Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Penrith Panthers
Belmore Sports Ground, May 16, 6.00pm
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (www.hawkesburyradio.com.au) and 2GLF FM 89.3 (893fm.com.au)
Summary: The Bulldogs looked like they have turned a corner in recent weeks. They got just their second win of the season a fortnight ago and they pushed the second-placed Cutters all the way last weekend in Wollongong. Patrick Templeman’s switch to five-eighth looks to have sharpened up their attack and his tactical kicking game has seen the Dogs turn field position into points. Templeman faces a stern test this week against the experienced Luke Capewell. Capewell missed the early part of season 2014 with injury but since returning, he has been instrumental in many of the Panthers’ wins. His role will take on even more importance now with a season ending achilles injury to New Zealand international Isaac John. Garth Brennan has named veteran Nathan Smith in the centres to hopefully box up another international in Krisnan Inu. The Bulldogs are capable of beating any team in the competition if they want to and it is Andy Patmore’s job to motivate a team who is behind the competition leaders and spots in their NRL side are hard to come by.
This Cook won’t spoil the broth: Damien Cook was the best in a beaten side last weekend. The former Cutter tore apart the defence in and around the ruck and we can see him making his Club debut come representative season for Des Hasler.
Prediction: The Dogs will push Penrith all the way but the visitors should sneak home late. Panthers by 8.
Wentworthville Magpies Vs Illawarra Cutters
Pirtek Stadium, May 17, 12.40pm
Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
Summary: Even the most astute VB NSW Cup fan wouldn’t have predicted these two sides would be the form two teams of the competition near the halfway mark of the season. Don’t take that statement the wrong way. We knew they had the ability to challenge the best in the competition but with heavyweights like Cronulla and Penrith boasting almost NRL-strength sides, you could be forgiven for not foreseeing these two sides rise through the early rounds. The Magpies will have the services of Fui Fui Moi Moi and English international Lee Mossop for the second week in a row in a massive boost for Wenty Coach Brett Cook. Dragons NRL Coach Steve Price stated that he will be keeping an eye on the Cutters team this week, especially up front. Young bulls Matt Groat and Josh Ailaomai will have a perfect test in front of them this weekend as they face-off against the two previously mentioned internationals. Cutters Coach Ian Millward looks like he is set on having Kyle Stanley lock the scrum for the Cutters. It will be interesting to see how he uses him in attack.
Keep your Witts about you: Chad Townsend’s guidance of the Cronulla Sharks to a premiership last season showed how important it is to have a classy and experienced half running point. Michael Witt has shown signs he can do that for the Cutters this year. Should Benji Marshall slip into the top grade at the last minute, Witt may be joined by Sam Williams. That halves combination is definitely strong enough to hold the VB NSW Cup trophy aloft at seasons end.
Prediction: All the hallmarks of a classic. Perhaps the home side, just. Magpies by 4.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Vs NZ Warriors
Brookvale Oval, May 17, 3.00pm
Referee: Chris Sutton
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Triple H FM (www.triplehfm.com.au/hhh)
Summary: The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles are chasing three consecutive wins in the VB NSW Cup for the first time in three years as they host a Warriors side that is looking to avoid a third straight defeat. Wins against Newtown and the Tigers in recent weeks has seen Manly move up to tenth position on the ladder, and a win here against the eight placed Warriors would see them pull to within one point of a spot in the eight come the end of the round. The Warriors continue their journey of self-discovery under Rohan Smith, with the side yet to really show us what they are about. Some weeks their attack has looked wonderful while their defence has let them down while on other occasions it has been the opposite with their defence holding sway but being unable to put points on the board. Prolific try scorer, Jarred Wilson, returns for the Warriors to assist in attack while Nathaniel Peteru also comes back into the side to help solidify the pack. For Manly, Luke Williamson has the luxury of naming an unchanged line up from the one that accounted for the Tigers last weekend.
Trade deadline: There are only a couple of weeks left for clubs to come knocking on the door of prospective players to join them for this season. Each and every year a few players make the mid-year move to fill the void at other clubs with the promise of more NRL game time a tasty carrot indeed. There are a number of talented players in both of these squads that could quite feasibly be playing more consistent NRL at some other clubs, so this match may well be a job interview in some regards.
Prediction: The Sea Eagles finally have some momentum and can win again here. Sea Eagles by 7.
Cronulla Sharks Vs Wests Tigers
Remondis Stadium, May 17, 3.10pm
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au
Summary: Two sides with near identical records square off here in what is the second of three games between the two clubs on the day. Both the Tigers (5th) and Sharks (7th) have won five games and lost four thus far in 2014, with only for and against separating them at present. The stats would say that the Tigers are slightly the better defensively while the Sharks the same in an attacking sense. These stats are probably best summarized by last week’s performances. The Sharks shot out to an 18-0 lead against Wenty and went on to score 28 for the match but still lost as they conceded 30, while the Tigers only managed to post 22 points against a Manly team that had been conceding 26 points per game. The Tigers will be boosted this week by the inclusions of Keith Lulia, Joel Luani and Sitaleki Akauolo. For the Sharks, it is always difficult to anticipate just who will take to the park due to a number of factors, including their relationship with the Storm, but their NRL side has named a large extended bench, so anticipate some late inclusions here.
Consistently Inconsistent: We have always said that the Sharks’ relationship with Melbourne is a double-edged sword. Yes, many would argue that the relationship helped carry the side to a VB NSW Cup title in 2013, but you only need to take a look at the Sharks this year to understand better the other side of the coin. Take the Sharks halves as an example of what Tony Herman has to deal with each week. The following is a breakdown of the Sharks halves combinations over the opening ten rounds. Rd 10: Roberts & Manumalealii Rd 9: Politoni & Manumalealii Rd 8B: BYE Rd 8: Manumalealii & Holdsworth Rd 7: Hampton & Holdsworth Rd 6: Hampton & Holdsworth Rd 5: Roberts & Manumalealii Rd 4: Politoni & Manumalealii Rd 3: Roberts & Manumalealii Rd 2: Roberts & Politoni Rd 1: Mann & Manumalealii. As displayed above, only in rounds six and seven have the Sharks carried the same halves combination into consecutive matches and unsurprisingly, the Sharks won both of those fixtures. Some food for thought.
Prediction: The Sharks should be too strong at home. Sharks by 8.
North Sydney Bears Vs Newcastle Knights
North Sydney Oval, May 18, 3.00pm
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (www.steelesports.com.au)
Summary: Both of these sides lost their respective round nine clashes by 22 points last weekend, but in very different fashion. The Knights largely controlled their clash with the Panthers and lead 16-4 with around 20 minutes left to play, only to concede 34 unanswered points in a crazy final quarter of the match. The Bears trailed the Jets by more than 30 points only to rally in the second half to draw within a couple of converted tries, but it was too great a start to reel in. Perhaps the biggest issue for the Bears this season has been their point’s production. While their defence is not great, ironically it is not that much worse than the ladder leading Magpies, but unlike Wenty, who are averaging 33 points a game in attack, the Bears are managing just 18 a game on average. Rick Stone would not have been happy with his side’s late capitulation at Cessnock. An alarming stat for the Knights is that they have lost four matches in 2014, and the closest loss was 18 points to Wenty. In fact the Knights average losing margin over the course of those four losses has been 24 points. The additions of Joe Uluibau and Curtis Johnston for the Bears should help them in attack while Newcastle have lost Chanel Mata’utia but do welcome back Pat Vaivai, Matt Hilder and Nathan Ross.
The air up there: One of the highlights from this one should be the clash on the flank between Curtis Johnston and Josh Mantellato. Two of the better finishers in the VB NSW Cup in recent years, Mantellato and Johnston are both big physical wingers who also provide great cross field targets for their respective kickers on the fifth tackle in the attacking 20m zone. Don’t be surprised to see both of these players get their names on the score sheet in what promises to be an interesting side note to this match.
Prediction: This is a danger game for the Knights but will have to stick with them on form. Knights by 6.
Wyong Roos Vs Newtown Jets
Morry Breen Oval, May 18, 3.00pm
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au
Summary: The Wyong Roos will look to do what no other side has managed to do in 2014, and that is post a win coming off the bye. Try as they might last round, the Sharks fell foul of the curse of the bye. The Roos will like their chances too as they host a Jets side that only won their second game of the season last weekend against the Bears. Josh Davis has moved into the centres for the Jets to fill the void left by Samisoni Langi who will travel to Townsville with the Roosters while Remi Casty will start at prop. During the bye for Wyong, they have released their halfback in Darren Nichols who has reportedly linked up with the Brisbane Broncos, and utility Alex Langbridge will fill the void for this one. A few points of note for this match include the return of Arana Taumata to Wyong, who was with the club for a very brief period in 2013. It will be interesting to see how he is welcomed come Sunday. Chris Taripo had some success against the Roos last season and is coming off a double last weekend, so he will need to be watched closely.
The French invasion: It was already certain that Rip Taylor had been exploring his options regarding brining in some mid-season recruits to the club, but following the loss of Nichols, the club will be desperate to secure the services of an experienced half for the remainder of the season. Johnathon Ford is certainly a player who could assist the club, however despite his ability to play in the halves, usually at six, we would still expect Wyong to be in the market for a genuine number seven. There are currently a few options who may be available following the conclusion of the French domestic competition, but don’t be surprised to see the Roos knocking on the doors of some talented halves that currently ply their trade in the Ron Massey Cup competition. Watch this space.
Prediction: A win to either side wouldn’t come as a shock. Jets by 4.
Mounties have the BYE