Tevita Pangai Jnr warms up for the Broncos' showdown with the Cowboys.
Tevita Pangai Jnr warms up for the Broncos' showdown with the Cowboys. JONO SEARLE

Durko's dissections: NRL previews for Round 21

COWBOYS v BRONCOS

1300 Smiles Stadium, Thursday, 7.50pm

History: Played 51, Broncos 33, Cowboys 16, drawn 2. Last met: Broncos 29-10, round 2, 2019. Ladbrokes odds: Cowboys $2.00, Broncos $1.80

The clash that has been the Queensland showpiece of recent seasons may well be a cracker again tonight, but it unfortunately brings together the two greatest under-achievers of the season. Simply on the basis that the Broncos are still a slight finals chance and on the back of the hiding they handed the Cowboys in round two, the visitors appear the better bet. But on form, who could possibly predict this outcome with any confidence? Opposing captains Darius Boyd and Michael Morgan need to show some leadership qualities. TIP - Broncos

WARRIORS v SEA EAGLES

Mt Smart Stadium, Friday, 6.00pm (AEST)

History: Played 33, Sea Eagles 24, Warriors 9. Last met: Sea Eagles 46-12, round 3, 2019. Ladbrokes odds: Warriors $2.90, Sea Eagles $1.40

Sitting three points out of the eight and fresh from a smashing at home, the Warriors are now drinking in the last-chance saloon. They are conceding more than 22 points a game and against a Sea Eagles outfit currently on fire, this could well be a cricket score unless the Warriors' defence improves. If the Sea Eagles win and the Rabbitohs fall to the Storm, Des Hasler's men could jump into the top four - an irresistible reason not to fail in Auckland. TIP - Sea Eagles

James Maloney is out for the Panthers. Photo: Rohan Kelly
James Maloney is out for the Panthers. Photo: Rohan Kelly

PANTHERS v SHARKS

Panthers Stadium, Friday, 7.55pm

History: Played 92, Sharks 51, Panthers 38, drawn 3. Last met: Sharks 24-20, round 6, 2019. Ladbrokes odds: Panthers $2.32, Sharks $1.60

After their eight-loss, seven-win record, the Panthers appear on the slide again with successive defeats and the absence of the influential James Maloney a huge blow. Another loss will see them slip further away from a finals berth. Conversely, the Sharks, back in the top eight, were most impressive last week and with a healthy roster and some key men returning to form, look the goods in this. The Sharks' 51-38 record over Penrith tells a definitive story. TIP - Panthers

DRAGONS v TITANS

Jubilee Stadium, Saturday, 3.00pm

History: Played 20, Dragons 13, Titans 7. Last met: Dragons 54-8, round 3, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Dragons $1.30, Titans $3.40

It says a lot about the Titans when the Dragons, sitting equal second last on the ladder, are at $1.30 in this two-horse race. Both are playing for pride only, and neither have shown much of that in 2019. Back to near full strength, the Dragons should win in a canter - as they did last season. TIP - Dragons

The Knights will need Mitchell Pearce to be at his best.
The Knights will need Mitchell Pearce to be at his best.

EELS v KNIGHTS

Bankwest Stadium, Saturday, 5.30m

History: Played 52, Knights 30, Eels 21, drawn 1. Last met: Knights 28-14, round 7, 2019. Ladbrokes odds: Eels $1.65, Knights $2.24

On life support following five successive losses and a dramatic slide down the ladder to 11th, the Knights can plan their end-of-season trip - and possibly life under a new coach - if they are beaten on Saturday. The Eels, looking to play finals football for just the third time in a dozen years and at last finding some consistency, will be tough to beat at their new home where they have lost just once in seven starts. The Mitchell halves - Pearce and Moses - hold the key. TIP - Eels

BULLDOGS v TIGERS

ANZ Stadium, Saturday, 7.35pm

History: Played 35, Bulldogs 22, Tigers 13. Last met: Bulldogs 22-8, round 3, 2019. Ladbrokes odds: Bulldogs $2.40, Tigers $1.55

On the eve of proud former Bulldog Steve Price starting work as GM of Football, the substance shown by the 'Dogs in back-to-back wins has been encouraging and maybe a sign that some of the steel is returning to the kennel. But with a finals berth beckoning for the first time in eight seasons, the in-form Tigers will be tough to toss. This could go down the wire. TIP - Tigers

Josh Papalii will lead the way up front for the Raiders. Picture Kym Smith
Josh Papalii will lead the way up front for the Raiders. Picture Kym Smith

RAIDERS v ROOSTERS

GIO Stadium, Sunday, 2pm

History: Played 61, Roosters 33, Raiders 28. Last met: Roosters 30-24, round 9, 2019. Ladbrokes odds: Raiders $2.00, Roosters $1.80

The Roosters may have shortened to $2.75 in the premiership market but they will need to beat even smaller odds to win in Canberra on Sunday. The reigning premiers have not had a victory in the national capital in nine seasons and coach Trent Robinson has never walked away from there a winner. This shapes as a genuine blockbuster, with the Raiders jumping the Roosters into second place if they win in front of what will be a packed house. Both sides have big, mobile and unforgiving packs, and although the likes of James Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell give the Roosters decided elusiveness in the backs, the Raiders boast resilient defence. This will be compulsory viewing. TIP - Roosters

RABBITOHS v STORM

Central Coast Stadium, Sunday, 4.05pm

History: Played 30, Storm 25, Rabbitohs 5. Last met: Storm 29-28, qualifying final, 2018. Ladbrokes odds: Rabbitohs $2.60, Storm $1.48

The astounding reprieve granted Sam Burgess by the NRL judiciary has added much gloss to this standout match, and his clash against fellow giants Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Jesse Bromwich should rock Gosford's stadium. But the Rabbitohs pack still lacks punch and if the Storm reproduce anywhere near the sublime form of last round, they will take an unassailable minor premiership lead. Another clash worth the price of admission will be Cameron Smith against his Kangaroos' successor, Damien Cook. TIP - Storm