NZ Warriors Vs Wests Tigers
Westpac Stadium, March 29, 2.45pm (NZT)
Referee: Aaron Donald
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
Just like their NRL side, the Wests Tigers VB NSW Cup team has a whole new set of youngsters ripping and tearing each and every week. Kyle Lovett, Kurtis Rowe and Nathan Brown have provided Paul Fletcher with some extra pep in the early part of season 2014 and this week they face another young side with plenty of skilful NYC graduates in the Warriors. Rohan Smith looks to have opted for Siliva Havili instead of Michael Sio at starting hooker in a change that we think will benefit the Warriors ruck and give their big forwards some much needed direction. The Warriors ‘Mr fix it’ Steve Waetford moves into the five-eighth role this weekend and his match up with the in-form Blake Austin will be worth getting to Westpac Stadium early to watch. Some of the Warriors squad will have been involved in the boil-over in Wellington last year when the Wyong Roos ambushed the Vulcans so they will be desperate to perform for their fans in the capital. Reports from Wyong last weekend suggest that Paul Fletcher’s bench was the difference in what was a war of attrition and the battle between them and their Kiwi counterparts could decide this one.
Ticking time bomb: You just get that feeling that this Warriors team is ready to explode into contention in the VB NSW Cup. Rohan Smith would have been frustrated with some of the play-making decisions last weekend but he is an excellent coach and his influence will soon take effect. We have a sneaky feeling this could be their week.
Prediction: Both teams will trade tries all game but the Warriors will get their season started and win in a close one. Warriors by 8.
Illawarra Cutters Vs Newtown Jets
WIN Stadium, March 29, 3pm
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (www.steelesports.com.au)
The Illawarra Cutters put the VB NSW Cup competition on notice last weekend with an impressive 34-22 win over reigning premiers Cronulla at Remondis Stadium. The Jets went down to Mounties 38-16 after starting well at Aubrey Keech Reserve. While Jets coach Greg Matterson is a hard marker, you wouldn’t be too concerned with last weekend’s result as their halfback played his first game in the club’s colours and only participated in one training session with the side during the week. Arana Taumata has had a full week with his new teammates and will be better for the run last weekend. The Jets have plenty of talent floating around with several graduates of an impressive Roosters NYC side last year. Rhyse Martin, Samisoni Langi and Jack Siejka seem to be adjusting to the physicality of the VB NSW Cup each week and better performances won’t be far away. The main test for the Jets will be to contain Illawarra’s in-form backline. The likes of Peter Mata’utia, Charlie Runciman and Nathan Green have been in devastating form in recent weeks and if the Jets can contain these three, they will go a long way to stemming the flow of points for the Cutters.
‘Big Bopper’ at the ready: NRL coach Steve Price has been experimenting with his front-row in recent weeks and this week he has opted for Tyson Frizell in the number eight jersey. Should he want to throw someone from the Cutters a chance we think Josh Ailaomai would be more than capable of matching it with the boys up front in the NRL.
Prediction: Another tough one to split. The Jets look like they may take some time to warm to season 2014 though. Cutters by 12.
Mounties Vs North Sydney Bears
Aubrey Keech Reserve, March 29, 3pm
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (893fm.com.au)
Mounties have started the season like a house on fire and this weekend they will welcome former NSW VB Blues front-rower Tom Learoyd-Lahrs to what is already an imposing forward pack. Learoyd-Lahrs will line up against South Sydney’s Luke Burgess who has been sent to the VB NSW Cup to find some form along with 2013 VB NSW Cup representative player of the year Jason Clark. South Sydney Coach Michael Maguire will continue to play NYC eligible players Aaron Gray and Alex Johnston in the VB NSW Cup hoping they can blossom like Dylan Walker did for North Sydney during the early rounds of the 2013 season. For Mounties, Bill Tupou’s elevation to the Raiders NRL side brings in the experienced Gus Aiga to Steve Antonelli’s backline. While Aiga is a powerful athlete, his opposing winger, Curtis Johnston, will have a considerable height advantage and the Bears will look to exploit this as a fifth tackle option. It will be interesting to see if Mitch Cornish can continue to raise his hand for an NRL debut. Newcastle players said he carved them apart in round two and with the NRL side looking for halves options, Cornish could make his NRL debut sooner rather than later.
Foster the people: The addition of Dean Pay to Canberra’s coaching staff seems to have given Foster a new breath of life. He has been in imposing form of late both in attack and defence. Canberra has plenty of depth in the back row but if Foster can continue this early season form, he will be in the frame for Ricky Stuart’s NRL side soon.
Prediction: Hard to see Mounties being beaten at home after their good start to the season especially with the added impetus of Learoyd-Lahrs. Mounties by 10.
Newcastle Knights Vs Cronulla Sharks
Hunter Stadium, March 30, 12.45pm
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre (NSWRL.com.au)
The Knights recovered from a slow start against the Bears last Saturday to pile on the points and claim a runaway 50-22 win while the Sharks were always chasing the Cutters in their 34-22 loss at Remondis Stadium. Both of these sides continue to miss a number of troops due to a significant injury toll at their respective clubs, but still manage to field very classy outfits nonetheless. The Knights pack in particular looks a beauty with players such as Houston, Hilder, Waddell and Tetevano while the Sharks will field at least 10 players with first grade experience. Chanel Mata’utia continues to find the line for the home side after he scored his fourth try of the season against the Bears while his brother Pat also bagged a double to take his tally to three. The Sharks will be looking for some more fluidity in their play this week after appearing to be disjointed at times against a solid Cutters defence. Look for the Knights to be aggressive in defence and take time and space away from the likes of Manumalealii, Politoni and Mann. Mann in particular is a dangerous commodity and having spent his junior years at Newcastle, including helping the club to a SG Ball title in 2011, the club should be all too aware of what he is capable of.
The BBF: Also known as the ‘Bounce Back Factor’… The Knights certainly showed that the BBF is still well and truly alive after they bounced back from a sluggish performance against Mounties in round two to put 50 points on the Bears last weekend. Unfortunately for the Knights, the Sharks will be looking for their own BBF this weekend after they suffered a rare loss to the Cutters at Remondis Stadium last Saturday. Shapes as a really intriguing clash and one that’s not to be missed.
Prediction: Impossible to predict a winner here. A side that rarely loses at home against a side that rarely loses period. Draw.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Wyong Roos
Belmore Sports Ground, March 30, 3pm
Referee: Damian Briscoe
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre (NSWRL.com.au)
Two sides who both lost by ten points last round, and that have one win to show for their efforts through three rounds of play clash here when the Bulldogs host the Roos. Canterbury were never really able to get a foothold in their match with the Panthers eventually going down 22-12 while the Roos finished strongly against the Tigers but still went down 28-18. The Bulldogs have named an exceptionally strong side here with Kiwi internationals Greg Eastwood, Sam Kasiano and Krisnan Inu all listed to play however with the Bulldogs NRL side playing in Perth, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see some late changes. For the Roos, Mark O’Meley is set to face one of his old clubs for the second time in a month after suiting up against the Bears back in round one. In other Roos news, the ever versatile Alex Langbridge has been named at fullback this week after playing in a number of other positions over the opening rounds. The Roos will have good memories of their trip to Belmore last year when they came away with the two points in a midweek fixture.
Caught on the hop: The Bulldogs will not have forgotten the fact that the Roos managed two wins against them last season. Wyong finished the season with just the five wins however managed to claim the honours at Belmore and then once again in the return fixture at Morry Breen. This is arguably a much different Dogs outfit to the ones that took to the field on those occasions, but stats are stats and Wyong supporters will be hoping that history repeats itself once again.
Prediction: If the Dogs ending up fielding a side anywhere close to the one they have named, they should be winning at home. Bulldogs by 12.
Wentworthville Magpies Vs Penrith Panthers
Ringrose Park, March 30, 3pm
Referee: Jeff Hartup
Wenty managed to pull one out of the fire last weekend when they rallied late to sneak home 30-28 against Manly while the Panthers grafted out a professional 22-12 win over the Bulldogs. The Magpies great start to the season looks to be tested here with Ken Sio and Chris Sandow both called up to Brad Arthur’s NRL side. Penrith on the other hand will arguably field their strongest side yet with the likes of Eto Nabuli, Luke Capewell and Matt Robinson all being named for this one. Garth Brennan and Brett Cook are two of the competitions better ‘thinkers’ so look for a real chess-like fixture here with both sides throwing a few curveballs at one another throughout the course of the match. Justin Hunt has been named at hooker for Wenty which is an interesting move considering he has excelled in past seasons at fullback, wing and five eight. Perhaps after losing Peats for their heavy round two loss, the Eels have highlighted the need to manufacture an effective back up number nine and have earmarked the very talented Hunt as the player to do so.
Encore performance: The Fijian flyer, Eto Nabuli swept all before him in 2013 as he bagged some 30 odd tries and almost carried his side to a VB NSW Cup Premiership. After an injury-plagued start to his 2014 campaign, Nabuli will hit the paddock this weekend and will no doubt be trying to make up for lost time. There is plenty of talent in the Panthers ranks at present, particularly in the outside backs, but it would be hard not to see Nabuli grabbing a first grade debut this year if his form is anything like that of last season.
Prediction: A few key losses for Wenty and some big inclusions for Penrith tip the scales in their favour. Panthers by 8.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles have the bye
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