Mounties Vs North Sydney Bears
GIO Stadium, Saturday, August 16
Referee: Damian Briscoe
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
Summary: Mounties will look to continue their charge towards the finals when they tackle the last placed Bears in the nation’s capital. A somewhat depleted Mounties side was unable to account for the Cutters last weekend, and as a result, they now find themselves outside of the top four, sitting in fifth place. A top four finish is all so important so look for Mounties to be ruthless in their approach and perhaps even eyeing off the opportunity to improve their for and against. The Bears appear to be eyeing off something different, the end of the season. It has been a tough season for a side that has been there on the penultimate weekend the past couple of seasons, and no doubt they will be looking forward to the off season and refocusing on a much improved showing in 2015. The Bears have probably not received the assistance, in terms of personnel, from Souths this year that they would have been anticipating, and this combined with their own injury and suspension woes at times has led to a season that they would sooner rather forget. Sami Sauiluma currently sits on 17 tries for the season, just one behind the leading try scorer, Bureta Faraimo, who is playing NRL with the Eels at present. Sauiluma would be licking his lips at the prospect of facing a defence that conceded 12 tries last weekend against the Panthers.
Time To Step Up: Joey Bond headed south this past off season with a fair wrap from his time spent in the Intrust Super Cup, but it would be fair to say that things haven’t quite gone to plan for the young man. He has often spent time in the Ron Massey Cup, so Bond would be excited at the prospect of being named in the six jersey here. There is some chance that he and Ahearn may in fact switch positions at some stage, but with Bond’s speed, he will present the Bears with difficulties regardless of where he plays.
Prediction: Hard to see anything other than a Mounties win. Mounties by 12.
Newcastle Knights Vs NZ Warriors
St Johns Oval, Charlestown, Saturday, August 16
Referee: Chris Treneman
Summary: The Knights appear to be hitting their straps at the right time of the year, and they would know that a top four finish is there for the taking. Entering this round sitting in sixth place, the Knights finish the regular season with two more home games against sides sitting outside of the top eight, so a win here against what should be a desperate Warriors side, would see them well placed for a top four finish. The Knights were clinical last weekend, accounting for a star studded Sharks side to the tune of 56-12, in a result that would have sent shockwaves through the sides sitting above them on the ladder. Josh Mantellato capped off a week that saw him sign with Hull KR for the next three seasons, by scoring four tries and racking up 24 points in total. For the Warriors, they would be desperately disappointed that they didn’t head back to Auckland with the two competition points last weekend after they led the Tigers 22-6 early in the second half, only to see that lead eroded and the Tigers score the winning try on the siren. It has been a tough few weeks for the Warriors, and a loss here to Newcastle may see them only sitting inside the top eight on for and against by rounds end.
Kia ora Rick: One interesting side note to what already looks a mouthwatering match on paper, is the fact that Carlos Tuimavave will be out there running around against a lot of guys who will be his team mates in just a few months’ time. Not only will Carlos be playing against others whom he may be competing for spots with, he will also be playing in front of his new head coach, after it was announced mid-week that Rick Stone would once again become the Knights NRL coach in 2015. Look for Carlos to leave a lasting impression on his new employers.
Prediction: Have to tip the Knights at home in their current form. Knights by 8.
Cronulla Sharks Vs Wyong Roos
Remondis Stadium, Saturday, August 16
Referee: Ashley Klein
Summary: Eighth hosts tenth here in a match that may make the top eight jigsaw puzzle look a little clearer come full time. A win to the Roos would see them join the Sharks on 26 competition points, although they would still sit behind them due to their inferior for and against, while a win to Cronulla would all but end the Roos season, and perhaps mean that the Sharks would only need to win one of their final two games to be safe. The Sharks put in perhaps their most disappointing display of 2014 last round when they were never really in the contest against a rampant Knights outfit, while Wyong kept their season alive with a 40-18 win over Canterbury, which was more dominant than the full time score might have you think. The Roos season did appear to be over a few weeks back when reigning VB NSW Cup Player of the Year, Mitch Williams, was ruled out for the reminder of the year. But as fate might have it, this injury forced Rip Taylor to have to reshuffle his backline, and it appears to be paying dividends with Mark Kheirallah’s move to fullback looking an inspired one. The former Jet was brilliant from the back last week for the Roos, while stop gap half, Brock Molan, also stood up and was counted when it mattered most. The Sharks will carry a near unchanged side into this clash, so Tony Herman will be looking for more from his troops than what they gave him last Saturday in the Hunter.
Backrow Bandits: One of the exciting aspects to watching Wyong play recently is the form of their backrow. Tekina Vailea and Vaha Pulu are two of the more destructive runners in the VB NSW Cup, particularly close to the line, while Zane Tetevano has been close to Wyong’s best over the past month. If the Roos are to keep their season alive this Saturday, it will most likely be off the back of these three and the hardworking Magnus Stromquist.
Prediction: The Roos have been good the past few weeks but surely the Sharks can’t afford to drop this one at home. Sharks by 8.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Vs Newtown Jets
Brookvale Oval, Saturday, August 16
Referee: Drew Oultram
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via www.steelesports.com.au)
Summary: The Newtown Jets will look to continue their charge towards an unlikely finals berth as they tackle a Sea Eagles outfit that is playing for pride at this stage of the season. Manly were perhaps not as poor as the 60-22 score line against Wenty may have suggested, and with the return of the prodigious Clinton Gutherson to their lineup, the Jets will not want to underestimate the side from the north shore. Some results went the Jets way last round while they had the weekend off to rest up, and a win here would see them effectively take control of their own destiny. Without looking too far ahead, the Jets would be looking to win here and also hope for a Knights win over the Warriors. This would setup a tantalizing matchup between Newtown and the Warriors in round 24. Scott Dureau has been brilliant for Newtown since joining the club mid-season, and his combination with Arana Taumata may have the ultimate say on just what the Jets achieve in 2014.
It Can Be Done: It remains to be seen whether or not the Jets can qualify for the finals series, but if anyone knows that anything is possible in the finals, it is the Jets. The 2012 Premiers finished that season in seventh on the ladder, with 31 competition points, which ironically is probably the number they will need to get to once again in 2014. The Jets then went on to reel off four straight wins to claim the 2012 title. On paper you would suggest that the 2012 side was a touch more talented than the 2014 version… but in the finals, anything can happen.
Prediction: The Jets are finishing with a wet sail and they should get the job done here. Jets by 10.
Wests Tigers Vs Illawarra Cutters
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, August 16
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (Link available via 893fm.com.au)
Summary: An all top four clash awaits when the second placed Cutters travel to Leichhardt Oval to tackle the third placed Tigers. The Cutters posted another good win last round, this time 42-14 over Mounties while the Tigers came back from 22-6 down in the second half to get out of jail, 28-22 against the Warriors. A win here to either side would see them just about sew up a top four spot with just two more regular season matches remaining. Nathan Smith grabbed a hat trick for the Cutters last weekend and will be matched up this week against Corey Brown who scored a double and also kicked four goals for the Tigers in their win over the Warriors. The Cutters will know in the back of their minds that they have the bye in round 25, so the next fortnight will be their last chance to fine tune their game prior to the finals. The Tigers continue to battle on despite the clubs injury crisis, but with the potential to get a few troops back once the Tigers NRL commitments are done with, the Tigers may yet have a say in the final wash up come September.
When They Last Met: These two sides locked horns at WIN Stadium way back in round one, and it was a 20 point win to the Tigers on that occasion. But closer inspection would show that this is very much a different Tigers team to the one that took the field that day. Just looking at the try scorers alone it was Blake Austin (NRL), Ben Murdoch Masila (Panthers) and Taqele Naiyaravoro (Rugby) who did most of the damage. The Cutters will be happy in the knowledge that they won’t have to confront any of those guys on Saturday.
Prediction: Going to tip the Cutters but a win to the Tigers wouldn’t surprise. Cutters by 4.
Wentworthville Magpies Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Ringrose Park, Sunday, August 17
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Triple H FM (Link available via www.triplehfm.com.au/hhh)
Summary: Wenty will be looking to maintain their place inside the top four on Sunday when they host the Bulldogs. Wenty accounted for Manly last weekend in a win that would have boosted their spirits with the finals just a few weeks away. With that said, Wenty would also know that they face clashes against the Tigers and Panthers over the next fortnight, so they will still face a challenge to avoiding dropping into the bottom half of the eight. Off the back of having lost Ed Murphy for the season a week earlier, the Dogs also lost Levi Dodd to a knee injury against Wyong, meaning they have named a fresh centre pairing in Tyrone Phillips and Tautalatasi Tasi for this one. The Wenty wingers in Ben Fritz and Cecil MacKenzie combined for seven of the Magpies eleven tries last round, and the Dogs outside backs will need to be on high alert this Sunday. It’s always a great day out at Ringrose Park on a Sunday, and with this being the second last home game of 2014 for the Magpies, all footy lovers should head out for what should be an entertaining and free flowing affair.
On The Hunt: Despite an injury riddled 2014 season, Justin Hunt has made it back onto the park at the right time of the year for the Magpies. Hunt has great recent VB NSW Cup finals experience due to his time at the Bears, and you get the sense that if the Magpies are to go deep into September, it will be on the back of Justin Hunt.
Prediction: Wenty to survive a scare from a resilient Dogs team. Magpies by 7.
Penrith Panthers have the BYE
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