With two-thirds of the Harold Matthews and SG Ball Cup competitions run and won, we now enter the business end of the season. Penrith remain as the only Club to have both their Matt’s and Ball sides undefeated with South Sydney and Balmain both only suffering one loss as a whole.
The battle for minor premier’s honours will go down to the wire in SG Ball with Manly, Balmain and Penrith all undefeated, while in Harold Matthews, Penrith, Balmain and South Sydney are all front-runners for the title.
Harold Matthews Cup:
Parramatta and the Centurions face off in a battle which could see the loser in danger of missing the finals. Sitting fifth and sixth respectively, both sides can easily be swallowed by the chasing pack should they falter in the last three rounds. To make matters worse, both sides are coming off tough mid-week games. The Centurions strength is their forward pack. The Saifiti brothers have lead from the front and have been ably assisted by Sami Tarchichi, Jacob Liddle and Mitch Connor. Punters on the coast have dubbed this “the best Central Coast Harold Matthews team” they have seen. Big wraps on a young side and they still have plenty to do to play finals in 2012. For the Eels, second-rower Tyrell Fuimaono is worth a watch. He has been sharp this year and should push for representative honours come Origin time.
Our other feature match, is a must win for the Western Suburbs Magpies. The Maggies host an unpredictable Canberra Raiders side that, like Parramatta and the Centurions, had a mid-week match. The Maggies don’t only need the two points but they also need to improve on their percentage which can decide who makes it into the finals. A good win for Wests can see them move as far up as fifth (if all results go their way) and you just wonder whether coach Chris Bradbury has instructed his team to play adlib football in the hope the can run up a score. Bradbury will have to watch young Raiders centre Lachlan Crocker. Crocker has been in superb form in recent weeks and, if left unchecked, could prove a real handful for the Magpies.
Other big clashes include the Sharks Vs Panthers, Tigers tackling the Bears, SWSAS are at Leichhardt taking on Manly while the Knights host the Western Sydney Academy at Cessnock.
Rounding things out in the Harold Matthews Cup will be games between the Roosters and Illawarra at Henson Park on Saturday and the Dragons and Bulldogs on Sunday at WIN Jubilee.
SG Ball Cup:
The SG Ball Cup this weekend throws up some vital fixtures in regards to top eight aspirations.
The Cronulla Sharks are sitting just inside the eight and a win here against the unbeaten Panthers would go a long way towards ensuring they play finals in 2012. The Sharks had a big win at Toyota Stadium last weekend against the Bears, however the Panthers are an all together different kettle of fish. The Panthers are yet to drop a game in either competition in 2012 but such is the strength of the SG Ball Cup, they still find themselves sitting third behind fellow unbeatens in Manly and the Tigers respectively. Both of these sides like to attack and have very solid defences, so those that attend are certainly in for a treat.
Another defining match this round is the game between traditional rivals in the ninth placed St George Dragons and the eighth placed Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. The two sides are only separated by percentage on the ladder and a loss here to either side will make things extremely difficult over the final two rounds. The Dragons face a tricky match against Manly next weekend but then finish with Newcastle while The Dogs have a winnable game next week against the Bears but finish things off against the unbeaten Panthers. So common sense would say that the winner of this clash should squeeze into the eight come seasons end while the loser will probably not.
Other fixtures see the Tigers hosting the Bears at Leichhardt, South Sydney host the Reds at Redfern while Melbourne welcome the Sea Eagles to Victoria.
Rounding things out will be the Roosters at Henson Park taking on the Steelers, the Magpies face the Raiders at Campbelltown, Newcastle will take on WSA up at Cessnock and last but not least the Eels host the Centurions at New Era Stadium.
To stay across all the Harold Matthews and SG Ball Cup scores this weekend, you can follow the NSWRL on twitter @NSWRL or click onto the Weekend Game-Cast link on the homepage of www.nswrl.com.au.