We preview the Round 12 VB NSW Cup clash between Wests Tigers and North Sydney Bears, and the match between Manly and Penrith.
Wests Tigers v North Sydney: Tigers look for 80-minute performance
(Leichhardt Oval, Saturday May 30, 10:45am)
The eleventh-placed North Sydney Bears will travel to Leichhardt Oval this Saturday to take on seventh-placed Wests Tigers
The Bears are carrying momentum into this game after defeating the defending premiers, Penrith Panthers, whilst the Tigers will still be seething after letting a 14-point lead against the Wyong Roos escape from them last week.
The Bears have shown fast-tracked improvement under new-coach Ben Gardiner. Tigers coach Paul Fletcher understands they are a very dangerous side despite their second-last spot on the ladder.
“[The Bears] had a great win against Penrith,” says Fletcher. “Any side can beat anyone on their day in the VB NSW Cup, so you’ve just got to have the right attitude and be prepared to work hard.”
After their bitterly disappointing loss last week, Fletcher believes that their main focus will be on putting in an 80-minute performance this week with minimal errors and the result should sort itself out.
“We’re really just looking after ourselves,” said Fletcher. “We ticked a few boxes last week in the first half and then we let ourselves down in a few areas in the second half.
“This week’s about ourselves, trying to put an 80-minute performance together.”
The Bears have only won three games this season but since Gardiner stepped in, plus the injection of exciting halves pairing Cody Walker and Darren Nicholls, they have greatly improved and been very impressive.
They have recently upset two top-four sides, which says that they have the ability to beat any team and are capable of notching up another win this Saturday.
The Tigers have been inconsistent this year with both winning and losing streaks.
Whilst this is frustrating for Fletcher, he explains what it will take for the Tigers to maintain consistency, along with the challenges of being a feeder club to an NRL side.
“Just having a consistent team. I know it’s hard at this level with guys coming in and out.
“If you can keep the same 15 or 16 guys you’re a lot better off. At the moment we’re chopping and changing each week and it’s hard to get the continuity.”
The Tigers could significantly climb the ladder if they can overcome the Bears this weekend, whilst the Bears will be looking to find a way into the top 8 in the next few rounds – and this weekend could be a perfect start to do so.
Manly v Penrith: Panthers looking for top spot in VB NSW Cup
Brookvale Oval, Saturday May 30, 3:00pm
The second-placed Panthers will travel to Brookvale Oval this Saturday to play the tenth-placed Manly Sea Eagles, with both sides recording only one win between them since Round Nine.
Manly have shown positive glimpses this year and have named a strong side to take on the defending premiers.
In-form hooker Jayden Hodges will be key for the Sea Eagles this weekend, as well as fullback Dom Reardon and halves pairing Jack Littlejohn and Kurt Aldridge.
Panthers coach Garth Brennan says that his side is focusing on themselves this week rather than looking too much into the Sea Eagles side, particularly after the North Sydney Bears upset them just two weeks ago when they were sitting in last place.
“We need to worry about ourselves, [we are] not looking at Manly at the moment,” Brennan said. “Off the back of that loss against North Sydney we’ve really got to get back to start concentrating on ourselves and start playing for 80 minutes.
“If we don’t turn up ready to play we’ll get beaten.”
When asked if he thought the Sea Eagles would step it up against the defending premiers, Brennan said the competition is extremely close this season and any team can beat any other team regardless of ladder position.
“I think every team has stepped up,” Brennan said. “I’ve said this a few times now, I think this is the strongest VB NSW Cup comp in a long time and that was evident by that Round 10 weekend where I think the top five sides were beaten by the bottom five teams.
“It wasn’t just us that got upset, it was all the top five teams that were beat by the teams below them, so I think if you turn up on the day – anyone can beat anyone.”
The Panthers are coming off a bye, which Brennan believes came at the perfect time.
“10 weeks into the competition, that’s a fair stint,” Brennan says. “We were probably ready for a bit of a break then.”
The Panthers have the added incentive of a win potentially elevating them to the top of the ladder depending on the result of the Bulldogs and Mounties clash.
A Sea Eagles' victory would be an almighty upset against the defending premiers who are hungry and fresh after a week off.