VB NSW Cup Previews - Round Twenty Four

NZ Warriors Vs Newtown Jets
Mt Smart Stadium, Saturday, August 23
Kick-off: 1.00pm (NZT), 11.00am (AEST)
Referee: Shane Rehm

Summary:
 A shock loss to the Sea Eagles last weekend sees the Jets heading to Auckland with their backs to the wall. Entering round 24 in tenth spot on the ladder, the Jets would know that they need wins in their final two games against the Warriors and Knights, and even then it may not be enough. The Warriors have dropped their last three on the trot, and as a result, they have not yet booked their ticket to the finals. But with back to back home games to finish the regular season, both against opponents that sit outside the top eight, the Warriors still look likely to fall into the bottom half of the eight. Rohan Smith had his side humming along nicely mid-season, and the Warriors were looming as a side that no one wanted to meet in the first week of the finals. While momentum has certainly swung against them in recent times, they still have two weeks to right the ship prior to a likely week one elimination final. For the Jets it has been a season that has never really got going at any stage, but they are a proud club, and regardless of their potential finals status, they will want to finish the season on a high note before turning their attentions to sorting out their affiliation status for 2015.

Centre’s of Attention: The Jets outside backs will have their hands full this Saturday, particularly with the Warriors centre pairing of Solomone Kata and Ken Maumalo. Kata is a nuggety centre that stands less than 180cm tall, but what he lacks in height he more than makes up for in power. Maumalo is an altogether different body shape, with the young Warrior standing some 190cm tall and tipping the scales at almost 110kg. They will both prove a handful for the Jets defence, particularly close to the line. If the Jets are to keep their season alive, they will need to keep these pair off the score sheet.

Prediction: A tough one to tip with both sides playing for so much. Maybe Newtown in a low scoring affair. Jets by 4.


Mounties Vs Penrith Panthers
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, August 23
Kick-off: 1.10pm
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (Link available via 
893fm.com.au)
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via 
www.hawkesburyradio.com.au)

Summary:
 The all-conquering Panthers will get an early taste of what they are likely to face in September when they tackle a fired up Mounties outfit on Saturday. Mounties will be buoyed by their 40-0 win over the Bears last weekend, and with a potential top four finish still up for grabs, they will be throwing everything at the Panthers this weekend. The Panthers enjoyed the bye last weekend and should be fresh for this clash, but with the minor premiership wrapped up over a fortnight ago, there are some possible question marks over the side’s motivation during these concluding rounds. No doubt Garth Brennan would have drilled it into his side throughout the week that there is no place for complacency over the next couple of weeks, because even with the results not necessarily having any great bearing on them, momentum is a wonderful thing to have in our game, and the Panthers will not want to risk losing it at the wrong time of the year. Mosese Pangai was on fire for Mounties last week, and along with fellow speedsters in Dargan, Sauiluma and Robinson, the Mounties backline will give the star studded Panthers a real test in a match that looks to have plenty of points in it. Jeremy Hawkins has finally been rewarded for his good form in the VB NSW Cup with an NRL debut this week, and Kyle O’Donnell has also been elevated in the only real changes from the side that saluted down at GIO Stadium last Saturday.

Top Four or Bust: It’s fairly simple, Mounties would know that despite sitting in fifth spot on the ladder, they control their own top four fate. A win this week over the Panthers would almost certainly see them in the four at rounds end as the third and second placed sides in Wenty and the Tigers square off on Sunday. That would then leave them needing a win in their round 25 clash against the Sharks to hang onto their spot. Over to you Mounties!

Prediction: Will tip Mounties because for this weekend at least, it would appear that they have more to play for. Mounties by 6.

Illawarra Cutters Vs Wyong Roos
WIN Stadium, Saturday, August 23
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Chris Treneman

Summary:
 Wyong continue to prove the doubters wrong by winning matches that many thought they couldn’t, and as a result, their faint finals chances have actually become very real. Three consecutive wins, two of which were on the road against top eight sides, sees Wyong knowing that wins against the Cutters and Tigers over the next fortnight should be enough to see them playing finals football in just their second season in the VB NSW Cup. The Cutters won’t just roll over for the visitors though as they need a win here to seal their place in the top four. The Cutters have a bye in round 25 so a win here would guarantee that they finish on 34 points, and with their excellent for and against, that should be enough to see them finish second or third dependent on other results. Given that they have the bye next week, Scott Logan would be looking for his side to bounce back following their 24-16 loss to the Tigers last weekend, otherwise they will enter the finals off back to back losses, and a two week break, which wouldn’t be ideal. In team news, the Roos look to have once again retained the same side, which is a luxury that cannot be understated in this competition while the Cutters have added some NRL experience in Nathan Green and Adam Quinlan for this important clash. The Roos were humbled by the Cutters to the tune of 40-0 when these sides met earlier in the season, and knowing Rip Taylor, this may have been brought up at training during the week.  

Dream the Impossible Dream: You have got to hand it to Rip Taylor and his troops, they don’t have much quit in them. Still outsiders to make the top eight with away trips against the Cutters and the Tigers to finish the season, Wyong have certainly shown that with some additional assistance in the form of some contracted Roosters players in 2015, that they are a club on the rise. It would certainly throw the cat amongst the pigeons if they were to qualify for this year’s finals series, but even if they don’t, their season would still surely have to be deemed a success.

Prediction: Look for the Cutters to bounce back but a Wyong win is a real possibility. Cutters by 2.

North Sydney Bears Vs Cronulla Sharks
North Sydney Oval, Saturday, August 23
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via
www.steelesports.com.au)

Summary:
 The defending premiers season hangs by a thread at present as they prepare to head up to Sydney and cross the bridge and take on a Bears side that needs to give their home fans something to take into the off season. The Sharks have dropped three straight entering this one and desperately need the win otherwise they may well find themselves outside the eight by rounds end with a difficult match up against Mounties next weekend. It is difficult to pin point exactly where things have gone wrong for the Sharkies in 2014. There has been some well documented off field dramas at the club, and their depth has certainly been tested due to injuries in the top squad, but to be fair, their line up most weeks could arguably compare to their sides that were dominating the competition just one year ago. We often touched on the difficulties that their relationship with Melbourne can throw up, and while everything fell into place last season, it appears that things just haven’t clicked in season 2014. It would be an understatement to say that Bears season has also never really clicked into gear, but they do need to stand up this weekend, in what is their last home match at North Sydney Oval in 2014, and at least give their fans something to take into the offseason. With a tough road trip to come against the Warriors, this may well be the red and blacks best chance to register win number three for the year.

Win Or Go Home: The Sharks simply can’t afford to slip up here in a match that they do look heavily favoured to win. But their recent form has been underwhelming to say the least, and you just sense that this match may not be the walk in the park that the Sharks fans would be hoping for. With Wyong and Newtown breathing right down their necks, the Sharks could find themselves outside the eight with a tough trip to tackle Mounties in the final round if they cannot account for the Bears. 

Prediction: The Sharks just need to win. Sharks by 10.

Newcastle Knights Vs Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Newcastle No.2 Sports Ground, Sunday, August 24
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Damian Briscoe
Broadcast:
NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au

Summary:
 Having now won five in a row and moved to within touching distance of the top four, the Knights have firmed in premiership betting in recent weeks. And with two home fixtures against Manly and Newtown to finish the regular season, the Knights are beginning to loom large. The Knights have been one of this competitions most consistent sides in recent years, in fact their 47 wins since the beginning of the 2012 season is only bettered by the Wolves/Panthers who currently have 48 wins over that same stretch. But with that said, the Knights have lost preliminary finals in each of the last two seasons, by two points to the Tigers in 2012, and by four points to the Wolves last year. And with Rick Stone heading back into the top job next year, he would love to at least see this side make a grand final in 2014 before he hands over the reins to his replacement. The Sea Eagles will be out to spoil the party, just like they did last weekend as they accounted for the Jets 38-18 at Brooky. Unsurprisingly the return of Clinton Gutherson sparked the Sea Eagles into action and the Jets were out of it by half time. Manly have once again named a very strong side that includes Cheyse Blair who drops back from NRL duty. For the Knights, Nathan Ross has been named to return after missing the Knights win over the Warriors due to a virus.       

Marked Man: We spoke of his return to the Sea Eagles side last week, and just what it might mean to Manly’s chances of knocking off the Jets… and low and behold if Clinton Gutherson didn’t make up for some lost time. Returning from an ankle injury that had kept him off the park for a couple of months, Gutherson was electric against Newtown, scoring three superb tries and returning the ball with verve at every opportunity. The Knights are travelling well and will be eyeing off a top four spot, but will need to be on high alert on Sunday or they may just be eyeing off the studs on Gutho’s boots as he tears away from them.

Prediction: The Knights are the form team of the competition at present and shouldn’t slip up at home. Knights by 8.

 

Wentworthville Magpies Vs Wests Tigers
Ringrose Park, Sunday, August 24
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Ashley Klein
Broadcast: Radio coverage courtesy of ALIVE fm (Link available via
alive905.com.au)

Summary:
 An all top four affair here as the third placed Magpies host the second placed Tigers. The Magpies got out of jail last Sunday thanks to a Justin Hunt try on the buzzer. Wenty were running second to the Bulldogs for most of the match and were perhaps a touch fortunate to escape with the points, but they will take them and move on all the same. The Tigers had a good win over the Cutters, and as a result took their spot on the ladder. Plenty of talented youngsters suiting up for both of these sides, but the backrow battle between Sitaleki Akauola and Pauli Pauli is one that the fans who venture out to Ringrose Park will want to keep a close eye on. The Tigers will be hoping to get through the next couple of weeks in decent shape as they know that they should get a few players back for the finals series. Wenty will also get back one or two with the competitions leading try scorer in Bureta Faraimo one who should walk straight back into the Magpies side for the finals. This will be the Magpies final home game for 2014 as they are slated to head out to Sportingbet Stadium to tackle the Panthers in round 25.

Second or Sixth: For Wenty it is pretty simple, beat the Tigers and finish the round in second, but if they lose, they could perhaps fall as low as sixth and kiss a top four finish goodbye. Wenty have unfortunately put themselves in this position due to their poor for and against. We highlighted the role that this may play some weeks back, and it does appear set to cost at least one side a top four finish over the coming weeks. With a round 25 matchup against the Panthers still to come, a win here is a must for the Magpies.

Prediction: Probably the toughest game of the weekend to tip. Tigers by 1.


Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have the BYE

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