Jamie Anderson, NRL.com
Windsor Wolves v Newcastle Knights
Head to head in 2013: Newcastle won 42-28 in Round 6 at Hunter Stadium and scraped home 38-36 in Round 22 at Windsor Sports Complex.
Summary: The first of what should be two cracking games, with the Knights looking to make it three wins from as many outings against the Windsor Wolves in 2013.
The team from western Sydney will be fresh though having had the week off following their comeback win over the Sharks back in Week One of the Finals, and with the return of players like Geoff Daniela, the Wolves will be hard to beat.
Windsor would still feel a little aggrieved that they did not get the points against the Knights in Round 22 when they were denied at least a draw by a late Mantellato penalty goal. As alluded to earlier, the Wolves booked their Preliminary Final spot when they knocked over the Sharks at Remondis Stadium a fortnight ago while the Knights, following a Week One loss to the Bears, had to back up last week but managed to post a comfortable 28-point win against the Tigers.
Interestingly enough, at the completion of the regular season, these two sides finished with almost identical points differentials; however it was the Wolves with the better attack while the Knights had the stiffer defence.
If Kevin Naiqama is not required in the top grade again this weekend, he will be set to take on a number of his future teammates, with the fullback heading to the foot of the mountains in 2014. It will also see Kevin go head to head with his big brother Wes for the first time.
Another interesting clash will see the two VB NSW Cup Wingers of the Year going up against one another as the competition’s leading try-scorer Eto Nabuli takes on the competition’s leading point-scorer Josh Mantellato.
No fewer than 20 players named here have NRL experience, and given the competitive and exciting nature of their two previous clashes this year, another classic encounter is on the cards.
Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1
Broadcast: Radio coverage courtesy of 2GB (Link available via the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page); also courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page); and
Steele Sports Radio (Link available via the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page)
Prediction: Almost impossible to tip a clear-cut winner this weekend. Favouring the Wolves ever so slightly though. Windsor by two points.
North Sydney Bears v Cronulla Sharks
Head to head in 2013: Cronulla won 16-8 at Remondis Stadium in Round 2 and 26-16 at ANZ Stadium in Round 13.
Summary: Cronulla bounced back to their ruthless best last weekend as they accounted for the defending Premiers 54-18 to book a showdown here with the North Sydney Bears.
The Sharks’ season appeared to have been heading in the wrong direction following just one win from their previous four outings before last weekend, but they showed that they are anything but a spent force in this competition and it was the likes of Tyrone Peachey and Nathan Gardner who shone brightest for the boys in the black, white and blue.
The Bears, like the Wolves, will be raring to go having had the week off following their good win against the Knights a fortnight ago, and having lost out at this stage of the finals last year, the Bears will be desperate to go at least one step further in 2013.
The Sharks have had the wood on the Bears during their two encounters this season, but that said, there hasn’t been too much between them and the Bears will arguably field their strongest side of the season on Sunday.
The Bears will be hoping that the Rabbitohs can pull through their NRL Preliminary Final unscathed on Friday night, meaning it would be likely that they would get back the likes of Matt King, Luke Keary and Ben Lowe should they not be required.
Cronulla’s only significant team change this week sees Chad Townsend comes back into this Sharks’ line-up after he played NRL last weekend.
Some exciting clashes right across the park here with the likes of Justin Hunt and Nathan Gardner going at it from the back, while up in the engine room, Starling, Peats and Burgess will go head to head with Vave, Politoni and Taufua. Another match that looks set to go right down to the wire, and should serve as a fitting entrée to the 2013 VB NSW Cup Grand Final the following week.
Referee: Lawrence McDonell
Broadcast: Radio coverage courtesy of 2GB (Link available via the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page); also courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page); and Steele Sports Radio (Link available via the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page)
Prediction: If the Sharks can repeat the dose served up last week they will be hard to stop. Sharks by four points.
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