Under-fire Eels half Chris Sandow will be looking to continue his good form for Wentworthville this weekend. Copyright: Grant Trouville/NRL Photos.

VB NSW Cup: Round 2 previews

NZ Warriors Vs Illawarra Cutters
Eden Park, Saturday, March 15, 12.40pm (NZT)
Referee: Aaron Donald
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ

Two sides meet here looking to bounce back after round one losses. The Warriors were behind the eight ball early on against Wenty last weekend and never really recovered while the Cutters started well enough against the Tigers, leading 14-6 early, but then conceded the next 28 points to go down 34-14. In team news, Sam Williams will be missing for the Cutters after he was called into the Dragons side to cover for the loss of Michael Witt, while for the Warriors, Ben Henry has been elevated into first grade this week and Carlos Tuimavave will play at six here in his place. Dominique Peyroux also makes his season debut after missing round one. Neither of these teams would have been happy with their round one defence as they conceded 13 tries between them. Look for both sides to muscle up early on in an attempt to rectify some of last week’s defensive woes.

Home Cooking: After a loss on Australian soil last weekend the Warriors will be looking forward to lacing up the boots in front of their fans in Auckland. This will be the first of a number of games this year for the Warriors at Eden Park, and the home side will be keen to make the most of their fixtures which don’t require a plane ride. It is yet to be determined if the Warriors will struggle to win in Australia like the Vulcans before them, but regardless, home wins are vital for all sides, particularly those with heavy travel requirements.

Prediction: The Warriors will be keen to impress in what will be their first ever home fixture in the VB NSW Cup and should prove too strong. Warriors by 10.
 
Wests Tigers Vs Cronulla Sharks 
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, March 15, 3pm
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (893fm.com.au)

Two of the more impressive victors from week one square off here as the Tigers play host to the Sharks at Campbelltown. The Tigers recovered from a sluggish start against the Cutters to pile on the points in an impressive 20-point win while the Sharks put 38 points on the scoreboard in quick time before coasting to an eight-point win against the Bulldogs. Blake Austin was the star of the show for the Tigers, scoring three tries and playing a leading hand in several others. Michael Lichaa also scored three tries for the Sharks - quite spectacularly, he managed to accomplish the feat in five minutes. For the Sharks, Kurt Mann will switch to fullback to cover for the loss of Nathan Gardner to injury, which means Pat Politoni will find himself partnering Penani Manumalealii in the halves. For the Tigers, Kurtis Rowe has been named to start after missing round one. The clash between opposing wingers Taqele Naiyaravoro (Tigers) and Nathan Stapleton (Sharks) should be one which entertains the crowd and keeps the scoreboard attendants on their toes.

Austin Powers: Having come within a win of leading the Windsor Wolves to a VB NSW Cup Premiership last season, Blake Austin made the move to Wests Tigers over the summer, and judging on his performance last Saturday it appears to be a good move. There is every chance that Austin will find his way into the Tigers’ NRL squad in the coming rounds, but in the interim, look for Austin to keep running hot in the VB NSW Cup.

Prediction: The Sharks appear a little banged up on paper and this young Tigers side is full of running after their first-up win. Tigers by 6.
 
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Manly Sea Eagles 
Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday, March 15, 3pm
Referee: Damian Briscoe
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (www.steelesports.com.au)

The Bulldogs and the Sea Eagles will be looking for their first wins of the season when they lock horns at Belmore on Saturday afternoon. Manly will be smarting from their Round 1 display, having conceded 50 points at home, while the Bulldogs were taught a footballing lesson early on by defending premiers Cronulla, even though they managed to finish strongly, adding some respectability to the final margin. Luke Williamson has named an unchanged line up here for Manly while for the Bulldogs, Tim Lafai has been named in the centres and Tyrone Phillips has shifted back to his more favoured fullback role. Both of these sides field very young rosters in this competition but it will be perhaps the more experienced backrow of Alaalatoa, Maitua and Burr that may give the Bulldogs the edge on the weekend.

Hot Dogs: Despite their accumulative youth, there is plenty to like about this young Bulldogs backline. Players such as Sila, Phillips, Templeman and Graham have all shined at different stages of their junior development, and have shown enough in recent times to suggest that they have a future in open-age football. But like anything new, it may take time for all of the ingredients to come together and work in harmony. There will probably be weeks when this Dogs backline is electric and on song but Dogs fans will need to be patient as there may also be weeks when things just don’t click. Either way, it won’t be boring, that’s for sure.

Prediction: The Dogs showed enough late against the Sharks to suggest that they should be winning here. Bulldogs by 8.

Wyong Roos Vs Penrith Panthers 
Morry Breen Oval, Saturday, March 15, 6pm
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM ( www.hawkesburyradio.com.au)

The Wyong Roos play their second home match to start the season, hosting a Panthers side out to make amends for a first-up loss. Much was expected of the Panthers last weekend against the Knights however they struggled to get a foothold in a match that they were always chasing. The Roos started strongly enough in a scrappy encounter against the Bears however they couldn’t get their hands on the ball in the second half and found themselves racking up far too many errors. In team news, Will Smith has shifted from the halves to the centres for Penrith to accommodate Daniel Foster while the Roos will take a near unchanged line up from last week into this one. The Roos were very competitive in two losses against the then Windsor side last season and will be hopeful of giving the Panthers all they can handle once again here. If the home side is to cause an upset, they will be looking for 2013 VB NSW Cup Player of the Year Mitch Williams to lead the way.

Operation Completion: It wouldn’t have taken a rocket scientist to work out what these two sides would have been working on at training this week. Both sides only completed around 50% of their sets in round one losses, and with sides aiming to complete closer to 75-80% of their sets each week, both sides would not have been happy with their handling. Expect to see a sharp improvement in this area this weekend by both sides.

Prediction: Hard to tip against the Panthers who will be smarting after their round one home loss. Panthers by 14.
 
Wentworthville Magpies Vs Newtown Jets
Ringrose Park, Sunday, March 16, 3pm
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: Radio coverage courtesy of ALIVE fm (alive905.com.au)

Our first chance to see Newtown in action after a round-one bye will be a baptism by fire as the Jets head to Ringrose Park to face a Wenty side which looked ultra-impressive first up. Chris Sandow, Lorenzo Ma’afu and Ken Sio were the stars as the Magpies posted a 38-24 win against the Warriors last weekend. Sandow in particular has been the centre of much speculation recently regarding his future, and whether it ultimately lies at Parramatta or another club, Sandow showed last week that he is more than up to the challenge. David Gower and Mitchell Allgood have been added to an extended NRL bench for the Eels but still may make an appearance here if their services are not required at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night. Justin Hunt hasn’t been named this week by Wenty but Brenden Santi and Pat Mataele will make their first appearance of the season. With the Parramatta wingers in Radradra and Toutai both bagging hat tricks last weekend, look for Sio to have another big one here to keep his name in the NRL selection frame in the coming weeks.

Some Old Some New: There are some new faces at the 2014 Newtown Jets, and a number of them are set to pull on the royal blue and white for the first time in the competition. Jonathan Reuben (Raiders), Bobbie Goulding Jr (Wakefield) and David Harris (Wests Tigers) are just a few of the new names at the club while prolific tryscorer Brett Lane (Bulldogs) is back at the club for a second stint at Henson Park. It will be interesting to see how these new names mix with some of the club’s more established players over the coming rounds. 

Prediction: The Magpies were very impressive last weekend and having no real form reference for the Jets yet, it’s hard to go past the home side. Magpies by 8.
 
Newcastle Knights Vs Mounties
Hunter Stadium, Sunday, March 16, 4.15pm 
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre (NSWRL.com.au)

Two first up winners do battle here as the Newcastle Knights welcome Mounties to Hunter Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Mounties find themselves on top of the table courtesy of a comprehensive win over Manly last Saturday while the Knights went to Sportingbet Stadium and ground out a very nice win against the Penrith Panthers. With Ricky Stuart keeping the faith in his Raiders line up for round two, Mounties find themselves fielding a strong side once again with Lagi Setu, Mosese Pangai and Mark Nicholls all added to the squad. The Knights may or may not lose Matt Minto to first grade, but will have the services of Adam Clydesdale, who makes his first start of the season. The Knights’ goal line defence in the second half last weekend was strong and with a high-octane Mounties offence coming to town, Rick Stone will be hoping that they can once again negate the opposition’s advances.

On a Wing and a Prayer: One of the potential highlights of this fixture is the real quality that both of these sides possess out on the flanks. The Knights’ combination of Chanel Mata’utia and Josh Mantellato may well end up being the most effective in the competition by season’s end while the Mounties pairing of Sami Sauiluma and Jeremy Hawkins will undoubtedly provide plenty of highlights of their own over the course of the year. These four combined for seven tries in round one so look for at least a few of these guys to get their names on the scorer’s sheet again this Sunday.

Prediction: Possibly the closest match of the weekend on paper, with both sides a realistic chance of posting a win. Knights by 2.

North Sydney Bears have the bye