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Great weekend of footy in store as finals speculation hots up

NRL – Round 20
Absolute ripper round of games in the NRL this weekend – enough to cause the leaders of your respective tipping competition plenty of stress.
The Cowboys-Broncos clash is a toss of the coin as both teams welcome back their State of Origin stars.
The Bronocs will lift and can’t be wriiten off, but their away form has been a little erratic in 2013.
The home ground will assist the Cowboys, but unless they bring their A grade to the table they won’t win.
The Bulldogs will get the Eels – nothing more to add.
The Dragons haven’t beaten the Raiders since 2007, but the the Raiders have struggled on the road this season.
Facing the Raiders in Wollongong is a bonus for the Dragons, who would be full of beans after their big win over the Rabbitohs.
A genuine 50/50 match up.
The Titans have got the forwards to match the Rabbitohs, but injuries to key backs may hinder their chances against the green and reds.
A Titans win would come as an upset, but we’ll find out once and for all if the loss of Greg Inglies has left the Rabbitohs rudderless.
The Warriors are on a roll and the Storm find it tough going after the Origin period.
It should be a wonderful contest.
Dismiss the Storm at your peril, however the Warriors are more than a decent chance.
If both teams produce their best it could be a classic.
After winning three straight games, the Panthers faced a finals contender in the Knights and were made to look second rate.
Like the Panthers, the Sharks have their injury concerns and they will be aiming to bounce back after a heavy loss against the Roosters.
Big game for both teams, but the home ground may get the Sharks home.
The Knights-Roosters fixture is clearly the match of the round.
Both teams are virtually at full strength, although the Knights are missing Kurt Gidley.
It should be a great game and there should be an abundance of attacking flair.
The home ground assists the Knights immeasurably, however defence might get the Roosters over the line.
The Sea Eagles are eyeing a spot in the top four, but if they can’t overcome the Tigers at Campbelltown then the premiership race is a three horse race between the Rabbitohs, Roosters and Storm.
AFL – Round 18 
Having Team 1 up against Team 2 in the AFL is a great way to launch this weekend’s action.
It has been yet another controversial week for the Bombers, while the Hawks welcome back Lance Franklin and Sam Mitchell.
Unlike the Hawks, the Bombers have yet to claim a scalp of major significane this season – downing the Dockers in Perth wasn’t bad – and perhaps the odds are slightly stacked in the Hawks’ favour.
Once thing is for certain though.
If the Bombers win then they will officially be recognised as a premiership threat.
The Suns-Blues game is enough to cause tipsters nightmares.
If the Suns can beat the Magpies at home then surely they can roll the Blues, who they toppled in the corresponding match on the Gold Coast last year.
The Blues were lucky to get out of jail against the Kangaroos, but significantly they have been labelled as a warm favourite against the Suns.
The Kangaroos will defeat the Demons – tipsters must decide whether the margin will be under or over 39 points.
No matter what the Kanagroos win by, the Magpies will probably win by a bigger margin against the Giants.
The lack of key players perhaps proved the difference against the Tigers as far as the Dockers were concerned.
The Dockers, who are a major threat in 2013, welcome back quality players and should get the cash against the Crows, who were super against the Cats.
Speaking of the Cats, you would expect them to rally after a surprise loss – remember how they bounced back after they succumbed at the hands of the Lions – and unfortunately the Saints could end up being the “whipping boys”.
The Cats will win.
The Lions are travelling OK, however the rejuventaed Power are seemingly bound for the finals and as has been the case this year they are terribly hard side to beat at home.
Had it not been for a trip to Darwin the Lions may have been in this match up to their eye-balls – they may still win.
These are the kind of games where the Power have prevailed for most of the season, so for them to let this game slip would come as a surprise.
The Bulldogs were far from disgraced against the Hawks last weekend and many pundits give them a chance against an Eagles outfit missing Darren Glass, Matt LeCras, Adam Selwood and Nic Naitanui.
Have the Eagles put the cue in the rack?
The Eagles were ordinary at home against the Swans, so how are they going to perform in Melbourne minus key players even if the opposition is the Bulldogs.
It’s unlikely the Bulldogs will get a better opportunity to roll the Eagles and if they fail to get the four points then everyone has the right to ask if the red.blue and whites are in fact making progress.
The Eagles can kick goals and Josh Kennedy can trouble the Bulldogs, but they can leak points and the loss of Glass is significant.
The Swans-Tigers game is a great way to end the weekend.
It was hard to fault one aspect of the Swans’ game against the Eagles, which is a worry for opposing clubs as the premiers are still missing key players.
The Tigers have won eight of their past 10 games and surely a finals spot beckons.
Getting the Swans at the SCG will have other clubs looking over their shoulders, but can the Tigers produce the all-round effort against an opponent that has caused them troubles in recent years despite claiming the scalp of the Dockers.
The Swans won’t lie down, but neither will this current group that represents the Tigers.
Super Rugby – Finals (Week 2)
The Chiefs are a difficult side to beat at home, but the Crusaders are well and truly peaking at the right time of the season and as usual they find a way to win.
The Crusaders clocked the Chiefs 43-15 in Christchurch a few weeks ago, so you would expect the Chiefs – the defending champions – to lift at home.
The Chiefs got the Crusaders in a semi-final in Hamilton last year in a match up that should have been the final as the Chiefs smashed the Sharks the following week.
It should be an epic battle and the Crusaders, who decimated the Reds last weekend, are in sparkling form.
However, it’s hard to ignore teams who host semi-finals and therefore the Chiefs, who have re-shuffled their side, won’t be a push over.
The Bulls have never lost a home final and have won 22 of their past 24 games against trans-Tasman opposition at fortress Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls, who were battling for the minor premiership with the Chiefs and Brumbies a fortnight ago, were disappointing in a 30-13 road loss against the Stormers in the final round.
That gives the Brumbies slight hope.
However, the Brumbies were lucky to escape with a win over the gallant Cheetahs last weekend and for them to win in Pretoria would border on the extraordinary.
The Brumbies haven’t got the greatest record in South Africa and the Bulls welcome back key players.
Morne Steyn’s success rate of 86.2% in front of goal at home is also of concern for the Brumbies.

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