WE are finally back to full rounds of rugby league action, and not a moment too soon.
Unlike the other footy codes, the 2016 NRL finals series is far from settled.
There are four teams outside the top eight who are under the $6 quote to make the finals at Sportsbet.com.au.
Only four points separate 7th and 12th positions on the ladder, which means every week becomes a mini-final for the teams competing for those coveted finals spots.
There are several teams in direct finals competition clashing this week, giving the impartial fan plenty to look forward to.
Readers last week got a massive $6.66 return on our successful multi, so we are confident of going back-to-back in round 20.
This week’s NRL odds are provided by Sportsbet, where new punters can pocket $501 in bonus bets upon joining.
Brisbane to defeat Penrith ($1.30)
Gold Coast to beat Parramatta ($1.42)
Wests Tigers to defeat St George Illawarra ($1.53)
Manly to beat South Sydney ($1.75)
Multi value: $4.94
Brisbane vs. Penrith
Where: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
When: 8pm, Friday 22nd July
Two sides coming off important victories clash on Friday night, both in dire need of a win.
Brisbane and Penrith are each vying for the bottom section of the finals, and a triumph here could end the hopes of the vanquished.
After a terrible Origin patch which saw the Broncos fall from the top of the ladder to the bottom of the eight, Brisbane bounced back into form last time out with a comfortable 20-point victory over South Sydney.
The Panthers scraped a come-from-behind victory over the Eels last week, but a similar performance against a quality outfit such as Brisbane will see them fail.
Retiring veteran Corey Parker returns from suspension for the Broncos, which swings the balance of power in favour of the home side.
We are expecting the home side to kick off our multi in style, hampering the Panthers’ finals hopes in the process.
Brisbane Broncos to win – $1.30
Gold Coast vs. Parramatta
Where: Cbus Stadium, Gold Coast
When: 5.35pm, Saturday 23rd July
The Gold Coast Titans and the Parramatta Eels clash on the coast as our multi rolls into Saturday.
The Eels have endured the season from hell, and any hope of making the finals ended last week after Parra blew a two-try lead to fall to the Panthers.
They are now $101 outsiders at Sportsbet.com.au to make the final eight.
To make things even harder, Origin superstar Michael Jennings will be unavailable due to injury.
The Titans last week crushed the Dragons and currently occupy seventh spot on the ladder – their highest position since 2009.
This week they lose Greg Bird to suspension, which will hurt, but it should not be enough to give Parramatta the edge.
One team has it all to play for, while the other is waiting for a dismal season to end – and for that reason we are banking on a Titans win.
Gold Coast Titans to win – $1.42
St. George Illawarra vs. Wests Tigers
Where: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
When: 4:05pm, Sunday 24th July
Two teams that still harbour somewhat misguided hopes of scrapping into the finals clash on Sunday at ANZ Stadium.
The dream will be officially over for the Dragons ($5 at WilliamHill.com.au to make the finals) on Sunday if they don’t come away with the points.
The Dragons have been woefully inept on the offensive end over the last three weeks, scoring just 16 points in that timeframe.
The Red V welcome back Benji Marshall, who, at his best, has the ability to correct these problems.
The Tigers have recorded only one victory in the last month of football, but the Wests should be vastly improved by the inclusions of Origin stars James Tedesco and Aaron Woods.
We are expecting the Tigers to overcome the Dragons and keep their finals hopes alive.
Wests Tigers to win – $1.53
South Sydney vs. Manly
Where: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
When: 7pm, Monday 25th July
The Bunnies and the Eagles clash at Allianz Stadium to end the round on Monday night in a match that looked much better on paper in the pre-season.
Manly are four points adrift of the eighth-placed Warriors, while South Sydney need a minor miracle to make up the six points required to force their way into the finals.
The Sea Eagles are still $9 outsiders to make the finals in 2016 at Sportsbet.com.au, while the Rabbitohs look to be out of commission at the $101 quote.
Manly bring terrific form into the contest, having defeated the Dragons by a huge margin and the Warriors last week by a solitary point.
South Sydney, meanwhile, have been abysmal in the latter stages of this season.
The Bunnies’ winless streak goes all the way back to round 11 and includes a horrible scoreless outing two weeks ago against the Cowboys.
Manly are building something special; it may not happen for them this season, but their current squad is approaching peak fitness and they could prove a real handful in the latter rounds.
The Sea Eagles should end our multi in style.
Manly Sea Eagles to win – $1.75
Round 20 NRL multi bonuses
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