Newcastle's Nathan Ross scored a hat-trick in the NSW Cup last week.

Penrith Panthers v Wyong Roos: Two heavyweights collide

(Pepper Stadium, Saturday July 11, 3:10pm)

The two best defensive sides in the competition go head-to-head at Pepper Stadium this Saturday in the match of the round.

These two competition heavyweights clashed just two weeks ago, with the Wyong Roos stealing a 19-18 epic.

Roos coach Rip Taylor believes his side took a lot of that game coming into this week.

"We took a bit of confidence [out of that game], obviously they're the benchmark of the competition," said Taylor.

"You always take a little bit out of it when you get a victory like that."

Taylor stated that their key focus this weekend will be defence and the goal is to carry that strong defenseive form to make a major run in the VB NSW Cup.

He also spoke about how important these games are at the back end of the season.

"The last few weeks of the competition, every game is a mini semi-final.

"We really need to perform well and hopefully get a win, but we need to be a confident football team if we think we're going to go any further."

This match is a potential Grand Final preview and the Wyong Roos will be motivated to test their premiership credentials against the top-of-the-table Penrith Panthers.

The Roos are the second best defensive team in the competition but have conceded 68 more points than the Panthers, meaning they need a focused performance.

They beat the Panthers in their last match, but the Panthers enjoy home-ground advantage and the benefit of learning from that loss.

In an extremely rare scenario, both of these teams had the bye last week – meaning they play each other twice in a row.

It will be interesting to see how the Panthers recover from that loss, and how both sides will perform in the return bout after a week off. 

New Zealand Warriors v Illawarra Cutters: Battle of the forwards
Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday July 12, 11.45am NZ time (9:45am AEST)

The Illawarra Cutters travel to New Zealand to take on the Warriors - who have dropped just one game at home this season.

Its second versus fifth and the result could have a major bearing on the top four at the completion of round 18.

Cutters coach Scott Logan conceded that going over to New Zealand is one of the toughest challenges in the VB NSW Cup.

"There are going to be a lot of guys selected for us this week that are part-timers and a lot of them haven't had to deal with these sort of challenges," said Logan.

"Not only the travel, the opposition over there have their supporters and family around them to make the task a little bit harder."

Last week the Cutters won despite losing a several players to first grade selection, and Logan believes they took a lot of that game moving into this week.

"We took a fair bit in terms of it didn't matter who we had in the red jersey; that we all had an attitude, that we're going to row in the same direction and have a good attitude to our work.

"If we can have that [attitude], especially defensively, that goes a long way to our attack."

As a team currently in fifth position and eyeing off a top four spot with no byes in hand, Logan is adamant that every two points from now until the end of the season is vital.

"We've had all our byes, we've got eight weeks now of continuous football against arguably the harder part of the draw. And we've got to play the Warriors twice in three weeks.

"We've got a tough run going into [the finals], every two points we can jag from here on in is vital for us trying to cement a spot in the eight for the finals."

The Warriors sit in second spot and will need to take advantage of every home game as they have a polarizing home-away record.

It's an important match for them and it will certainly go a long way to securing a top-four spot.

This game features two of the biggest forward packs in the competition for an explosive battle up the middle.

Full VB NSW Cup Round 18 previews
Round 17 VB NSW Cup match highlights