Holden Cup Round 21 previews

The players to watch and predicted results for Round 21 of the National Youth Competition.

Panthers v Bulldogs

Penrith will be desperate to bounce back from last week's humiliating 52-32 loss to the Titans that saw them drop out of the Holden Cup top two and fall seven points behind ladder-leaders Cronulla. 

They'll start heavy favourites against a Canterbury side they downed 28-12 back in Round 13 but don't be surprised to see a spirited performance from the Bulldogs who will also be keen to bounce back from last week's 34-point loss to the Broncos.

Tip: Panthers by 8 

Warriors v Sharks

The Warriors have won three games this season; the Sharks have lost twice. Putting two and two together, this could be a bloodbath. 

The New Zealanders conceded 70 points last week and must somehow find a way to respond against a Cronulla side that is inching closer towards the minor premiership. 

Sharks halfback Kyle Flanagan averages 15 points per game in 2017 and you get the feeling he could go close to doubling that on Friday. 

Tip: Sharks by 46

Eels v Broncos

The match of the round sees two evenly-matches teams square off in a battle that will have top four implications. The Eels and Broncos sit on 24 competition points - alongside three other teams - and are separated by just nine points on for and against. 

Parramatta claimed a scratchy come-from-behind win over the Wests Tigers but will need to up their game if they want to match it with the in-form Broncos who have set the NYC alight with their attacking brand of footy. 

Brisbane have won four on the trot and have scored 40 or more points in each of their last three victories. Their pace should be too much for the Eels.

Tip: Broncos by 14

Knights v Dragons

They played out one of the thrillers of the season in Round 16 but don't expect such a close contest when the second-placed Dragons travel to Newcastle on Saturday. 

Newcastle's steady drop continued last week when they fell out of the top eight following a heavy loss to the struggling Roosters. Given the nature of the competition, they are only one point behind fourth so there's no need to panic. 

The Dragons had been patchy for a few weeks but bounced back in a big way with a resounding 46-22 win over the Sea Eagles to get their premiership charge back on track. Jason Gillard was the hero with a hat-trick while their halves will back themselves against a Knights defence that has allowed 82 points in the past fortnight. 

Tip: Dragons by 12 

Storm v Sea Eagles

Melbourne kept their finals hopes alive with a crucial away win in Canberra but they still have plenty of work to do if they want to earn a spot in the post-season.

Harry Grant had a whale of a game out of dummy-half and he'll once again be the focal point in attack against a Manly side that claimed a comfortable win when these sides clashed earlier in the season.

The Sea Eagles are one of five times on 24 points and will be stinging after they were humbled by the Dragons in a loss that undid a lot of their good work over the past two months.

Tip: Storm by 2

Rabbitohs v Raiders

South Sydney's mid-season surge hit a roadblock last week when they surrendered a 14-point lead to go down meekly to the Sharks. They sit four points outside the top eight and must win on Saturday if they want to get their playoff push back on track.

The Raiders sit in a similar position on 20 competition points but must find a way to arrest their woeful 1-7 away record if they want to knock off the Bunnies.

Tip: Rabbitohs by 8

Roosters v Cowboys

They might have been without stars Victor Radley and Nat Butcher but the Roosters put in their most complete performance in months to come away with a huge win over Newcastle. Led by halfback Sean O'Sullivan and the returning Joseph Ratuvakacereivalu, the defending premiers looked lethal in attack but remain five points outside the eight with six rounds remaining. 

The Cowboys saw the Roosters performance and raised them with a 70-10 thrashing over the Warriors. When they're on song, there are few teams who can match it with North Queensland. The question is whether they can take their hot home form with them on the road where they have won just three times in 2017. 

Tip: Roosters by 4 

Titans v Wests Tigers

Was last week the start of something special?

Gold Coast produced perhaps their best game in years en route to a crushing victory over the Panthers that featured a backline masterclass for the opening 70 minutes. Their spine is up there with the best in the NYC and they boast some of the best finishers in the game out wide. 

The Titans will fancy themselves against the 15th-placed Tigers, although the black and golds were desperately unlucky not to upset the Eels last week.

Tip: Titans by 16

Last week's results: 7/8

Season results: 100/144