Big Match-ups Round 25

Broncos v Dragons: Ben Hunt v Benji Marshall

When these two men were handed the No.7 jerseys of their respective clubs plenty of pundits raised their eyebrows as to whether they would bring success to their club. Hunt was somewhat of a rugby league prodigy but has taken five seasons to crack a permanent starting spot while Marshall returned to the NRL with his former Tigers tail between his legs following a failed foray with Super 14 Rugby. Although Hunt has 18 try assists to Marshall's 12, Marshall's return of a try assist every 1.08 games is a better strike-rate than all but four players in the NRL (Cronk, Thurston, Maloney and Brett Stewart). Hunt's partnership with Ben Barba is on the same upward incline as that of Marshall's with Gareth Widdop but the two No.7s are the ones most likely to test the opposition defence with a darting run around the ruck. Marshall is a premiership-winning international; it will be interesting to see how Hunt handles the pressure.

Knights v Eels: Kurt Gidley v Jarryd Hayne
The in-form Hayne has set the NRL alight again this season. Not only is he leading the competition in line breaks (22) and tackle breaks (127), the Eels' fullback is ranked second in tries scored (18, one behind teammate Semi Radradra) and third in try saves (18). On top of this Hayne is averaging 189 metres per game. Let's not take anything away from Kurt Gidley though. While he has only played three games in his preferred fullback position this season, the Newcastle captain has averaged 102 metres and recorded 10 tackle breaks. Adding to the intrigue of their clash, Gidley's five Origin games at fullback seasons ago were at the expense of Hayne, who was relegated to the wing.

Raiders v Wests Tigers: Mitch Cornish v Mitch Moses

Two young halves will line up against each other at GIO Stadium on Saturday night, both pulling on their club’s respective No. 7 jersey for the first time. While Moses is simply filling in for injured teammate Luke Brooks and is likely to revert to five-eighth upon Brooks’s return, Raiders fans will be hoping this is the first of many appearances at halfback for Cornish. While Cornish (177cm) gives up 5cm to Moses (182cm), he’s got the weight advantage at 86kg, as opposed to Moses' 80kg. It would appear 'Mitchell' was a popular choice of name in the early '90s, and it will be interesting to see which of the two gains the upper hand come Saturday night.

Roosters v Storm: Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Moa v Jesse Bromwich

The land of the long white cloud has long been producing exceptional front-rowers like they’re going out of fashion, but in recent years they’ve cranked up the output. Which makes this Saturday night’s clash of the Kiwi big men all the more tantalising. When Jesse Bromwich fronts up to Chooks enforcers Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Moa, both bragging rights as their nation’s premier prop and spots in the New Zealand Four Nations squad at the end of the year go on the line, not to mention the crucial battle for supremacy up the middle. Bromwich and Moa have been in tremendous touch for much of 2014, while the Roosters' four-game winning trot has coincided with Waerea-Hargreaves displaying some of those tell-tale signs of 2013, when his devastating charges and brutal defence elevated him to the status of most-feared big man in the game. Cue mouths watering both sides of the ditch. Ding, ding!

Warriors v Titans: Konrad Hurrell v James Roberts

The two key strike weapons for their respective sides, Hurrell and Roberts are the players who will end up with the ball in hand if the game is on the line late in the piece. In his return from a hamstring injury last week Hurrell was well contained by the Roosters, and will be looking to make his mark in the final home game of 2014. In his five outings prior to last week Hurrell was averaging 75 running metres and also had a try and line break in all but one of those. Since making his Titans debut in Round 14 Roberts has been a shining light in a gloomy season for the Gold Coast. Averaging 72 metres per game Roberts already has five tries for the year and has become the target of choice for Daniel Mortimer and Aidan Sezer in a team which is otherwise severely lacking in x-factor.

Sea Eagles v Panthers: Daly Cherry-Evans v Jamie Soward

Two chalk-and cheese halfbacks; the latter is traditionally a five-eighth renowned for his precise long-kicking game and a running game that is intermittently threatening at best. The former seems destined for a long career in the green-and-gold No.7 jersey and has a running game so powerful he gets picked on the bench in Origin almost solely for his ability to create havoc running from dummy-half late in the game. Both guide their club teams around expertly week to week but while Cherry-Evans has the current Kiwi five-eighth alongside him and a centre who has won a grand final with the No.6 on his back, Soward is leading a new-look team wracked by injuries to key players – including its first-choice halfback in Peter Wallace and Wallace's halves replacement Tyrone Peachey. His halves partner on Sunday will be an impressive but inexperienced 22-year-old with four NRL games to his credit. But Soward doesn't appear to be letting anything worry him at the moment and, as a man in control of his own game, has done amazingly well to hold the team together through a series of upset wins to have them still in the hunt for a top-two finish. He'll need to control proceedings expertly here to guide his side past the ladder leaders on their home patch.

Cowboys v Sharks: Johnathan Thurston v Jeff Robson

It would have been easy for Robson to say that he had indeed had enough of season 2014 after going down to Canberra last week, but he knew his embattled side needed to keep punching. If nothing else, these two remaining games are a time for Robson’s experience and leadership to come to the fore and springboard his side into next year. Look for the halfback to lead from the front again after racking up a season-high 66 possessions last week. Needless to say, he will have his work cut out trying to match the feats of his opposite, Johnathan Thurston. The debate of rugby league’s most in-form player has been a bit like a tennis match of late. Back and forth we have gone between Jarryd Hayne and his 300-metre, two-try efforts one week; and Johnathan Thurston with two try and line-break assists, with 350 kick metres the next. One man will be battling all night to keep the wheel turning for his decimated side, while the other No.7 will canter from side to side, throwing dummies long and short in an attempt to toy with the opposition.