VB NSW Cup: Round 20 previews
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Newtown Jets
Belmore Sports Ground, Friday, July 25, 7.00pm
Referee: Damian Briscoe
The Newtown Jets reignited their finals hopes with a staggering come from behind 31-30 win against the Panthers last Saturday. Trailing 30-6 deep into the second half, the Jets played a faultless final 20 minutes of rugby league, and eventually got out of jail off the back of a Scott Dureau field goal. The Bulldogs also tasted success last Saturday when they posted a ten point win against the Tigers at Leichhardt Oval. Pat Templeman played perhaps his best game in the VB NSW Cup, and the Dogs will look for him to continue that type of form here. Despite sitting three competition points behind the eighth placed Knights, the Jets position is perhaps not quite as precarious as it may seem. The Jets still have a bye in hand over the Knights, so they are effectively just one point behind the Knights, and their comparatively poor for and against should not be a factor unless either the Jets or Knights have another draw before seasons end. In team news, Nathan Stapleton has been named at fullback for Newtown with his place in the centres taken by Rhyse Martin while Heath L’Estrange replaces Kurt Kara at hooker. For the Bulldogs, Lachlan Burr has been named after not going around last week while NYC star Adam Elliott will get another taste of open age footy after scoring a double on debut against the Tigers.
Friday Night Lights: With no NRL on anywhere in Sydney this Friday night, it is the perfect opportunity to head out to Belmore and take in what should a tightly contested affair. There is always plenty of feeling between these two clubs when they lock horns, and with the Dogs looking to wreak havoc on sides’ finals chances over the concluding rounds, it looms as a very interesting clash indeed.
Prediction: A tough one to pick, but with the Jets season on the line, they must find a way to get the job done. Jets by 4.
Penrith Panthers Vs Cronulla Sharks
Carrington Park, Bathurst, Saturday, July 26, 12.40pm
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
The good people of Bathurst will be in for a footballing treat when the ladder leading Panthers, looking to bounce back from their first loss in some three months, take on an ever dangerous Sharks side at Carrington Park. Cronulla showed last week that they have the offensive firepower to match it with any side in the competition, home or away, as they dropped 40 on Wentworthville. With outside backs Nathan Gardner, Justin O’Neill, Travis Robinson and Kurt Mann currently at Tony Herman’s disposal, the Sharks are beginning to loom as a side that no one is going to want to face come finals time. The Panthers would not have been impressed by the fashion in which they lost last week’s match. Undoubtedly Garth Brennan would have read the riot act to his troop’s midweek, as no side should really ever surrender a 24 point lead with even less minutes remaining on the clock. In some good news for the Panthers, both Dave Simmons and Ben Murdoch-Masila return from injury for this one, with Simmons in particular, looking for a big game in search of a return to first grade in the near future. Both Tupou Sopoaga and Matt Prior have not been named here for Cronulla but may yet play if not required in first grade, while Kurt Mann comes into the side for Young Tonumaipea who looks set to travel to Brisbane with the Storm.
Cool Kumul: Hopefully someone down in the shire has tipped off Mark Mexico as to the expectant weather that he is likely to face when the Sharks team bus pulls into Bathurst later this week. Given that Mexico has lived and played in the humidity and high temperatures of PNG for most of his life, it is probably unlikely that he has ever played a match in the conditions that he is set to face on Saturday. The Bureau of Meteorology predicts a top of 13 degrees on Saturday with a possible shower, however if the breeze picks up, this expected top may be optimistic at best. If he thought moving to Sydney was a change of pace, let’s see how he handles the cool clean air out west.
Prediction: Look for the Panthers to bounce back and atone for a round eight loss to Cronulla. Panthers by 6.
Wests Tigers Vs North Sydney Bears
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, July 26, 3.00pm
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (893fm.com.au)
The Wests Tigers have lost three of their last four, with the lone win over that stretch coming against this weekend’s opponents, the North Sydney Bears. Some injuries and the loss of the likes of Mitchell Moses, Blake Austin and Keith Lulia to the first grade squad has certainly not helped the Tigers during this run, but with the club now only tentatively holding onto the top four spot that they have held for the majority of the season, a win here is a must. The Bears showed us once again last week that they can hold their own against any opposition for large periods of matches, but translating that into a full eighty minute performance continues to be the issue. The Bears have led both the Tigers and Cutters in the second halves of matches over the past fortnight, only to still lose those games by double figure margins. The Bears will be buoyed by the inclusion of former Blues winger, Nathan Merritt for this one while the Tigers have named Michael Stevens at halfback after Corey Brown started there last week.
Metre Eater: Asipeli Fine has been one of the Tigers best this season and this is backed up by statistics. Fine is the ninth most active runner of the ball in the competition, having carried it up on 205 occasions, and these carries has seen him gain almost 1900 metres all up. Add to this the fact that Fine has featured in 18 of the Tigers 19 games thus far, and you can understand why he is likely to feature prominently in the Tigers end of season awards.
Prediction: The Tigers need the win to maintain their top four spot. Tigers by 8.
Illawarra Cutters Vs Wentworthville Magpies
WIN Stadium, Saturday, July 26, 3.00pm
Referee: Daniel Olford
A strong second half performance saw the Cutters return from North Sydney Oval with the two competition points last weekend while Wenty got caught up in a game of touch footy with the Sharks at Ringrose Park and came out of it on the wrong side of the ledger. Wenty have shown in 2014 that there is no issue with their attack, averaging 30 points a game, which ranks first, only marginally better than the Panthers who average 29.8 points a game. The issue for Wenty is their defence. The Magpies have conceded on average a touch over 27 points a game, and only the sides sitting in 10th-13th place have allowed more points. After conceding another 40 to the Sharks last weekend, it’s likely the Magpies may have spent some time on the tackling bags at training this week. The Cutters continue to be the silent achievers of this year’s competition as they have snuck up into third spot with just over a month of the regular season remaining. Whether or not the Cutters have the side that is capable of challenging for the premiership remains to be seen, but they are certainly giving themselves every chance by finishing as high as possible. Not a lot to report in terms of team changes with both sides set to carry very similar sides into this weekend’s clash.
Battle for Second: It’s fairly simple, the side that wins this clash will be sitting in second spot by rounds end. With the best for and against in the top eight, outside of the Panthers, the Cutters would move to second with a win, while a loss for Wenty could well see them slip to fourth spot if the Tigers were to also win this round. In fact, unlike the Cutters, Wenty’s for and against is actually quite poor compared to the sides around them, so they know they must keep winning to maintain their spot on the competition table.
Prediction: Another tough one for the tipsters, perhaps the home side in a close one. Cutters by 2.
Wyong Roos Vs Newcastle Knights
Morry Breen Oval, Saturday, July 26, 3.00pm
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au
The Wyong Roos season is on the line here when they host a Knights side that put 54 points on them when they first met back in Round 7. The Roos had a wonderful opportunity last week to join the Knights on 22 competition points as they chased a six point deficit against a 12-man Warriors side for the best part of an hour, only to come up just short. The Roos had ample opportunity against the Warriors but were their own worst enemy at times and almost seemed void of ideas when attacking the visitor’s line. Look for the home side to throw a lot of different looks at the Knights this week in attack with a number of set plays worked on during the week. Despite picking up the easy two points courtesy of the bye last round, the Knights do have some issues due to injuries and the like in first grade. It appears that Chanel Mata’utia will join his brother Sione in making their first grade debuts this week after Akuila Uate was ruled out in the NRL. Expect Honeti Tuha to come into this side at fullback and Brayden Wiliame to shift out onto the wing. Zane Tetevano will come up against his old side here after being released by the Knights almost two months ago while Tekina Vailea comes straight back into the Wyong starting 13 as he returns from suspension.
The Race for Breathing Space: So here it is, the Knights enter this match two points clear of the Roos in eighth, and a win here would see them move four points ahead. Given their vastly superior for and against, one would imagine it would be mighty hard for the Roos to gain the points that they would require over the remaining month to bridge back that gap. But even with all of this said… the Knights may then have to worry about a resurgent Jets team. It’s going to be an interesting last month or so that’s for sure.
Prediction: The Roos will be desperate but the Knights should still be a touch too classy in the end. Knights by 7.
NZ Warriors Vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday, July 27, 11.40am (NZT), 9.40am (AEST)
Referee: Jamal Thompson
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
The Warriors will be happy to be playing at home once again after what was a fantastic away win for the club last weekend. Reduced to 12 men in the first half, the Warriors dug deep and found a way to cling on for a famous win. Manly were perhaps a tad unlucky to not also join the Warriors in the winner’s circle as the rattled home to eventually fall just two points short against Mounties. Long time Tiger, Sean Meaney debuted for Manly last week, and has once again been named on the bench, but it wouldn’t come as a shock to us to see him start at fullback or even at number six. Manly, much like Canterbury, won’t feature in this year’s final’s series, however have enough talent to be more than nuisance value to clubs like the Warriors over the concluding rounds. When these two sides met in Round 10, it was the Warriors who saluted, but only by a four point margin, so they will know all too well what the Sea Eagles are capable of when they are playing to their best. The Warriors will welcome back Solomone Kata, David Fusitua, Agnatius Paasi and Tuimoala Lolohea for this one, as the Warriors look to be fielding close to their strongest side possible for this all important clash.
The Heart of A Warrior: As alluded to above the Warriors had one of their finest wins last weekend when they accounted for the Roos by two points at Morry Breen Oval. With Charlie Gubb given ten in the bin for striking and then Ken Maumalo sent off for dangerous contact, the Warriors effectively defended a six point lead for one hour. They showed tremendous team spirit and the type of intestinal fortitude that is not always associated with the side from the land of the long white cloud. The biggest danger this week may well any associated fatigue that has sprung into the Warriors legs following what must have been both a physically and emotionally draining win against Wyong… Watch this space.
Prediction: A win to the Warriors may very well mean a top four spot by rounds end. Warriors by 12.
Mounties have the BYE