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Kris Keating has delivered the Bulldogs a sharper playmaking focus in recent weeks; fans will be hoping he can provide some magic for the blue-and-whites against the Bears.

North Sydney Bears v Canterbury Bulldogs
Sharks Stadium
Saturday 1pm

Despite still sitting inside the top four on the ladder, the Bears are currently in the midst of mini-slump having lost three of their past four games. The Bulldogs will be hoping that the Bears don’t choose this Saturday to turn their fortunes around as the Dogs are in desperate need of a win themselves. A loss this weekend for Canterbury would almost certainly see them sitting six competition points as well as a considerable amount of for and against outside of the top eight as they enter the second half of the season. The Bears journeyed to Cronulla last weekend however they certainly showed enough at times throughout the course of the match to suggest that their next win is not too far away.

Jason Clark has been named to return to the Bears, as has Justin Hunt; however it would not surprise if one or perhaps even both still find themselves back in the Souths side before the weekend’s out.

Kris Keating has seen the Bulldogs look a much sharper outfit in recent weeks, and his combination with Jack Littlejohn should be slowly coming together now which can only lead to good things for the men from Belmore.

This match will be the first of a two-game double header at Sharks Stadium on Saturday, so be sure to get down to the ground early and enjoy what should be a close and physical encounter.

Talking Point: Depth chart – Every game in the VB NSW Cup is important but with games to come against fellow top-four sides in the Knights and the Wolves over the coming fortnight, the two points here looks even more so for the Bears. The Bears look to be one of the sides most affected by Origin, and the next six weeks or so will definitely test the club’s depth and character.

Referee: Lawrence McDonell.

Broadcast: Radio courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via or on the Broadcast page)

Prediction: The Bears should be able to bounce back here but won’t have it won until very late. Bears by eight points.

Newcastle Knights v Illawarra Cutters
Hunter Stadium
Saturday 1.10pm

The Knights will look to remain unbeaten at home in 2013. Having already won matches this year at Cessnock Sports Ground, Hunter Stadium and Newcastle No.2 Sports Ground, as well as a match at Leichhardt Oval against the Bulldogs when they were the designated ‘home’ side for a Fox Sports match, the Knights will look to defend their ‘Kingdom’ once again this round.

The Cutters were very disappointing against the Vulcans last weekend and will be looking for a vastly improved performance here. There is cause for optimism though if you are a Cutters fan with Jamie Soward and NSW U-20s player Charly Runciman named here, as well as the possible return of Bronx Goodwin from the injury ward.

The Knights have named a very young side with a number of their players being promoted from both the Holden Cup and the local Newcastle Rugby League competition.

Despite still being relatively young themselves, the Knights will be looking towards the likes of Peter Mata’utia and Zane Tetevano to lead, while the Cutters’ halves combinations of Soward and Drinkwater should determine the fate of their side’s result.

Talking Point: Kick happy – One interesting side note to the inclusion of Soward in this Cutters side is: ‘Who will take the shots at goal?’ Josh Drinkwater has assumed that responsibility for the Cutters of late after taking over from Junior Vaivai earlier on in the year. Soward’s confidence has been shot to pieces of late in this regard so it will be interesting to see if they hand him the honours or just allow him to focus on his general play without also lumping the additional pressure of turning four into six on his shoulders.

Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski.

Broadcast: Live – Fox Sports 1.

Prediction: The Cutters need this win more than the Knights and should play accordingly. Cutters by 10 points.

Cronulla Sharks v Mounties
Sharks Stadium
Saturday 3pm

Mounties head into this one fresh from the bye although they would still be disappointed with their most recent loss at the hands of the Sea Eagles a fortnight ago. No such disappointment for the home side though as they kept on keeping on against the Bears last week with a professional 26-16 win at ANZ Stadium.

The complexion of this match could change quite drastically between now and kick-off with both sides’ NRL affiliates waiting to see how their Origin reps pulled up. The Sharks in particular may yet lose some troops, with Paul Gallen set to miss this weekend with suspension and Melbourne will also need to see how their ‘Big 3’ pull up over the coming days.

Mounties currently sit outside the eight on for-and-against but have named a very strong side here. It would seem that after having signed with a French Rugby club in the past few weeks, we will be seeing plenty of Sandor Earl for Mounties between now and the end of the season.
Hopefully for Mounties and their supporters’ sakes, Earl remains committed to the cause because his first hit-out for Mounties in 2013 against Manly was not up to his usual high standards.

Talking Point: No pushovers – One department where Mounties should not be dominated by Cronulla is in the engine room. All six of Mounties starting pack boast NRL experience and should give a good account of themselves against the ladder leaders. In fact, when you add Pelo, Earl, Bani and Williams to the mix, just three of Mounties’ starting side have not tasted first grade. Can anyone smell an upset?

Referee: Michael Laverty.
Broadcast: Radio courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via or on the Broadcast page)

Prediction: Sharks too strong for Mounties to stay undefeated. Sharks by 10. 

Auckland Vulcans v Manly Sea Eagles
Mt Smart Stadium
Sunday 12pm (NZ)

Summary: The Vulcans look to have turned their season around in recent weeks with consecutive wins at home, and they will have the opportunity to make it three straight when they host the Sea Eagles on Sunday as part of an NRL triple header at Mt Smart Stadium.

The Vulcans’ home form has seen them vault back into the eight and with the likelihood of the two competition points here, the Vulcans will have laid an excellent platform for a second half of the season attack at the top four. The Sea Eagles’ struggles in 2013 continued last week when the Wyong Roos piled on 26 unanswered points to see them relegated to last place on the competition table.

In some good news for Manly, the recent good form of James Hasson has seen him promoted to the NRL, with James set to make just his second NRL appearance after having made his debut earlier this year. With the Warriors one of the few teams in the NRL that will not suffer during the Origin period, the Vulcans as a result will also continue to field a strong side, and this next quarter of the season may see them be able to really push for higher honours in 2013.

Godinet will look to provide the spark off the bench for the Vulcans, and his one-two punch with Mara is one of the best hooking combinations in the VB NSW Cup. 

Talking Point: Bring it on – One interesting individual clash that jumps off the team lists is Esi Tonga and Ngani Laumape out in the centres. Laumape has been one of the form centres in the VB NSW Cup this season, and this form saw him rewarded with an NRL debut. He is a damaging and blockbusting ball runner in the mould of his Warriors teammate, Konrad Hurrell. If Manly are to be any chance of pulling off a stunning upset, Tonga will need to keep Laumape in check while doing some damage of his own.

Referee: Daniel Caddy.

Broadcast: Live – Sky Sports NZ and Fox Sports 1
Prediction: Vs up all the way at home by 16 points. 

Wentworthville Magpies v Wests Tigers
Ringrose Park
Sunday, 3pm

Two sides looking to bounce back from last-round defeats. Wenty left themselves too much work to do in the second half against the Knights and went down 20-14, while a young Tigers side was never really in the hunt against the Wolves out at Windsor.

With Ricky Stuart ringing in the changes at Parra, this Wenty side has taken on a vastly different look this round. The likes of Jake Mullaney and Pat O’Hanlon have earned a call-up while Ken Edwards has also been named as 18th man for the Eels. As a result, Luke Kelly is set to join Ben Roberts in the halves at Wentworthville for the time being, with Jarome MacKenzie moving to fullback to fill the spot vacated by Mullaney.

The Tigers are looking to their youth as they search for just their second win in their past five matches. Players such as Kyle Lovett, Brendan Santi, Matt Groat and Jack Madden are all being asked to help lift this side as the club is still looking to recover from an unprecedented injury toll. It’s not all doom and gloom though with a host of NRL stars on the verge of a return in the coming weeks meaning that help may soon be on the way for their VB NSW Cup side.

Talking Point: Brayden '' – No he is not that annoying bloke from The Black Eyed Peas, Williame is an exciting young outside back who has been on fire in the VB NSW Cup in 2013 and as a result, has earned his shot in the NRL. The former Melbourne Storm U-20s star has had to bide his time since linking up with his new club, but with Ricky Stuart looking long term, he has thrown the outside back onto the wing against the Roosters on Friday night. He will have his hands full marking former VB NSW Cup try-scoring machine Daniel Tupou, but we reckon he is up to it. And in further good news, Williame played for the NSW U-18 rep side back in 2010, so he is one of ours!

Referee: Chris Sutton.

Broadcast:’s NSWRL Match Centre Scoreboard

Prediction: Wenty look to have the stronger side on paper and will be looking to win at home. Magpies by seven points.

Newtown Jets v Windsor Wolves
Pioneer Oval, Parkes
Sunday, 3pm

Summary: After a successful trip to the lovely central western town of Parkes last year, the Jets along with the Wolves have decided to once again take top-notch rugby league out to the country. Last year it was the Wolves who took the spoils, winning the match 34-20, and if you’re a Wolves fan there is every reason to believe that they will do so once again here.

The Wolves head west sitting in second place on the ladder and look set to field a side that has over 600 games of combined first grade experience with no less than 10 players who have tasted NRL action. Conversely the Jets have far less first grade experience but do boast a side brimming with young talent that all look set to play NRL in the future. Names like Napa, Evans, Rokolati, Wells and Houma all look to have above-average ability and coach Greg Matterson will be hoping that his mix of youth and experience can come together over the second half of the season and make a good fist of their premiership defence.

Both of these sides head into this clash on the back of some excellent form with both having won their past three clashes. Some outstanding match-ups right across the park and with the prospect of fine weather over the weekend, a highly entertaining affair should be on the cards for all of those in attendance. 

Talking Point: Parkes Fast Facts – The town is named after the great Sir Henry Parkes… It is the home of the Parkes Observatory made famous by the Australian movie ‘The Dish’… Once a year the town plays host to the ‘Parkes Elvis Festival’… Each year on the June long weekend (this Saturday) there is an annual Picnic Race meeting at Parkes Jockey Club which sees upwards of 10,000 converge on the racecourse for the afternoon which is fairly impressive seeing as though the town has a population of just over 10,000 people… And speaking from experience… It’s pretty cold out there in winter!

Daniel Olford.

Broadcast: Radio courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via or on the Broadcast page)

Prediction: The Wolves will start favourites, and deservedly so, but look for Newtown to avenge last year’s loss in this corresponding fixture. Jets by two points.

* Wyong Roos have the BYE

Stay across all of the VB NSW Cup scores right throughout the weekend by following us on twitter @NSWRL or join in the conversation by using the #VBNSWCUP hashtag.


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