Scott Hill is still out and the attention given to Matt Orford?s departure may have seen them take their eye off the ball at training this week.
The Bondi boys will be fighting tooth and nail for this one and it could spell three losses in a row if they fail. If all the results fall as I predict, they will be fighting it out for 8th spot over the next six weeks, but when?s the last time that happened! I think the Storm will get them here, the Rooster?s defense last week was woeful, but it?s a bit 50-50.
Dragons v Sharks
One of the last genuine local derby?s remaining in the greatest game of all takes place on Sunday in what is sure to be a real monty out at Kogarah Oval.
The Dragons, fresh from their slaying of the Sea Eagles, will need to be very careful here. Too often they get a little carried away with themselves and lose focus at the most important of times. Generally this is when you think you can trust them to win which, given Cronulla?s form and the whisper about Kimmorley being ruled out, would be right about now.
The Sharkies have been struggling for a number of weeks now and are in danger of plummeting from third spot. If they were to lose this one by 14 and the Storm, Cowboys and Tigers all win along with the bye to Manly, they will find themselves occupying eighth position. I?m not sure if that will happen, but I?m pretty sure the Dragons will win.
Tigers v Rabbitohs
Round 20 winds up with another great treat for the masses when the Tigers match-up against Souths in the daunting surrounds of Leichhardt Oval.
Wests are coming off the bye which has sounded the death knell for most teams this season. Back in round 3 the Tigers shocked Canterbury by winning after the week off but it won?t be as much of a shock when they beat the Rabbitohs.
We look forward to seeing how rookie halfback Beau Champion goes for the Bunnies, he?s a solid distributor and very athletic. After winning their last two, I just can?t see Souths getting home against the Tigers who have so much to play for. Their youth gives them plenty of enthusiasm and they would have been chewing the laminate off the kitchen bench during the week whilst waiting to get out there on Sunday.
The Sea Eagles have the bye this weekend and will still be licking their wounds after the savaging by St George last start. It looks like the wagon is falling apart out at Brookvale and they will need to do some serious soul-searching if they are to make the finals.