Cronulla Sharks Vs North Sydney Bears
Remondis Stadium, Saturday, May 31
Referee: Alan Shortall
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via www.steelesports.com.au)
Summary: The Bears welcome back Nathan Merritt for their clash with the reigning premiers, while Melbourne Storm youngster Dean Britt has been promoted to Tony Herman’s starting side. Herman will be looking to grab as many points as possible over what is normally a tough period for his side with all the players elevated due to Origin selections. The Sharks’ merry-go-round of halves continues though with Pat Politoni moving from hooker into five-eighth. Politoni will partner Penani Manumalealii and the pair should be more familiar with each other having played together all of last year, albeit with Politoni at hooker. Norths coach Wayne Lambkin has signaled his intentions by naming regular front-rower/back-rower Matt Hyland at hooker to add some much needed size to his pack. Hyland is a defensive machine and he will have plenty of work to do with the Sharks possessing plenty of size and power deep onto the bench. The Bears need their pack to fire here and if the likes of Ben Lowe, Luke Burgess and Joe Picker can play to their potential, the Bears can cause an upset.
Battle of the custodians: Nathan Gardner and Nathan Merritt square off at the back. Both know their way to the stripe and have the ability to turn a game on its head. Both are desperate to get back into first grade as well.
Prediction: Hard to not see the Sharks winning here. Sharks by 10.
Wests Tigers Vs Wentworthville Magpies
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, May 31
Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (Link available via 893fm.com.au)
Summary: With the Wests Tigers NRL squad having a bye this week, rumours are rife that James Tedesco will line up for Paul Fletcher in a bid to get some much needed match fitness ahead of the Tigers’ next NRL game. It is a good time for Fletcher to receive some firepower as they face a Wentworthville side which was running hot before their Round 11 bye. In an interesting fact, Mounties were the first side this year to win coming off a bye last round so it will be interesting to see if the Magpies can do the same here. The battle between Bureta Faraimo and Marika Koroibete will captivate the crowd at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. These two are currently the most potent wingers in the VB NSW Cup and must be watched carefully by opposing defences. Brendan Santi will play his first game against his former team after he moved over from Parramatta mid-season to return home to the Wests Tigers. In more positive news for the Wests Tigers, Dene Halatau looks set to make a return from injury after being named on an extended bench.
Parra’s next gen: The Eels have one of the best production lines of any high performance program in the NRL and it would be pleasing to watch some of their future stars shine in the VB NSW Cup. Ryan Matterson, John Folau and Kaysa Pritchard are all standing up to the rigours of open age football and with more experience comes more knowledge.
Prediction: Liking the way that the Tigers are going about things and they can win again at home. Tigers by 4.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Vs Wyong Roos
Brookvale Oval, Saturday, May 31
Referee: Phil Haines
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Triple H FM (Link available via www.triplehfm.com.au/hhh)
Summary: Both teams have showed glimpses of form in recent weeks but just seem to be missing the complete 80 minute performance needed at this level to secure two competition points. The Roos started well against the Sharks last weekend but were eventually overrun, while the Sea Eagles went down to the Panthers at home. The Roos have been boosted by the return of several players from France with Leivaha Pulu playing his first game of the season last weekend. We are also hearing that Johnathon Ford may be a late inclusion for Rip Taylor’s side having also returned from playing a full season in France. The Sea Eagles have named an imposing forward pack with a back-row which includes Daniel Harrison, Michael Chee-Kam and James Hasson. The Roos recently acquired the signature of Daniel Penese and his move into the centres has freed up Bennett Leslie to return to his preferred position of lock. Both sides are desperate for two competition points and desperation is generally conducive to good spectator Rugby League.
O’Meley to wear blue again?: Selectors for the VB NSW Cup Representative side must be considering former State of Origin front-rower Mark O’Meley for a place in their team for the State of Origin curtain-raiser. O’Meley is a passionate Blues man and is still punching out plenty of minutes for the Roos. Watch this space.
Prediction: This one is a real coin toss. Will go with the home side in a close one. Sea Eagles by 4.
Newtown Jets Vs Mounties
Allianz Stadium, Saturday, May 31
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
Summary: Despite having taken a couple of home games to Parkes in recent years, the Jets very rarely play away from their spiritual home, Henson Park. With significant work going into marrying up the VB NSW Cup and NRL draw, it means the Jets will take to Allianz Stadium to play Mounties (Canberra’s affiliate). Mounties are coming off a win against the Bulldogs in a game where they lead by 20 points, switched off, and were nearly run over in the dying seconds. Newtown posted just their fourth win of the season last weekend when they disposed of the Illawarra Cutters 42-22 at Henson Park. Roosters fans who watched our highlights package of the match will have been pleased with the performance of young prop Willis Meehan. Meehan looked at home up front and at some stages embarrassed some seasoned NRL players. If he can continue to perform like that in open age football, he will be one of the hottest commodities running around. Mounties will not have the services of Mitch Cornish again after he excelled for Ricky Stuart in the NRL last weekend.
Top eight: A win for Newtown and a loss for Newcastle in Auckland will have Newtown in the competition top-eight. Just several weeks ago they were anchored to the bottom of the ladder. Could this be like 2012 all over again?
Prediction: The Jets have hit form and will fancy their chances of an upset. Jets by 8.
NZ Warriors Vs Newcastle Knights
Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday, June 1
Kick-off: 11.40am (NZT), 9.40am (AEST)
Referee: Aaron Donald
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
Summary: The Warriors looked to have played themselves back into some form last weekend with a strong victory against Manly away from home. The Knights fought hard against the Wests Tigers and only went down by four points despite being a man down for a long period in the second half. VB NSW Cup Representative player Marvin Filipo announced via social media last week that he had resigned with the Knights and his addition will be most welcomed by Rick Stone. Filipo hasn’t been named to play but don’t be surprised if he is a late addition to the flight list for the Knights. The Knights need another big performance from Nathan Ross. Ross was sent from the field last weekend for a professional foul and when he went off the Knights attack went south. He was illusive in attack and popped up in all the rights spot in defence. For the Warriors, the key to victory is playing to coach Rohan Smith’s structures and completing their sets. If they can do that then they have the size, speed and talent to get them home and keep themselves in the competition top-eight.
Tick Toka: The Knights will need a big game from Toka Likiliki because they are fronting up against a monster forward pack at the Warriors. Likiliki is playing extended minutes and Rick Stone will need to push him all the way to get the most out of him.
Prediction: The Knights have had their trouble away from home of late so the Warriors will start favourites. Warriors by 7.
Illawarra Cutters Vs Penrith Panthers
Collegians Sports Complex, Sunday, June 1
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au
Summary: The Cutters will be desperate to atone for an uncharacteristically poor performance last weekend against the Jets while the Panthers have their eyes fixated on top spot on the VB NSW Cup ladder. With changes in the coaching role at NRL level, players will be desperate to catch Paul McGregor’s eye in the early stages of his tenure. Having coached the Cutters in their first two seasons, McGregor will be familiar with many of his second-tier chargers already. He has named Will Matthews and Shane Pumipi on an extended bench for their clash against the Rabbitohs however both are expected to play against the Panthers on Sunday. The Panthers have named another strong line up. It is actually hard to fault them in any position. They have some of the best back-rowers available in the competition as well as a backline that wouldn’t look out of place in the NRL. When players like Anthony Cherrington and Nathan Smith are forced to start from the bench, you know Garth Brennan is a lucky man.
The two w’s: With a new coach at the helm, Michael Witt and Sam Williams will be keen to remind Paul McGregor he has options in the halves should he want to use them. Witt and Williams have been combining well in the VB NSW Cup and they would be confident they can replicate their form in the NRL.
Prediction: Another one that could go either way. Panthers by 4.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have the BYE
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