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Newcastle Knights centre Timana Tahu returns from a severe knee injury for this week's action in VB NSW Cup.

Illawarra Cutters Vs Cronulla Sharks
WIN Stadium, Saturday, June 7, 1.10pm
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ

The Cutters will be out to stop a three game skid that has seen them go from sitting comfortably inside the top four to seventh. After some close losses, the Sharks have rebounded with back to back wins against the Roos and Bears respectively, and will be hoping to continue their winning ways here. A string of players will be missing for the Sharks for this clash with a number of regulars elevated into first grade to face the Dragons while a couple of Storm players will also be unavailable. With this said, they have still managed to name 10 players with NRL experience for this clash. Illawarra are not without their own team dramas with several regulars called into the Dragons side, however the NRL team has named an extended bench so one or two could possibly come back into the side on game day. The Cutters matched it with the Panthers for the full 80 minutes last weekend and a repeat performance here would see them go close to taking home the two points. 

Valentine’s Day: Sharks Holden Cup fans know all too well the talent that young Valentine Holmes possesses. Holmes played admirably in the Under 20's Origin match this year, and his inclusion actually saw selectors move Anthony Milford into the halves to accommodate him. With plenty of injuries at the Sharks at present, another impressive display by Holmes this weekend could well see him force his way into the top grade over the coming weeks.

Prediction: There won’t be much in it. Perhaps the home side in a classic. Cutters by 2.

Penrith Panthers Vs Wyong Roos
Sportingbet Stadium, Saturday, June 7, 3.00pm
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (

A late Tom Humble field goal was enough to lead the Panthers to their fifth straight win and their ninth in their last ten matches overall last weekend. The Roos registered their fifth victory of the season last round with a 36-30 win over Manly at Brookvale Oval. Not only did the win keep the Roos within sight of the top eight, it also equaled their wins tally from their debut season. The Panthers rise to the top of the table is a wonderful endorsement of the clubs overall depth at present. The Panthers have lost Isaac John for the season and have also needed to call upon the services of a number of their Holden Cup squad at times, yet have still managed to put themselves in the driver’s seat entering the second half of the season. Both of these sides will carry near unchanged teams from the ones that got the job done last week so there won’t be any excuses from either camp. Two former NSW Blues will go head to head in the middle with Mark O’Meley and Tim Grant both named to start.

Panther Payback: Sitting atop of the VB NSW Cup ladder, the Panthers have dropped just three matches in 2014 thus far. Somewhat surprisingly however, is that one of those losses was against the Roos way back in round two. A 30-26 loss to the Roos up at Morry Breen saw the Panthers lose their opening two matches, however as pointed out above, they have definitely righted the ship since then. Expect the Panthers to have not forgotten about that night, and they may be in a mood come Saturday.  

Prediction: The Panthers are the hottest team in the competition right now and won’t slip up at home. Panthers by 18. 

Mounties Vs Wentworthville Magpies
Aubrey Keech Reserve, Saturday, June 7, 3.00pm
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (

Both of these sides head into this one off the back of losses in Round 12. Mounties started well enough against the Jets at Allianz only to fall away in the second half while Wenty were never in the hunt against a rampant Tigers outfit at Campbelltown. Wenty lost their spot on top of the table following their loss last weekend, and another loss to Mounties here, could see them fall to as low as fourth spot by rounds end. Wenty will be without Luke Kelly for this one, with the halfback being called into first grade to replace the injured Nathan Peats. As a result, Sam Gorman has been named in the No. 7 however both Liam Foran and Ben Jones could also see time in the halves if needed. Mounties just have the one change with Tom Learoyd-Lahrs ruled out with injury, meaning that Tevita Pangai Jnr will move from the second row into the front row. Wenty posted a 30 point win over Mounties at Ringrose Park back in Round 7 so it will be interesting to see if Mounties can return serve this time around.

Play for the full eighty: A fortnight ago, Mounties almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against the Bulldogs when they faded badly down the stretch while last weekend, their second forty minutes against the Jets was less than inspiring. Mounties have undoubtedly been one of the best sides through the first half of the season, but there are sign that they are just beginning to plateau after that great start. The powers that be at Mounties will need to manage their players well over the coming rounds, with Mounties not getting their second bye of the season until Round 20.

Prediction: Another hard one to tip. Maybe Mounties can avenge their Round 7 loss to Wenty. Mounties by 4.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs NZ Warriors
Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday, June 7, 3.00pm
Referee: Jeff Hartup
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Triple H FM (

The Warriors will be chasing their fourth straight win here as they face a Bulldogs side that should be well rested following their first bye of the season. Despite having not won since their seven point triumph over Norths a month ago, the Dogs have shown in recent outings that another win may not be far away. A seven point loss to the Panthers followed by a two point loss to Mounties would indicate that the Bulldogs are knocking on the door of win number three for 2014. Both Reni Maitua and Corey Thompson will be welcomed additions from the side that went down to Mounties a fortnight ago. As for the Warriors, Carlos Tuimavave has shifted into the halves for this one with Dane Nielsen coming back into the fold. Both Lolohea and Gubb have been named on an extended NRL bench, and with that game in Perth, you would expect for them to travel with the side. Jarrod Tua bagged a hat trick for the Warriors last week so the Bulldogs will have to mark him closely.

Triple Header: This match will in fact be the third of three matches to be played at Belmore on Saturday. At 11am the Auburn Warriors will take on the Belrose Eagles in the True Blue Chemicals Sydney Shield and then at 12.45pm, the Warriors will once again be in action, this time against the Kingsgrove Colts in the Ron Massey Cup. Even if the predicted precipitation arrives in Sydney by the weekend, there is a nice big grandstand at Belmore, and we reckon there are worse ways to spend a Saturday than a cheeky trip to Belmore for an NSWRL triple header.

Prediction: Tipping an upset here with the Dogs to get home late. Bulldogs by 6.

Newcastle Knights Vs Wests Tigers
Lyle Peacock Field, Toronto, Saturday, June 7, 5.00pm
Referee: Matt Noyen
Broadcast: LIVE streamed via BarTV Sports & NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via

Having lost their last five matches, the Knights will be desperate to avoid a sixth straight loss when the fourth placed Wests Tigers come to town on Saturday afternoon. After sitting nicely near the pointy end of the ladder some two months back, a string of losses has seen the Knights fall outside the top eight for the first time in 2014. Rick Stone has had to deal with a number of interruptions to his roster during that time, but with the inclusions of the likes of Clint Newton and Timana Tahu, the Knights appear to be getting back to somewhere near full strength. The Tigers are also fielding a strong side, and this is highlighted by the likes of Sitaleki Akauola and Brenden Santi only getting a start on the interchange bench. The Tigers display against Wenty last round was relentless and would have certainly sent shivers down the spines of opposition coaches and players alike. These two sides only played a fortnight ago and it was the Tigers who got home by four points on that occasion.

Marika the streaker: The last time Marika Koroibete played in a VB NSW Cup match and didn't score was way back in round six. Since that time he has scored 12 tries in five matches. Rumours persist that his time at the Tigers may be numbered, but with the June 30 deadline looming, we are tipping that there won’t be a shortage of clubs putting their hands up to offer the flying Fijian a new home.

Prediction: The Knights will be hoping that playing at home can help them get back on track. Knights by 2.

North Sydney Bears Vs Newtown Jets
North Sydney Oval, Sunday, June 8, 3.00pm
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (

The return leg of the 2014 Frank Hyde Shield is set to take place this Sunday in a clash that is always highly emotive and more often than not, equally entertaining. The Jets won the opening clash 44-22 at Henson Park back in Round 9 and have not lost since, having now reeled off four straight wins, and moving from last to eighth in the process. The Bears were very competitive against the Sharks at Remondis Stadium last round but once again couldn’t find a way to turn a solid performance into two competition points. Despite sitting in last spot on the ladder, five of the Bears ten losses have been by ten points or less, and even in their recent 14 point loss to the Warriors, they were within a try of the opposition very late in the piece. Coach Wayne Lambkin will be hopeful that his side will be able to start turning these close losses into wins sooner rather than later otherwise any hopes they still carry of playing finals this year will be gone. The Bears have named a strong side that includes Lote Tuqiri, Nathan Merritt and Bryson Goodwin in the backline while the Jets welcome back Samisoni Langi which sees Brett Lane move back to the interchange but they will possibly be missing Willis Meehan who has been named on an extended NRL bench.

Health = Wins: There is probably no real secret as to why the Jets have started winning all of sudden… They are healthy again! Admittedly it probably also took the playing group a few weeks to adjust to playing with Arana Taumata at first, but one needs to only look at this week’s bench to understand better their current state of well-being. Lane, Barrett, Houma and Noble were all starting in matches six to eight weeks ago, and while they are certainly capable of doing so, the fact remains that their being named on the bench, certainly indicates that the Jets roster is in a better spot now than it was back in March/April.

Prediction: The Bears have named a strong side but the Jets are on a roll and will be hard to stop again. Jets by 6.

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles have the BYE

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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