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VB NSW Cup: Round 7 previews

Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell returns to the NSW Cup this weekend, the competition where he played the earlier rounds of the 2014 season. Copyright: Col Whelan/NRL Photos Credit: Col Whelan/NRL Photos Copyright: Col Whelan/NRL Photos
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Wests Tigers
Belmore Sports Ground, April 19, 3pm 
Referee: Damian Briscoe
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (893fm.com.au)

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be desperate to arrest a winless run that now extends back to Round 2 while the Tigers will look to bounce back after last round's loss to the Panthers. The Bulldogs controlled large portions of last weekend’s game against the Warriors yet lacked the necessary polish at times to make the most of their field position and possession. The Tigers hung with the Panthers for most of the 80 minutes, but similarly to the Bulldogs, didn’t make the most of their opportunities. A lot of responsibility is currently falling on the young shoulders of the Bulldogs halves in McGrady and Mbye. We wouldn’t be surprised if Andrew Patmore contemplated moving Damien Cook into number six at varying stages of the match to help absorb some of that responsibility. Former Bulldog Daniel Abou-Sleiman has been named at fullback for the Tigers here and he will be out for a big game against his former club. Young Manaia Cherrington will take the place of Joel Luani here who has been called up to the NRL as a replacement for the injured Robbie Farah.

Battle of the Beasts: Many good individual match ups await here but none more so that up front with Sam Kasiano and Ben Murdoch-Masila. Murdoch-Masila has possibly been the form forward of the competition of late while we all know what Kasiano is capable of at his best. Both very different players yet very effective in their own way. Should be a beauty.

Prediction: With each loss the Bulldogs get closer to a win but the Tigers have started the season well and should sneak home here. Tigers by 4.
 
North Sydney Bears Vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 
North Sydney Oval, April 19, 3pm
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (www.steelesports.com.au)

It is not quite time to hit the panic button for these two clubs, but the pressure valve will be released somewhat for the side that wins this weekend while it will mount for the other. The Bears and Sea Eagles currently occupy positions 11th and 13th on the ladder respectively and with both sides facing a tough run over the coming month, a win here is a must. The Bears were unable to repeat their round one win against the Roos last weekend, going down 22-12 while Manly ran into a fired up Sharks outfit and lost 38-10. Manly has named a similar side to the one that went down to the Sharks last weekend while the Bears have once again rung the changes as Wayne Lambkin continues to search for that winning formula. There should be no love lost between these two clubs with plenty of history existing between the two, and while neither club is playing champagne rugby league at present, you get a feeling that this clash is one not to be missed.

Origin-al Sin: There is the very real likelihood that two former Origin wingers will be opposing one another at North Sydney Oval on Saturday afternoon with David Williams and Lote Tuqiri both named for their respective sides. While the hallowed turf of North Sydney Oval isn’t exactly the same as ANZ Stadium or Suncorp, look for these two to go at it throughout with professional pride, and state allegiances on the line.

Prediction: A win to either side wouldn’t shock but look for Manly to register their maiden win of 2014. Sea Eagles by 2.
 
Illawarra Cutters Vs NZ Warriors 
WIN Jubilee Oval, April 19, 3.10pm
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ

These two sides played out a thrilling 12-12 draw back in Round 2 and more of the same looks on the cards at WIN Jubilee. Since that draw, the Cutters have won three straight while the Warriors have won two in a row and could have quite easily have won three straight as well had it have not been for a late slip up against the Tigers back in Round 4. The Cutters have named a strong side for this home clash with Carr and Williams in the halves and Pumipi and Garvey to share the hooking responsibilities. The Warriors will also be bolstered by the inclusion of Kevin Locke who returns from injury and will be joined by Konrad Hurrell. The good form of David Fusitua has been rewarded with an NRL call up and his place in the centres is set to be taken by Carlos Tuimavave. Jarred Wilson scored both of the Warriors' tries during the Round 2 draw between these two sides, so look for the Cutters to not allow him as much room this time around. Feleti Mateo was one of the Warriors' best last weekend against the Bulldogs so expect him to continue that form here as he presses for an NRL recall.

Battle of the Walkie Talkies: Often we highlight individual match-ups worth keeping an eye on and we will do so once again here but with a slight twist. We have a lot of time for these opposing coaches in Ian Millward and Rohan Smith and are fascinated by what they have managed to accomplish already in their relatively short time frames with these two clubs. While they have a wealth of experience at differing levels of coaching, the VB NSW Cup competition brings with it some challenges that you don’t get in the NRL or the English Super League. We take our hats off to these gentlemen for the good work that they have already done and we look forward to monitoring their clubs' progress over the coming months.

Prediction: Maybe Illawarra at home in yet another thriller. Cutters by 2.

Cronulla Sharks Vs Newtown Jets 
Remondis Stadium, April 19, 3.15pm
Referee: Brett Suttor

The Sharks managed to stop their three-game slide last weekend when they blew away Manly to the tune of 38-10 at Brookvale while the Jets notched up their first win of 2014 as they accounted for Wenty 30-22 at Henson Park. The Sharks have named another extremely strong side here for this encounter with nine of their starting 13 having tasted the NRL with another couple on the bench also having done so. Their newest signing in Mark Mexico was strong for the Sharks last weekend and he has retained his place in the starting side for this one. For the Jets, Brett Lane is missing due to injury and his place will be taken by young Tautau Moga. Remi Casty has also been named here for Newtown, so that should help them counter the likes of Mexico and Moors up front for the Sharks. The Jets lost to the Sharks three times last season however on two of those occasions they ran the Sharks right down to the wire and they will be hopeful of a similar performance here as they chase their second win of the season.

Fingers Crossed: Still just 20 years of age, Tautau Moga has already spent as much time on the sidelines during his short career as most 30 year old veterans would during their entire careers. Returning after his second successive ACL injury, Moga will be hopeful that his injury woes are well and truly behind him. A player who has already been compared to Roosters club mate Sonny Bill Williams, Moga has an abundance of talent, and now we all cross our fingers that we finally get to see some of it on the park and not sitting on the sidelines.

Prediction: If the Sharks from last week turn up again, they should be winning. Sharks by 8. 

Newcastle Knights Vs Wyong Roos
Newcastle No.2 Sports Ground, April 20, 3pm 
Referee: Dan Olford
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage (NSWRL.com.au)

The Wyong Roos are coming off a 22-12 win over the North Sydney Bears in Round 6 of the VB NSW Cup, while the Knights had 50 points put on them by Mounties in the Nation’s capital. The Knights had several key inclusions at the last minute in Canberra and they have all been named to start against the Roos this weekend. Michael Dobson, David Fa’alogo and Adam Cuthbertson will increase the experience in what has been a young side in the early weeks of the 2014 season. The Roos have been one of the good news stories of the early rounds. They have excelled under new coach Rip Taylor and will be confident of causing a major upset in this match. Taylor is one of the most experienced coaches in the competition and he will be managing his squad well. The season is only a quarter of the way through and injuries can come swiftly. The Roos need to make the most out of this good vein of form and continue to pressure the competition’s top-four. Josh Mantellato looks set to miss the clash with his junior club as he has been called into the Knights’ NRL squad to cover for the injured Akuila Uate, although there are now rumours swirling that young Jake Mamo may take his place despite being named on Tuesday meaning that he may yet be a late inclusion here.

Magnus the Magnificent: We have already run out of superlatives for Wyong prop Mark O’Meley and his influence in the Roos’ good early season form can’t be argued with but he has also taken Magnus Stromquist under his wing and the results are showing. Stromquist was talked about in representative circles last year and, with O’Meley’s influence, he will more than likely be pushed higher up the selection table in 2014.

Prediction: The additions for the Knights are too big to ignore. The Roos will stick with them until the end but the Knights’ talent will shine through. Knights by 8. 
 
Wentworthville Magpies Vs Mounties
Ringrose Park, April 20, 3pm 
Referee: Chris Breneman

Wentworthville matched it with the Jets for the majority of the match last weekend but at stages looked uninterested. These lapses must end quickly as they face a side who is scoring points at will in Mounties. The Magpies have been boosted by the return of Peni Terepo and Brett Cook will be thanking his lucky stars because his side is about to come up against the most imposing forward pack in the VB NSW Cup. O’Donnell, Learoyd-Lahrs, Nicholls and Coates are all asserting themselves in each and every match so the Wenty pack better be up for the challenge or things could get ugly. One of the highlights for Cook last weekend was the performances of hooker Brendan McKinnon and winger Bureta Faraimo against the Jets. McKinnon was everywhere and, with the hooking stocks at Parramatta not exactly bursting at the seams, expect McKinnon to push for an NRL debut this year. Faraimo was damaging in every run he made against the Jets and his match up against Sami Sauiluma, along with the chance to get your hands on a Wenty burger, will be worth the price of admission this Sunday.

Designated homeless: Justin Hunt will play in his third position in as many weeks for the Magpies as he lines up at the back this weekend. Hunt has played at hooker and five-eighth in previous weeks already. We think he will be more dangerous popping up unannounced in the backline this weekend.

Prediction: These two proud Sydney clubs will face off in all three grades so there will be plenty of feeling come 3pm. Mounties look to have the size advantage and if the game turns into a points fest, they can match it with anyone in the competition. Mounties by 6.  

Penrith Panthers have the bye
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