VB NSW Cup: Round 16 previews
Cronulla Sharks Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Henson Park, Saturday, June 28, 1.00pm
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (www.steelesports.com.au)
The Cronulla Sharks showed that their title defence is still alive and well after a 34-point win over Manly last weekend while the Bulldogs ran into a rampant Knights outfit up in Newcastle. With just 10 matches remaining in the regular season it would appear 28 or at worst 26 competition points will be the cut off for the top eight. With that being the case, it would seem that the Bulldogs would most likely have to win at least eight of their remaining nine games, even allowing for their second bye. While this may be a hill too high to climb, the Dogs will still want to finish off the year in style and perhaps even throw a spanner in the works of a few of the more fancied sides in the process. With just the four competition points separating the fourth placed Cutters and the tenth placed Jets at present, every match is now an important one for the Sharks. Currently sitting in sixth, the Sharks are still in a decent position to launch an assault on a top four spot, however a loss or two could see them in real danger of dropping out of the eight altogether. It’s going to be an exciting run into the finals, with plenty of machinations yet to be played out.
Packing a punch: Win, lose or draw, this Dogs pack looks very good for this Round 16 clash against the Sharks. Cook, Perrett, O’Hanlon and Maitua all suit up here after not going around against the Knights last weekend. With so much youth in their backline, the Dogs will definitely benefit from having a few more experienced heads back in the side.
Prediction: The Sharks should be able to do enough against what is likely to be a resilient Dogs side. Sharks by 10.
Newtown Jets Vs Wyong Roos
Henson Park, Saturday, June 28, 3.00pm
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (www.steelesports.com.au)
Perhaps the most important clash of the weekend in terms of top eight aspirations with the 10th placed Jets hosting the ninth placed Roos. Wyong will be confident of securing the two points, having won their last two against top eight sides in the Warriors and Mounties, and winning three of their last four overall. The Roos play a simple yet effective brand of football that is based around completing their sets and forcing the opposition to cart the ball out from deep in their own end. It has been intriguing to watch the development of this Wyong side since their introduction into the competition back in early 2013. There was perhaps a time when sides wouldn’t necessarily pay them the respect that they deserved, but clearly those days are now over. A loss to the Tigers last weekend was the Jets second in a row, and as a result, they once again find themselves outside the eight looking in. Greg Matterson has tinkered with his side’s makeup in a search for that winning formula. Kara moves back to hooker with his place at five-eighth taken by Samisoni Langi. The suspension of Tautau Moga means that new signing Junior Vaivai will get his first run with the Jets.
Return of the Mark: This very column trumpeted the signing of Mark Kheirallah by the Roos a few weeks ago and it doesn’t come as a surprise to us that the Roos have won three of their last four games. Kheirallah cannot claim all of the credit for his side’s recent success, but there is little doubt that he has straightened them up and has definitely filled the void left by the mid-season departure of Darren Nicholls. A former Jet himself, look for the man they call ‘Killer’ to have a blinder against his old club.
Prediction: The Roos will be shooting for three in a row but the Jets might just scrape through at home. Jets by 2.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Vs Illawarra Cutters
Brookvale Oval, Saturday, June 28, 3.00pm
Referee: Daniel Olford
The Sea Eagles couldn’t match it with the Sharks last weekend and now find themselves in a must win clash at home with a Cutters side that has won two of their last three. The Sea Eagles scenario is not too dissimilar to that of the Bulldogs, although they have already had their second bye, so they would most likely need eight wins from their remaining ten matches. The Cutters are currently sitting nicely in fourth place, however due to the compact nature of the ladder, a couple of bad weeks at the office could see them fall out of the top eight, so wins, and more of them, will be what Scott Logan and the Cutters are after over the coming weeks. Illawarra have lost Matt Groat for a few weeks to injury, and his place in the front row will be taken by Shannon Wakeman. In good news for Cutters and Dragons fans, Kyle Stanley has been named to play here and hopefully he will be able to avoid injury for the reminder of the year. The Sea Eagles are almost unchanged from the side that went down to the Sharks, but Jayden Horo comes in to replace the injured Jake Trbojevic.
The Good, the bad and the ugly: Who would want to be a coach? We just can’t keep up with the Sea Eagles at times and can only imagine the frustration it must cause poor Luke Williamson. Some weeks they look like a million dollars and other weeks anything but. As we touched on above, if the Sea Eagles are to be a factor in this year’s finals, they need to find, and hold, some top form fast. At their best this is achievable but like Wayne Bennett said earlier this year about his Knights team “Sometimes you just don’t know which team is going to get off the bus.”
Prediction: The Cutters are playing with great spirit at the moment and should be able to get the points here. Cutters by 6.
Wests Tigers Vs Mounties
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, June 28, 3.10pm
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
The third placed Tigers play host to the seventh placed Mounties here and the visitors will be out to avoid a fifth straight loss while the hosts will be shooting for their sixth straight win. It wasn’t all that long ago that Mounties were equal top of the ladder with the likes of Wenty and Penrith, but a poor recent run has seen them slide right back down the ladder, and while a loss won’t see them fall out of the eight, it will put some distance between them and the top four. The Tigers on the other hand are travelling along nicely at present. Their first grade squad is beginning to get players back from injury and as a result, this NSW Cup side is also looking strong. There is a bit of the Windsor Wolves from 2013 about these Tigers, with a large number of quality second tier players at coach Paul Fletcher’s disposal. The loss of Marika Koroibete to the Storm has been offset somewhat by the signing of John Sila from the Bulldogs, but it will be interesting to see how long it takes for him to find his feet at a new club. Kurtis Rowe injured his ankle last weekend in the Tigers win over the Jets, but the clubs depth should see them able to make do in his absence with the versatile Jy Hitchcox named at fullback for this clash. Mounties are just struggling for fluency at present with a number of changes, some forced, some not, at NRL level wreaking havoc on their ability to play consistent football week in and week out.
Five of the best: Scoring five tries in a match doesn’t happen all too often but Tigers winger, Corey Brown, achieved this feat just last weekend. Playing for the Western Suburbs Magpies in the Ron Massey Cup, Brown scored all five of the Magpies tries in a 28-22 loss. The former rugby convert who had spent time with the Western Force, would probably settle for one or two this weekend, as long as it helps his side keep pace with the VB NSW Cup front runners in Penrith and Wentworthville.
Prediction: The Tigers are on fire at the moment and will be tough to knock off at home. Tigers by 8.
NZ Warriors Vs Penrith Panthers
Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday, June 29, 11.40am (NZT), 9.40am (AEST)
Referee: Shane Rehm
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ & Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (www.hawkesburyradio.com.au)
The hottest team in the NSW Cup makes the trip across the Tasman this weekend to tackle the Warriors, who will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance last weekend. The Panthers have now won 12 of their last 13 outings and although it could be said that they have been winning ugly of late, the main point is that they are winning. Since Round 10, only one of the Panthers victories have been by a margin of greater than eight points. For the Warriors, a 12-8 loss to Wyong at Mt Smart Stadium last Saturday saw them drop out of the top four, and they will be fired up to avenge a 36-8 loss to the Panthers at Sportingbet Stadium back in early May. Dane Nielsen has earned a call up to the NRL following the suspension of Ngani Laumape, this means that Solomone Kata will shift into the centres and Jarrod Tua comes back into the side on the wing. Luke Capewell and Wes Naiqama have been named here and as a result Will Smith shifts back to number one and Wes will replace his brother Kevin, who has been named to play NRL, on the wing. If the weather is kind in Auckland, this game promises plenty of free flowing attack, and lots of points.
Attack from the back: While he may not be quite in the same class as Roger Tuivasa Sheck, Tui Lolohea has some beautiful feet, and Rohan Smith looks set to unleash them on kick returns this weekend. Moving Carlos Tuimavave into the halves alongside Steve Waetford has freed up Lolohea and allowed him to shift into the number one jersey. We can’t wait to see what he has in store with some extra time and space up his sleeve on kick returns come Sunday.
Prediction: The Panthers appear to be getting closer to a loss but should still win this one. Panthers by 4.
Newcastle Knights Vs Wentworthville Magpies
Newcastle No.2 Sports Ground, Sunday, June 29, 3.00pm
Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au
The Newcastle Knights will be out to make it three straight wins they tackle equal competition leaders Wentworthville this Sunday afternoon. After an indifferent few months, the Knights appear to have gotten back on track in recent weeks and will fancy their chances at home against a side that is coming off the bye. In fact when Wentworthville had their first bye of the season, they fell to the Tigers the following week, 52-16 back in Round 12. The Knights are just clinging on to eighth place at the moment and with the Jets and Roos playing one another this weekend, a loss here would see the Knights fall out of the eight by rounds end. Wenty’s last four wins have been by six points or less so a tight affair looms in what is an important clash for both of these sides. The combination between Matt Minto and Nathan Ross has begun to reap dividends for the Knights in recent weeks and is worth keeping an eye on once again. For Wenty, Ben Smith will lock the scrum while Fuifui Moimoi and Taniela Lasalo form a formidable pair of starting props.
Brotherly Love: With both Pat and Chanel Mata’utia currently playing in this Knights NSW Cup side you would think that there is a real possibility that at some time in the coming weeks we may see their younger brother Sione join them. Having just celebrated his 18th birthday this week, Sione is now eligible for a first grade debut. Most good judges will tell you that it is a matter of when and not if for this kid and with the Knights no hope of playing finals in the NRL, perhaps Wayne Bennett may look to blood Sione over the concluding rounds of the Premiership. With that being the case, we wouldn’t be shocked to see him get a run in their NSW Cup side first, and that would certainly be a proud moment for the Mata’utia family.
Prediction: The Knights look back on track after consecutive wins. Knights by 7.
North Sydney Bears have the BYE