VB NSW Cup Previews - Round Twenty Five

Newcastle Knights Vs Newtown Jets
Hunter Stadium, Saturday, August 30
Kick-off: 12.40pm
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ

Summary:
 The Newcastle Knights will be eyeing off a top two finish when they play host to a Jets side that needs a win, and also some other results to go their way, if they are to play finals football in 2014. Sitting in tenth place on 27 competition points, the Jets would need to beat the Knights and then hope that at least two of three sides that sit immediately above them on the ladder lose. If the Jets ultimately do miss the eight, they may well look back at their round 23 loss to Manly as the game that cost them their spot. It is somewhat remarkable that the Jets even remain in contention when you think that they came back from 28-0 down last week against the Warriors to win and did something similar against the Panthers at Allianz Stadium back in round 19. For the Knights, they posted their sixth straight win last weekend when they accounted for Manly 42-18. Remarkably the Knights were sitting in tenth spot just a couple of months ago, and some were even wondering if they would make the eight, let alone rocket into second favouritism with the bookmakers. A win here for the Knights, and a loss for Wenty against the Panthers would see the Novocastrians finish the regular season in second place, while a loss could see them fall as far as sixth if other results were to go against them.

Prominent at the selection table: Over the coming week’s we will see the launch of the 2014 VB NSW Cup ‘Team of the Year’ (TOTY) voting, and a number of these Knights are set to feature prominently. 2012 and 2013 team member, and prolific point scoring freak, Josh Mantellato is certainly one who will feature prominently once again while others such as Nathan Ross, Tyler Randell and Michael Dobson would all certainly come under consideration also. Keep your eyes open in the coming weeks to see how you can have your say on the 2014 VB NSW Cup TOTY.

Prediction: The Knights should keep their winning streak intact heading into the finals. Knights by 8.

 

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, August 30
Kick-off: 1.15pm
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via
www.steelesports.com.au)
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (Link available via 
893fm.com.au)

Summary:
 In the only match this weekend that is certain to have no real finals ramifications, the Sea Eagles will tackle the Bulldogs. Both of these sides have had their moments in 2014, but not enough of them consistently throughout the season to ever really look like a title threat. There have been some good stories to come out of both of these sides though, with the likes of Jayden Hodges and Clinton Gutherson both looking very good at times for Manly, while for the Bulldogs, Jaline Graham looks to be a promising young talent, and Lachlan Burr has had another solid season and surely can’t be far off regular NRL football, be it at the Dogs, or another club. Matches like this are always tough to predict as ultimately it will probably come down to which side wants it more than the other. This is a statement that is true for all games yes, but with little more than pride to play for, it is more relevant here than usual. When these two sides clashed way back in round two it was a 32-10 win to the Bulldogs with Jaline Graham grabbing a double on that occasion.

Location Location: Please remember that this match has been transferred out to Campbelltown Sports Stadium to be played as the first part of a VB NSW Cup double header. Originally scheduled for Brookvale Oval, the decision was made to try and preserve the playing surface for NRL action on the Sunday, so it will now be played prior to the 3pm Wests Tigers V Wyong Roos game out west.

Prediction: Perhaps one last win for the Sea Eagles, but your guess is as good as mine. Manly by 2. 

 

Wests Tigers Vs Wyong Roos
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, August 30
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (Link available via 
893fm.com.au)
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via
www.steelesports.com.au)

Summary:
 The second part of the above mentioned double header will see the Wests Tigers attempting to secure a top four finish when they take on a Wyong side that needs a win to play finals football. It has been a fairytale run towards a maiden finals berth for the Roos of late as they have reeled off four straight wins to now be in a position where they control their own destiny. And they would have to like their chances against a Tigers outfit that went down to Wenty 44-6 last Sunday. In a further boost to the Roos prospects, their inspirational captain in Mitch Williams made a remarkable return to the field last weekend, from what was believed to be a season ending elbow injury suffered back in round 20. His inclusion now sees the Roos at full strength while the same cannot be said for this week’s opposition in the Tigers. The casualty ward at Concord is well over capacity and as a result, at least half a dozen players who were regulars in this VB NSW Cup side mid-year, are now finishing off the year in the NRL. The upside for Tigers fans is that they look set to get a number of players back once the NRL season concludes, but the downside is that by then, it may be too late. With our finals series kicking off next weekend, the powers that be at Tiger Town may have a decision to make, because if the Tigers don’t get over the line here, they will be in an elimination final next week, and with the Tigers also slated for a round 26 NRL clash with the Sharks next Saturday, it will make for an interesting Tuesday afternoon at the selection table.

Let’s Fro Bro: Just a little side show to keep an eye on here. Look out for former Tiger Eloni Vunakece when he gets on the park. Big Vuna will no doubt be looking forward to facing his old club and one can only hope that at some stage both he and James Gavet come together up front in what would be a follicle explosion of the highest order. Think SBW and Joel Clinton from almost a decade ago but with heaps more hair flying everywhere!

Prediction: Time to hop on board. Roos by 6.

 

Mounties Vs Cronulla Sharks
Mt Pritchard Sports Ground, Saturday, August 30
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Chris Treneman

Summary:
 Another big match in terms of the top eight and finalising how it is all going to pan out. The Jets and Warriors fans will certainly be cheering for a Mounties win while the Sharks know that they are basically playing for their finals lives. If the Sharks were to lose here, they would then need both the Jets and Warriors to lose to remain in the eight by rounds end, and with the Warriors heavily favoured to account for the Bears on Sunday, this would seem an unlikely scenario. Mounties can’t fall out of the eight regardless of the result, in fact they can’t finish any worse than their current position of sixth, but they could still finish fourth depending on other results. The Sharks accounted for Mounties 22-20 back in round 18 after Mounties had lead 14-6 at half time. Obviously a lot has happened to both of these clubs since then, with the Sharks particularly affected by recent suspension and injury dramas. A young and somewhat inexperienced Cronulla side came back from 10-4 down against the Bears last weekend to win 32-10 while Mounties were their own worst enemy against the Panthers in a match they may well had won had they held on to some ball. Mounties will have Terry Campese at six here again, and he may also play for them during week one of the finals series, as their NRL affiliate, the Raiders, will still be in action. The Sharks side resembles nothing like the teams that were taking to the park earlier in the year, but with players like Penani Manumalealii and Ben Hampton steering them around the park, they will still be dangerous. 

Over to you Sam: In terms of the top try scorer title, the status quo remained last weekend with not too much movement at the top. Bureta Faraimo remains on top with 18, and is currently on the sidelines with a knee injury, while Sami (17) couldn’t get over the line against the Panthers in a day that wasn’t exactly an outside backs dream. Just behind Sami on 16 tries is Josh Mantellato while Nathan Ross and Eto Nabuli would need a bag of tries as they enter the final round on 15 tries. So short of an outrageous performance from one of the guys behind him, Sami probably just needs a sneaky double against the Sharks to claim this year’s regular season title. Over to you Sami.

Prediction: Look for Mounties to bounce back at home. Mounties by 4.


Penrith Panthers Vs Wentworthville Magpies
Sportingbet Stadium, Saturday, August 30
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Damian Briscoe
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via 
www.hawkesburyradio.com.au)

Summary:
 Another mouthwatering match up in what may well be a preview of what’s to come in the finals. In fact, there is a scenario that may well see these two sides face off again next week. If the Panthers get home here, and the Knights and Tigers win, there is a real possibility that the Magpies will finish in fourth spot. With that said, Wenty posted a good 44-6 win over the Tigers last weekend and would be hopeful of a win here to secure second spot on the ladder, and avoid a week one match up with the Panthers. The Panthers did what they had to against Mounties last week but are likely to face sterner opposition here, and with injuries now starting to really take a toll at the club, the Panthers excellent depth is set to be really tested. And with the club also set to feature in both the NRL and Holden Cup finals as well as the VB NSW Cup, it is going to take a real balancing act each week to make sure all sides are given their best possible chance of success. Kevin Kingston has joined an ever-growing list of players who are now out for the year, after he suffered a knee injury playing NRL last weekend. Kingston is one of at least seven top liners now on the sidelines for the rest of the season, and as a result, players like Tim Grant, Ben Murdoch Masila and Will Smith all find themselves in the top grade, but the club will be hopeful of getting Isaah Yeo, Brent Kite and David Simmons back in the next fortnight, which should see one or two filter back down into their VB NSW Cup side. It’s a similar story for Wenty with Bureta Faraimo, Mitch Allgood, Kelepi Tanginoa and Ken Sio all likely to return to either NRL or VB NSW Cup action over the next fortnight.

History in the making: We’re going to cover some old ground here but a number of weeks back we flagged the proposition that the Panthers may in fact eclipse the Sharks 2013 mark of 43 regular season competition points, if they were able to run the table so to speak and win their remaining five games after a round 19 loss to the Jets. Fast forward to now and they have won four straight and just need a win this weekend over Wenty to finish the season on 44 competition points. Now I doubt for one minute that Garth Brennan has given this much thought to be honest, but the fact remains that last year’s Sharks side was vaunted as one of the most dominant in NSW Cup history and this Panthers side has looked every bit their equal. The Panthers have already eclipsed the 2013 Cronulla side in terms of attacking numbers however it is worth noting that the Sharks had them covered in terms of defence. The Panthers are warm favourites to take out this year’s title, let’s see how they respond to the pressure of carrying that expectation.

Prediction: Wenty will be fired up but the Panthers won’t want to head into the finals off the back of a loss. Panthers by 7.

 

NZ Warriors Vs North Sydney Bears
Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday, August 31
Kick-off: 11.40am (NZT), 9.40am (AEST)
Referee: Jamal Thompson
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ

Summary:
 This game may mean a lot to a few teams or it may not, and we aren’t going to know until the matches on Saturday are completed. The Warriors need either the Sharks or Roos to lose their respective matches, but if they are both successful, the Warriors season will be over affectively by dinner time on Saturday night. The Warriors would still be seething that they find themselves in this predicament, having lost their last four, including heartbreaking losses to the Tigers and most recently to the Jets when they handed up a 28-0 lead. The Warriors would certainly bring something to the finals series if they are able to make it, and despite their recent poor form, I doubt any other sides would be terribly happy to draw them week one in an elimination final. For the Bears, last week was basically their season in a nutshell. They played pretty good footy for forty minutes and lead the Sharks 10-4 at oranges, only to get blanketed in the second half and go down 32-10. When these two sides met back in round 11, the Bears were right in the match with 15 minutes remaining before conceding the last two tries of the game to go down 36-22. Feleti Mateo will suit up in the VB NSW Cup this week for the Warriors while the Bears have added Nathaniel Neale, Joel Reddy and Matt Hyland to their squad for the trip across the ditch.

Reddy for a cool stat: Ok Bears fans, it’s not much but it’s something. Joel Reddy has played three games for the Bears in 2014 and you have won two of them! In the 20 games he hasn’t played you are 0-20. In the three games that Joel played, he scored a try in each of the two wins, and didn’t in the loss. So if you are a Bears fan 1) Hope he gets on the flight to Auckland and 2) Hope he scores!

Prediction: The Warriors will be keen to finish the season on a high, finals or no finals. Warriors by 12.


Illawarra Cutters have the BYE

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