VB NSW Cup Previews - Round Fourteen
NZ Warriors Vs Cronulla Sharks
Gisborne Rugby Park, Saturday, June 14
Kick-off: 3.00pm (NZT), 1.00pm (AEST)
Referee: Aaron Donald
Summary: The VB NSW Cup makes history this weekend when the NZ Warriors take their round fourteen clash against the Sharks to the picturesque seaside town of Gisborne. Historically a rugby town, Gisborne, located on the eastern side of the north island, will be exposed to some of the finest talent that the VB NSW Cup has to offer. The Warriors and Sharks will be desperate for the two competition points after they both head into this clash off the back of losses. The Sharks shot out to a 22-4 lead against the Cutters last weekend, only to concede the next 19 points and go down 23-22. The Warriors never bothered the Bulldogs in a 28-0 defeat at Belmore Sports Ground. In team news, Tui Lolohea and Siliva Havili have both been named to return for the Warriors after travelling to Perth with the NRL side last weekend, while for the Sharks, a number of quality inclusions will come into the team. Nathan Stapleton, Jacob Gagan, Nathan Gardner, Matt Prior and Tupou Sopoaga will all bring a wealth of NRL experience into this Sharks side for their trip across the Tasman.
Things you didn’t know about Gisborne: 1) In December last year, Gisborne set a world record for the most people skinny dipping in the one place, with 745 people getting their kit off at Midway Beach 2) Australian Basketball player, and member of the San Antonio Spurs, Aron Baynes was actually born in Gisborne prior to moving to Australia with his family 3) Due to its eastern location, Gisborne generally sees more sun on average than most NZ towns and as a result has higher than average temperatures all year around.
Prediction: Tend to think the home side will be up for this one. Warriors by 4.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Vs North Sydney Bears
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, June 14
Referee: Adam Devcich
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au
Summary: It’s officially crunch time for both of these sides when they square off at Leichhardt Oval this Saturday. Manly sits five points behind the eighth place Jets but have also had their second bye already while the Bears sit bottom of the table and would probably need to win about eight of their remaining games to have any hope of playing finals in 2014. The Bears went down to the Jets 38-16 last weekend despite playing with a man’s advantage for around 50 minutes while Manly had the week off. Despite not being named, there is talk that Luke Keary will make his comeback from injury here for the Bears, so you would expect that he will start, meaning that either Kurt Aldridge or Jordan Worboys may make way. When these two sides met back in round seven, it was all the Sea Eagles as they ran out 42-14 winners. Manaia Rudolph was one of the Sea Eagles best that day and will need to be marked closely here.
Home away from home: Due to the state of Brookvale Oval, this match had to be rescheduled to Leichhardt Oval in order to get it played. Clearly there is a long and interesting history between these two clubs, and it is a little sad in a way that this game will not be played at a venue north of the Harbour Bridge. Hopefully both sets of fans can find their way to Leichhardt Oval to watch two evenly matched sides playing for their seasons.
Prediction: Hard to tip the Bears at present so have to go with the Sea Eagles. Sea Eagles by 6.
Mounties Vs Wyong Roos
Aubrey Keech Reserve, Saturday, June 14
Referee: Chris James
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (Link available via 893fm.com.au)
Summary: Mounties mini mid-season slump continued last weekend when, despite a late rally, they couldn’t account for Wenty, going down 20-16. The Roos also rallied late in their clash with the top of the table Panthers, but ultimately it wasn’t enough and they went down 32-24. Mounties have now won just one of their last three, and that was an unconvincing two point win over the Bulldogs. Luckily enough for Mounties, their excellent early season form means that they still sit in fourth place on the ladder and have a wonderful launching pad for the second half of the season. Despite sitting in tenth spot on the ladder, the Roos also have cause for optimism over the coming weeks following the recent signing of a host of talented players. Chris Centrone, Jono Ford, Mark Kheirallah, Eloni Vunakece and Daniel Penese have all arrived at Kanwal in recent weeks, and certainly provide the club with some much needed depth and quality in key positions. Wyong certainly won’t fear tackling Mounties as they have already tasted success against them in 2014 thanks to 20-16 win at Morry Breen back in round eight.
Killer the thriller: Mark Kheirallah, also known as ‘killer’, has big shoes to fill at Wyong, however he does look like a perfect replacement for the recently departed Darren Nichols. Although Nichols only joined the club this season, a large portion of their earlier season success had to be attributed to the former Bears halfback. In recent times, the Roos have looked a little bit like a boat with a busted rudder, lacking direction and struggling to get to where they wanted to go. Enter Kheirallah. A premiership winner with the Jets in 2012, Mark was very good for the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs in the Newcastle Rugby League competition last year before heading over to France. The best thing about Mark is the fact that he is a winner. He won at Newtown, he helped Kurri Kurri to a Grand Final and then again with Toulouse in France. Wyong fans will be hoping for more of the same.
Prediction: Favouring the home side ever so slightly but a Roos victory wouldn’t surprise. Mounties by 4.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Wentworthville Magpies
Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday, June 14
Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
Summary: The Bulldogs will head into this clash full of confidence following their best performance of the season last weekend. A comprehensive 28-0 win over the Warriors was clearly the Dogs best showing of the year. Wenty are not sitting equal top of the ladder by chance though and will prove to be more than a handful for this young Bulldogs side. Wenty bounced back from an off day at the office against the Tigers in round 12 by posting a four point win against Mounties last weekend. After playing NRL last weekend, Luke Kelly comes back into the Wenty side following Parramatta’s mid-week signing of Isacc De Gois. Still no Justin Hunt for Wenty meaning that Api Pewhairangi will once again be at the back, while the Magpies have also lost Vai Toutai and Ryan Morgan to NRL duty, with their places taken by Fabian Goodall and Jake Butler-Fleming. For the Dogs, both Damien Cook and Reni Maitua have been called into first grade to cover for Hodkinson and Reynolds, meaning that Brad Clarke will start at hooker and David Minute starts in the second row.
Young talent time: There are probably not two better young forwards in the VB NSW Cup than Llyod Perrett and David Minute, and luckily enough for Bulldogs fans, they both play in your side. Perrett represented QLD in the Under 20 Origin match earlier this year (we won’t hold that against him) while Minute continues to get fitter with each and every game he plays, and that is showing through in his recent performances. Perrett has actually been named on an extended NRL bench this week, such is the esteem in which he is thought of by Des Hasler. Despite their side’s position on the ladder, there are definitely exciting times ahead for these young pups.
Prediction: Tempted to think that the Dogs can make it back to back wins, but will pay Wenty the respect they deserve and tip them in another close one. Magpies by 7.
Newtown Jets Vs Newcastle Knights
Henson Park, Saturday, June 14
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via www.steelesports.com.au)
Summary: The Newtown Jets have now strung together five straight wins following their 38-16 win over the Bears last weekend. The Knights on the other hand, have now lost their last six outings following a 34-12 loss to the Tigers. Amazingly enough, just six weeks ago, the Knights were in second spot on the ladder while the Jets were at the foot of the table. Fast forward to now, and the Jets sit in eighth, some three competition points clear of the Knights in ninth. Both Kane Evans and Daniel Mortimer have been recalled to the NRL meaning that Kurt Kara will slot back into the halves and Pearn and Verlinden will form the front row. A number of inclusions for the Knights with Timana Tahu, Chanel Mata’utia and Matt Hilder all named. These two sides have scarily similar statistics after thirteen rounds, with the Knights the slightly better of the two in attack and the reverse in favour of the Jets in terms of defence. All things being equal, a close and exciting encounter looks to be on the cards.
Blue Collar-Bags: One of the things we love about the Jets is that with the exception of a little bit of flare you get from the likes of Taumata at times, they really are just a bunch of blue collar workers. Players like L’Estrange, Kara, Pearn and Harris epitomize what this club is all about. No bells, no whistles, no BS, just roll up your sleeves and do what it takes to get the job done. And you get the feeling that Greg Matterson and co loves it like that!
Prediction: Momentum is a funny thing in football, you either have it or you don’t. That seems to be the case here. Jets by 8.
Penrith Panthers Vs Illawarra Cutters
Sportingbet Stadium, Saturday, June 14
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.hawkesburyradio.com.au)
Summary: The Panthers continued on their merry way last weekend, despite a late fight back by the Roos, to post a 32-24 win at Sportingbet Stadium. The Cutters managed to post a one point win against the Sharks thanks to a late Sam Williams field goal. The bad news coming from the win is that that field goal was to be Sam Williams last act as a Cutter, after he was released almost immediately after the match to take up a contract with the Catalan Dragons in France. Having also lost Michael Witt a week earlier to serious injury, the Cutters must now turn to a new halves combination to help fill the void. No such concerns for the Panthers though, as they welcome veterans Kevin Kingston and Tim Grant into their side for this clash. These two sides met only a few weeks ago and it was a late Tom Humble field goal on that occasion that handed the Panthers a narrow win. Scott Logan has stepped into the coaches’ hot seat, replacing Ian Millward, and he will get no stiffer test than tackling the competition front runners at home.
It’s a Bati Party: There are plenty of talented Fijian players scattered right throughout the VB NSW Cup competition but none more so than at the Panthers club. A quick peek at this week’s team list is a great example of that. You have the Naiqama brothers as well as last year’s leading try scorer in Eto Nabuli, and perhaps the most exciting of them all, young Waqa Blake. Fans that head out to Sportingbet Stadium on Saturday or watch the match on Fox Sports are sure to be treated to some exciting football, and it’s fairly likely that these guys will be front and centre.
Prediction: Have to go with the home side, but look for the Cutters to make them earn it. Panthers by 10.
Wests Tigers have the BYE
Make sure you are following @NSWRL on twitter and monitoring the #VBNSWCup hashtag all season long for all the latest news and scores.