Newtown Jets Vs Penrith Panthers
Allianz Stadium, Saturday, July 19
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
Summary: The Newtown Jets will put their season on the line this Saturday when they face the Panthers, in what looms large as a mini elimination final for the club. With just the six rounds remaining after this weekend, it would appear that the Jets need five more victories, even taking into account the fact that they have a bye up their sleeve, to finish in the top eight. No such dramas for the men from the foot of the mountains, as they continue to streak away at the top of the ladder off the back of their 11th straight win last weekend. With a bye in hand over the second placed Wentworthville, the Panthers are effectively six points clear at the top, so it would seem a fait accompli that they will finish the season as minor premiers. In team news, Samisoni Langi moves into the halves to cover for the loss of Arana Taumata, and his place in the centres will be taken by Nathan Stapleton, who finally looks set to debut for his new club. For the Panthers, it will be largely the same side that saluted against the Jets last weekend except for a slight reshuffle in the backline. It has been a tough week for the Jets, so it will be interesting to see just how they respond come the weekend.
Déjà Vu: In what is just one of those quirks of the draw, the Newtown Jets find themselves facing the ladder leading Panthers for the second straight week, having gone down to them 36-20 last weekend. It is perhaps an inopportune time for the Jets to have to tackle the high flying Panthers given that their season is well and truly on the line, and wins are now the order of the day. Given that the Knights are guaranteed to finish this round in eighth spot with 22 points thanks to their bye this weekend, a loss here for the Jets would leave them in tenth, some five points behind the Knights, and despite still having a bye of their own up their sleeve, one would imagine that they wouldn’t figure in finals calculations.
Prediction: Look for the margin to be closer than last week but still a Panthers win. Panthers by 6.
Wests Tigers Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, July 19
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via www.steelesports.com.au)
Summary: The Wests Tigers bounced back from an indifferent first forty minutes against the Bears to post an 18 point win last weekend, while the Bulldogs came from behind to snatch a draw against the Cutters. We made mention last week that while the Dogs finals hopes were over, they loomed as a side that could disrupt others on the run to September, and that proved to be the case last Saturday. In fact, had it not have been for some inaccurate goal kicking, the Dogs might have well claimed both competition points. John Sila scored his first try for the Tigers last weekend and he will no doubt be looking forward to pulling on the boots against his old club here. Kurtis Rowe has been named to return from injury for the Tigers which should help alleviate some pressure on the likes of Jack Madden and Michael Stevens in the halves. The Bulldogs backline looked sharp, particularly in the second half against the Cutters, so the Tigers defence will need to be on their guard this Saturday, otherwise an upset may well be on the cards. This VB NSW Cup clash will be followed by the annual Women’s Interstate Challenge between NSW and QLD, so get to the ground early and settle in for a full day of footy action.
Second Chance Draw: A top four finish is so vital to a sides premiership chances as it gives them that all important second bite at the apple. Take last year for example. The Cronulla Sharks finished the season as minor premiers, however they went down to the Windsor Wolves 24-22 in week one, but then bounced back, thanks to the second chance, with three consecutive victories to claim the premiership. The Tigers, despite sitting in third spot, will still be looking in the rear view mirror over the concluding rounds. A number of the chasing sides below the Tigers have a bye in hand and comparable for and against, so the gap between them and the pack is not as great as it may appear. It is important that the Tigers keep winning to maintain their spot and that needs to start here.
Prediction: The Tigers won’t want to let this one slip at home. Tigers by 4.
North Sydney Bears Vs Illawarra Cutters
North Sydney Oval, Saturday, July 19
Referee: Damian Briscoe
Summary: The North Sydney Bears will be desperate to get back in the winner’s circle after suffering their seventh straight loss against the Tigers last weekend. Despite sitting bottom of the competition table, the Bears continue to show that they have the capacity to be a competitive outfit, but unfortunately struggle to do so for the full 80 minutes. The Bears gave the Tigers all they could handle for forty minutes but fell away in the second half to eventually go down 42-24. The Cutters also fell victim of a second forty fadeout when they appeared to have the two points in the bag against the Dogs, leading 18-0 in the second half, only to cling on for a somewhat fortunate 24 all draw. Just how important that lost point will be will only become apparent in six or so weeks’ time, but we doubt the Cutters will take the foot off the gas here if they shoot out to an early lead. A number of changes here for the Cutters with Peter Mata’utia, Drew Hutchison, Craig Garvey and Nathan Green all named to play after missing last week. No significant changes for the Bears although they look set to be without Joe Picker who was a late inclusion last weekend.
Marked Man: The Cutters look every bit the favourite in this clash, but the one fly in the Illawarra ointment, may be the form of Bears winger, Curtis Johnston. The former VB NSW Cup Team of the Year member is the competition’s fourth highest try scorer in 2014 with 13 tries, which is remarkable when you consider, that prior to last weekend, the Bears were the competition’s least effective attacking side. Curtis grabbed a hat-trick last Saturday against the Tigers and must be watched closely by the Cutters defence this weekend.
Prediction: Hard to not see the visitors winning this one. Cutters by 12.
Mounties Vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Aubrey Keech Reserve, Saturday, July 19
Referee: Jeff Hartup
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (Link available via 893fm.com.au)
Summary: A tough two point loss to Cronulla last weekend sees Mounties returning home desperate to secure the two competition points against a Manly side, that went down by 34 points to the Knights last Saturday. Mounties led the Sharks 14-6 at half time at Belmore, but conceded three second half tries and could only manage one of their own, with goal kicking proving to be the difference on the day. Manly scored first against the Knights at Brooky but offered very little after that. This is a critical game for Mounties as they have the bye next round, so a win here will affectively see them jump to 26 competition points. With tough games against the Warriors, Sharks and Cutters still on their schedule over the concluding rounds, every single point will be vital, and a win here is a must. Mitch Cornish has been named to return from injury and should resume his role as the side’s goal kicker. Cornish’s return sees Ahearn move back to fullback with Ryan Carr to partner Cornish in the halves. It was a 40 point win to Mounties when these two sides met way back in round one.
Deserved Debut: Despite their issues collectively this season, there is actually some pretty good talent in this Manly VB NSW Cup side. It was wonderful to see Tyson Andrews handed a first grade debut last round as his form has been strong all year for the Sea Eagles in the VB NSW Cup. Another that we could see making their debut sooner rather than later is Michael Chee Kam. Chee Kam has had a bad run with injury since joining the club from the Raiders late in 2012. These injuries once again saw him miss early stages of this season, however his form in recent times suggests that his game is back to where it should be and as a result, a first grade debut may not be far off.
Prediction: If Mounties are to find their way back into the top four by seasons end, they must win these games. Mounties by 10.
Wentworthville Magpies Vs Cronulla Sharks
Ringrose Park, Sunday, July 20
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: Radio coverage courtesy of ALIVE fm (Link available via alive905.com.au)
Summary: A cracking match awaits us here when the second placed Magpies roll out the welcome mat for the seventh placed Sharks. Wenty will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing outing in Auckland where they were almost blanked by the Warriors. The Sharks bring some good form into this one having won their last two matches. Wins over the Jets and Mounties have seen the Sharks move into seventh spot on the ladder, but such is the closeness of the competition, a loss could see them joined by the Knights (8th) on 22 points, while a win could see them join the fourth placed Cutters on 24 points. These two sides produced one of the games of the season back in round nine when Wenty came from 18-0 down early to claim a two point 30-28 win over the Sharks at Henson Park. Ryan Matterson scored a double for the Magpies that day, and has been named to return from suspension here. Ken Sio has been named at the back for Wenty which may see Justin Hunt shift to the wing, but if both end up playing, don’t be surprised to see them swap positions at some stage. Travis Robinson comes into the Sharks starting side at the expense of Josh Portlock while Matt Prior has also been named at lock. It was announced this week that Melbourne wouldn’t be continuing their association with Cronulla beyond the 2014 season, so look for last year’s premiers to try and finish on a high.
Family Funday: All of our clubs do a number of great things on and off the park right throughout the year, but Wenty’s annual ‘Family Funday’ is always right near the top of the list. With plenty of rides for the kids, as well as a petting zoo, there is no shortage of things to keep the little ones happy. And for the big kids, a host of Parramatta players and also the cheerleaders usually turn out, so you can grab an autograph or a picture. It’s just a gold coin donation to get in and all of the rides and attractions are free, so if you are only going to head out to one game this year, pack the kids in the car, and make the trek to Ringrose Park this Sunday.
Prediction: Probably the toughest game of the weekend to predict a winner in. Tipping the home side by the barest of margins. Wenty by 1.
Wyong Roos Vs NZ Warriors
Morry Breen Oval, Sunday, July 20
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au
Summary: The Roos are locked in a tough battle with the likes of the Knights and Jets for eighth spot on the ladder, and a win here is a must. Fresh from the bye, the Roos would also have been boosted by the news midweek that the Roosters intend on linking with the club for the 2015 season and beyond. This is a partnership that begins in the junior ranks on the coast, and now with the piece of the puzzle being added, it provides a tangible pathway for juniors to progress through the ranks, and possibly end up in the NRL one day. With this said, the Warriors will be looking to crash the party, as they set their sights on a possible top four finish. The Warriors posted a very professional 30-6 win over Wenty at home last weekend and would like to keep that going here. Solomone Kata was on fire for the Warriors last week, scoring 18 points in total, including a powerful of hat-trick of tries. Wyong’s Jay Florimo loves getting stuck into one of the opposition’s best players, so don’t be surprised to see Florimo and Kata go at it all day long in what should be a mouthwatering clash. No Mark O’Meley for the Roos here but former Knight Zane Tetevano has been named in the starting side in what will only be his second appearance for the club. The Warriors carry a similar side into this one from the team that knocked off Wenty but both Charlie Gubb and Sam Lousi have been named to start in the front row.
Get There Early: With the Women’s Interstate Challenge being contested between NSW and QLD at Leichhardt on Saturday, Morry Breen will get its very own taste of the women’s game on Sunday. Prior to the Roos V Warriors match, there will be a City V Country Women’s exhibition match at 1pm. From our experience, these contests are always fiercely fought with plenty of big hits. Get there early for what is sure to be a great contest.
Prediction: The Warriors have historically had their issues on the road but they appear to have named a side that is capable of getting the job done here. Warriors by 8.
Newcastle Knights 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.