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A win over Wests Tigers could see Canterbury back in finals contention soon

Wests Tigers v Bulldogs
Leichhardt Oval
Saturday, 1.10pm

Summary: An extremely important clash looms here for both sides when the Wests Tigers play host to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. The Tigers head into this one having won only one of their past five outings, although it worth noting that three of those four losses were by less than a try.

Much has already been made of the Bulldogs’ woes in 2013 but a favourable draw over the coming weeks means a win here could see them rocket back into finals contention by month’s end.

The Tigers continue to search for troops to fill the void during the clubs current injury crisis, and last weekend it was Paul Simona and James Luff who joined the likes of Brenden Santi and Kyle Lovett in helping to provide that influx of playing talent.

The Bulldogs have also found themselves in a similar position of late with Patrick Templeman and John Sila both being called upon but their side does appear to be more settled.

Joel Luani and Shaun Spence have been named for the Tigers while Allan McGrath will also come into the side for Paul Simona, while for the Dogs, Drury Low returns to fullback replacing young Templeman in what is likely to be the only change to the Dogs’ starting side from last weekend.              

Talking Point: Sila v Naiyaravaro – without hyping this match up too much, it certainly looms large as one of the most compelling personal duels of the season.

Naiyaravaro is a beast that would be a prop at most other clubs, but has the top-end speed to back up his hulking frame, while Sila has been a try-scoring phenom in the lower grades and can go from standing still to top gear in the blink of an eye. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

Prediction: Possibly the toughest game of the weekend to tip. Tigers by 4 points.

Illawarra Cutters v Mounties
WIN Stadium
Saturday, 3pm

Summary: A classic ‘four-point’ game awaits here as both of these sides will be looking for just their fifth wins of the season when they lock horns down in Wollongong.

The Cutters looked set to be the first side to knock off the Knights at home in 2013 last weekend when they led by 10 with as many minutes remaining only to go down in the end by two points. Illawarra have now lost their past four and as a result they find themselves occupying 10th place on the ladder. Just ahead of them in 9th by virtue of having had their second bye of the season, Mounties have dropped their past three but did show some really positive signs in their 10-0 loss at the hands of the Sharks last weekend.

Despite being named here, Mounties will be without Sandor Earl who looks set for an NRL recall after Edrick Lee was ruled out for 8-12 weeks with a broken arm, plus Mounties also lose one of their best forwards in Mark Nicholls who also suffered a broken arm last week.

The Cutters have named an unchanged line-up from the one that came so close against the Knights, and with the obvious home-ground advantage, the Cutters would like their chances of a victory here.

Talking Point: Not just another game – as we alluded to above, this does give you the feel of being a four-point game. In our opinion, these two clubs along with one or two others, are probably the sides that will be in the thick of the fight for the last couple of spots in the top eight over the concluding rounds of the competition. So clearly if that is to be the case, a win against one of these sides is almost a must any time you play them.

Prediction: Prepared to give the Cutters one last chance. Cutters by 8 points.  

Cronulla Sharks v Wentworthville Magpies
Sharks Stadium
Saturday, 3.15pm

Summary: The high-flying Sharks kept on keeping on last weekend with a tough 10-0 win against Mounties, showing us all in the process that they can win pretty as well as win gritty.

This weekend they host the Magpies who are the only side that they are yet to defeat in 2013.

The Magpies snuck home late last week against the Tigers when Ben Roberts slotted a penalty goal in the dying stages to hand the home side a two-point win. Wenty are gripping on to their spot in the top eight and although a loss here is unlikely to see them relinquish that place by round’s end, a win would certainly give them some temporary respite from the chasing pack.

The Magpies will be without both Ben Roberts and Cheyse Blair here as they have earned an NRL recall but will gain the services of Kaysa Pritchard and Jacob Loko.

The Sharks lose Matthew Wright and Chad Townsend for this clash but do welcome back Tupou Sopoaga and Penani Manumalealii while Tyrone Peachey and Sam Tagataese may also be late inclusions on game day if Shane Flanagan decides that their services are not required in the top grade.

Talking Point: The Chad – the worst kept secret in rugby league was confirmed this week when it was announced that Chad Townsend would be joining the Warriors on a two-year deal starting in 2014.

Townsend is an ornament to the VB NSW Cup, a shining example of a player that could have very well tossed the toys out of the cot when he could see his first grade career slipping away but instead, knuckled down, played some cracking football in the VB NSW Cup and has earned himself a contract with an exciting emerging NRL side whose style of play is probably more suited to his own.

We wish Chad all the best for 2014 and beyond but in the meantime we will be watching on with interest as he looks to steer his Sharks to a VB NSW Cup Premiership in 2013.

Prediction: Impossible to tip against the Sharks. Sharks by 12 points.

Windsor Wolves v Auckland Vulcans
Windsor Sports Complex
Saturday, 6pm

Summary: The Windsor Wolves relinquished second spot on the ladder with their loss to the Jets in Parkes last weekend and will no doubt be out to make amends at home when they roll out the welcome mat for the Auckland Vulcans. The Vulcans will be no pushover, however, as they head into this match full of confidence following three straight home victories.

Wins against the Knights, Cutters and Sea Eagles in recent weeks has seen the Vulcans jump into sixth place on the ladder, but with four of their next five matches set to be played on Australian soil and the lone home match a clash against the Sharks, we will quickly find out if the Vulcans are indeed contenders or pretenders.

The Wolves get Anthony Cherrington back for this one after he was ruled out on game day last week with a rib injury and he is also set to be joined by Kyle O’Donnell who was also a scratching for the Parkes trip.

The Vulcans have a couple of key changes from the side that accounted for Manly as they will be without Charlie Gubb in the engine room after he was named for the Warriors on a seven-man bench and it appears a near certainty that Harry Siejka won’t line up after he was granted an immediate release mid-week. With no Siejka, expect Godinet to shift to halfback and Waetford to take his place at six.

It is probably going to be wet and cold at Windsor on Saturday night and if anything this may even favour the visitors.

Talking Point: Home is where the heart is – the Vulcans are a talented outfit but their uncanny ability to instantly turn to water when the customs officer at the Sydney International Airport asks if they have anything to declare must be a serious concern for Willie Swann.

Clearly this is a mental issue and we would be shocked if the club had not already explored options regarding a ‘Sports Psychologist’. If for whatever reason they haven’t, here’s a tip, don’t break routine! If the boys sleep in until 11am on game day at home, let them do it here.

Aussie-based fans of the Vulcans are desperate to see this side at their best, so Willie, we implore you, stick to routine.

Prediction: A real danger game here for the home side but the Vulcans don’t win on the road too often. Wolves by 4 points.

Newcastle Knights v North Sydney Bears
Newcastle No.2 Sports Ground
Sunday, 3pm

Summary: Potentially one of the games of the season as the Knights look to defend their excellent home record and also jump into second place on the ladder when they take on the Bears.

The Knights left it late last weekend against the Cutters but two late tries saw them prevail while the Bears were pushed early on by the Dogs but cruised to their ninth victory of the season in the second half. Both of these sides look destined to play finals in 2013 but as we enter the second half of the season, it is still to be seen whether or not either of these sides are true title contenders.

The Knights have only dropped three matches to this point but the concern there is that all of those losses were away from home, and if you are to win the VB NSW Cup Premiership, all roads lead to Sydney.

The Bears would not be too disappointed with where they are at: only four losses thus far, with two of those being to the Sharks by 10 and eight points respectively. The Bears appear to be travelling nicely however injuries to Souths’ top squad and also how far the Bunnies progress in the NRL finals may yet have the biggest bearing on the Bears’ ultimate success in 2013.

Not too many changes for the visitors with Kieran Vale set to replace Justin Hunt who is set to travel with the Bunnies to Cairns, while Timana Tahu is a welcome addition for the home team and is sure to make his presence felt out wide.

Talking Point: Likiliki Likey Likey – young Toka Likiliki has been going from strength to strength in recent weeks and finally appears to be hitting his straps in 2013, and this spells trouble for opposition defences.

It would seem that Toka wasn’t quite at his ‘fighting weight’ during the early rounds of the competition, but he now looks far trimmer and appears to be playing far greater minutes with increased impact. We are blessed to have so many great young props currently plying their trade in the VB NSW Cup and two of the best will clash here when Likiliki and Burgess go at it.

If you’re in the Newcastle area and have some spare time on Sunday, get down to the No.2 Sports Ground and check out this clash… you won’t be disappointed.

Prediction: Hard to confidently lean either way, maybe the Bears in a classic. Bears by 2 points.

Wyong Roos v Newtown Jets
Morry Breen Oval
Sunday, 3pm

Summary: The Jets will be out to make it five straight wins when they jump on the bus and head up to Morry Breen Oval to take on the Wyong Roos.

The Jets were too good for the Wolves when it counted last weekend and as a result the Jets find themselves in fifth place on the ladder and a win here would see them well and truly knocking on the door of the top four.

Wyong had their second bye of the season last weekend so they should be fresh and wound up for this one. Johno Ford will be set for a big game as he laces up the boots against his former club, but expect the large Jets fan base to still give him a warm welcome on the day. Ben Shorter has shifted to fullback for this clash to accommodate the return of Arthur Brown from injury while we are also hearing that there is some chance that 2012 VB NSW Cup Representative Player of the Year, Marvin Filipo, may be a late inclusion for the club.

No Lama Tasi or Samisoni Langi here for the visitors with their spots set to be taken by Usaia O’Sullivan and Ben Jones.

Talking Point: Well done Jets – we need to take this opportunity to congratulate the Newtown Jets RLFC on what was a great weekend out at Parkes. They along with the assistance of the Windsor Wolves put on a great display of action and both teams need to be commended on their attitudes on and off the park. Both sides assimilated with the community during their stay and all players and staff were a credit to themselves and their families.

Prediction: The Jets should make it five straight up the coast. Jets by 14 points.

*Manly Sea eagles 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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