Wests Tigers Vs Newcastle Knights
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, May 24
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1
Summary: The Wests Tigers confirmed their premiership credentials with a grinding win over the Cronulla Sharks last weekend, while the Knights struggled to get out of first gear, losing to the Bears 18-12 at North Sydney Oval. The Knights will be boosted by the inclusions of inform fullback Nathan Ross and NRL experienced hooker Travis Waddell. The Tigers have some big ins as well with Curtis Sironen returning from injury and the inclusion of NSW Under 20s five-eighth Mitchell Moses. Michael Potter has history of testing his young halves in the VB NSW Cup before he elevates them to the NRL, he did it with Luke Brooks and it looks like Moses will follow the same path as the boom teenager. The Tigers will be without the services of Joel Luani who has again been elevated to cover for Robbie Farah. The Knights halves are key to their chances here. Dobson and Minto are far more experienced than their opposition and must take control early or this enthusiastic Tigers side will pluck the game from them.
Rep jerseys await: With selections for the VB NSW Cup Representative side nearing closer, now is the time to throw your hand up. With the shift to look forward as part of the NSWRL High Performance program, there are several HPU members who could thrust themselves into contention here. Lovett, Santi and Mata’utia just to name a few.
Prediction: The Tigers are playing well and deserve favouritism at home. Tigers by 4.
Newtown Jets Vs Illawarra Cutters
Henson Park, Saturday, May 24
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via www.steelesports.com.au)
Summary: The Jets may have played themselves into some form last weekend with their big win over Wyong and they have been dealt an ideal hand courtesy of Laurie Daley. No Pearce and Maloney means the Jets, for the most part, will keep a full field of Roosters contracted players for this match against the Cutters. Rumours have been floating throughout the Rugby League world that Benji Marshall may run out in the red and white this weekend for some more match fitness. Benji has played at some of the best stadiums in the world but he has never played at the ‘jewel in the crown’ that is Henson Park. For the game’s sake, we hope he has a run but we think he may be kept in cotton wool by Steve Price. The Jets have looked a far better outfit when Josh Davis has suited up for them in the centres. The former Tiger was on the verge of an NRL debut not so long ago but a horror run with injuries has him looking to return to his glory days from Henson Park. He will have his work cut out for him this weekend however, as he lines up against one of the best young centres in the competition, Charly Runciman. The Jets have lost Evans and Casty to the NRL this week so young Willis Meehan will make his Jets debut.
Let them at them: It has been well publicized that the Dragons are in desperate need of some big boppers. Josh Ailaomai and Matt Groat have size and have been playing well for Ian Millward. When do they get their shot?
Prediction: The home side will be sensing an upset but will have to stick with the Cutters. Cutters by 8.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Vs Penrith Panthers
Brookvale Oval, Saturday, May 24
Referee: Adam Devcich
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.hawkesburyradio.com.au)
Summary: Unable to make it three wins in a row for the first time in three years last weekend, the Sea Eagles will look to bounce back here against a Penrith side that is looking to post their fourth straight win. In fact, the Panthers have only tasted defeat once since opening the season with two straight losses and could perhaps lay claim to being the hottest team in the competition right now. A professional seven point win against the Bulldogs last Friday night now sees the Panthers sitting pretty inside the top four, and well within striking distance of the first placed Magpies. The Sea Eagles had ample opportunities last weekend to get home over the top of the Warriors but couldn’t do so. With that said, they were once again very competitive and they do appear to have turned a corner from the side that lost their opening five games of the season. Manaia Rudolph is looking increasingly comfortable each and every week in the Sea Eagles colours and his match up against Panthers halfback Tom Humble may well hold the key to this clash.
Come get some: We are always excited by some of the great individual match ups that we get to see each and every week in the VB NSW Cup, and the one here between Waqa Blake and Cheyse Blair is another that has us licking our lips. Blair has an obvious advantage in terms of experience having tasted first grade at Parramatta and more recently with Manly, however Blake has first grade written all over him, and is definitely a player on the rise. Both of these centres are strapping young lads and love to mix it up physically on the field. Look for them to go at it right throughout.
Prediction: The Panthers won’t get it all their own way but should come out on top. Panthers by 10.
Mounties Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Aubrey Keech Reserve, Saturday, May 24
Referee: Phil Haines
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (Link available via 893fm.com.au)
Summary: Mounties will be out to do what no other club has managed to do in 2014, and that is win the week after having had the bye. Ten teams have tried and failed but Mounties will have no excuses if they cannot crush the curse. They are taking on an undermanned Bulldogs side at Aubrey Keech Reserve, a venue where they have won all three of their games played there thus far in 2014. If the Bulldogs are to continue the curse of the bye, they will have to do it without Krisnan Inu, Reni Maitua and Pat O’Hanlon who have all been elevated into the Dogs NRL side due to the clubs extensive Origin representation. The Raiders on the other hand have not really been affected by Origin selections, and as a result, Mounties will once again field a formidable side. It must be noted though, that Mitch Cornish is finally set to make his well-deserved NRL debut, and his spot in the halves will be taken by the more than serviceable Ryan Carr. With Wenty having the bye this round, Mounties cannot move into the top spot, but they will certainly be keen to hold onto second spot and keep the pressure on Wenty.
Junior by name not by nature: It is great to see Ricky Stuart playing Tevita Pangai with Mounties. It clearly shows the high regard he is held in at the club and also a sign that they are looking to fast track his development. Having represented NSW in the junior age groups the past few years, the experience that Pangai will gain playing alongside the likes of Learoyd-Lahrs and Jake Foster will be invaluable to him in the long run, and while he won’t dominate in this grade, he probably won’t look out of place either.
Prediction: A weakened Dogs side may struggle to foot it with a well-rested Mounties outfit. Mounties by 14.
North Sydney Bears Vs NZ Warriors
North Sydney Oval, Saturday, May 24
Referee: Jeff Hartup
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Triple H FM (Link available via www.triplehfm.com.au/hhh)
Summary: The North Sydney Bears registered a much needed win last weekend when they defeated the Newcastle Knights 18-12 while the Warriors, at nearby Brookvale Oval, snuck past the Sea Eagles 22-18. Despite sitting second to last on the competition ladder, there is still some light at the end of the tunnel for the Bears with a number of key personnel having either become, or are becoming available over the coming weeks. The likes of Joel Reddy, Ben Lowe and Joe Picker were all late inclusions in last week’s win, and with the prospect of Issac Luke and Luke Keary returning for South Sydney shortly, more re-enforcements may be on their way to North Sydney Oval in the near future. The Warriors will field a near identical side to the one that snuck home against Manly last weekend however David Fusitua will come in for former QLD Origin representative Dane Nielsen in a move that shouldn’t hurt the Warriors chances of a win too much. Merritt, Reddy and Lowe have all been called into Souths NRL side this week which has handed Morgan, Uluibau and Lupi another chance in the VB NSW Cup.
The next step: Halfbacks Mason Lino and Jordan Worboys would have squared off a number of times over the past few seasons in the Holden Cup, and while both players tasted great success at that level of the game, they are both taking a little longer to find their feet in this open age competition. No one doubts that both of these boys have what it takes to make it at the next level, but for some it takes longer than it does for others. That is where the VB NSW Cup plays such a vital role in providing a bridging platform for these types of players to hone their game for the next level.
Prediction: Maybe the Bears have turned a corner and can go back to back here. Bears by 2.
Wyong Roos Vs Cronulla Sharks
Morry Breen Oval, Sunday, May 25
Referee: Luke Phillips
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au
Summary: Both sides are coming off losses in round ten. The Roos were swamped by the Jets at Morry Breen, while the Sharks went down by two to the Tigers. The Sharks welcome back Ben Roberts in the number six jersey after Blake Ayshford returns to the NRL with Tupou Sopoaga and Tinirau Arona also recalled. NSW Under 20s prop Dean Britt has been named on an extended bench for the Sharks but we expect him to travel up from Melbourne and get his first taste of open age football at Morry Breen Oval. Britt will certainly know he’s been in a match as he will line up against former Blues prop Mark O’Meley and his hardnosed partner Magnus Stromquist. It is good to see Bennett Leslie back in the VB NSW Cup. He was close to best on the field in the representative game last year and he now has a few weeks to push for another rep jersey this year. The Sharks don’t lose three in a row very often and seem to have some key personnel back for this match.
Sione Masima: This powerful back-rower has burst onto the VB NSW Cup scene. He has been throwing experienced NRL players around like rag-dolls in recent weeks. Look for him to push himself into NRL contention sooner rather than later.
Prediction: After back to back two point losses, the Sharks may be in a mood to do some damage on Sunday. Sharks by 16.
Wentworthville Magpies 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.