VB NSW Cup Previews - Preliminary Finals

Penrith Panthers (1) Vs Wentworthville Magpies (3)
Leichhardt Oval, Sunday, September 21
Kick-off: 1.10pm
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via 
www.hawkesburyradio.com.au)
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:
 The all-conquering Penrith Panthers are just one win away from a berth in the 2014 VB NSW Cup Grand Final, however their opponents in the Wentworthville Magpies will be out to spoil the party and nab their own place in the big dance come Sunday week. After a shaky start to the season that saw the Panthers drop their opening two games, they have gone on to win 21 of their next 23 matches, and the two losses in there were by six and one point respectively. As a result, the Panthers knocked off last year’s premiers, the Cronulla Sharks, season record of 43 competition points, finishing on 44. It has been an amazing season by any standards for the Panthers, but it will all count for nothing if they cannot get past a Magpies side that showed great resilience to force their way past Wyong last weekend. After kicking off their finals campaign with a less than inspiring performance against Newcastle back in week one, Wenty made the most of their top four finish by bouncing back and knocking over Wyong 29-16 last Sunday. Stars like Luke Kelly, Justin Hunt, Bureta Faraimo and Api Pewhairangi all showed class while workhorses like Isaac Maliota and Daniel Alvaro lead from the front. The Magpies will need more of the same this week as they look to defeat the Panthers for the first time in 2014, having lost both previous match ups. In team news, Api Pewhairangi moves to the centres for Wenty with Sam Gorman replacing him at five eighth, while for Penrith, Andy Saunders is the only change from the side that accounted for the Cutters back in week one of the finals, although we are hearing whispers that a couple of Panthers may be late inclusions, if not this week, then definitely for the Grand Final if they do happen to progress. Regardless of the result, these two sides have shown in their previous clashes to have a flair for fast and free flowing footy, so get to Leichhardt Oval nice and early for what should be an exciting way to kick off Preliminary Final day.       

2014 Head to Head Results:

Penrith Panthers 42 def. Wentworthville Magpies 22 at Ringrose Park (Round 4)

Penrith Panthers 44 def. Wentworthville Magpies 12 at Sportingbet Stadium (Round 25)

Panthers leading try scorer 2014 – Eto Nabuli (18 tries)

Magpies leading try scorer 2014 – Bureta Faraimo (19 tries)

Prediction:
 Given their roster and also their good record against the Magpies in 2014, it is hard not to tip the Panthers in what should be an entertaining affair. Panthers by 8.


Newcastle Knights (2) Vs Illawarra Cutters (4)
Leichhardt Oval, Sunday, September 21
Kick-off: 3.10pm
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.hawkesburyradio.com.au)
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:
 The Newcastle Knights will be out to progress to the VB NSW Cup Grand Final for the first time, having stumbled at the final hurdle in each of the last two seasons. Close losses to the Balmain Tigers (2012) and the Windsor Wolves (2013) have seen the Knights come up just short, but this 2014 side is arguably the clubs strongest in recent memory and best placed to see them progress. On the other side of the coin, the Cutters, in just their third season in the competition, are in uncharted territory. The Cutters finished sixth in 2012 but were knocked out in week one by eventual Premiers Newtown, while in 2013, the Cutters missed the finals altogether. The Cutters worked hard in 2014 for their top four finish and it paid dividends in a sense after they were afforded a second chance following their week one loss to the Panthers. The Cutters made the most of said opportunity last weekend and outplayed the Warriors in the second half to earn a shot against the Knights. Newcastle should be well rested having had the break after a first up win over Wenty, and with their side at full strength, there will be no excuses this time around. With Rick Stone moving into the VB NSW Cup coaching role following the arrival of Wayne Bennett in 2012, Stoney has done just about everything with this side other than taking them to the big dance, and it would be just rewards for him before he moves back into the top job in 2015 and Matt Lantry takes over the reins. In the other coach’s box, Scott Logan has done a great job since being thrust into the job mid-season. This promotion coincided with the Cutters losing their two first choice halves in Sam Williams (Super League) and Michael Witt (injury/retirement), however he wasn’t to be deterred and along with the likes of Sam Duggan and Drew Hutchison, has helped steer this team to within shouting distance of a spot in the Grand Final. As mentioned earlier, the Knights are at full strength with Travis Waddell, Chanel Mata’utia and Timana Tahu all rejoining the side after spending some time in the NRL during the concluding stages of the season. For the Cutters, the addition of Runciman, Matthews, Pumipi, Stanley and Mata’utia last week saw them look a far improved outfit, and they will carry an unchanged side into this encounter. These sides have split their two meetings thus far in 2014, with the home teams saluting on each occasion, so it is anybody’s guess what will happen here.      

2014 Head to Head Results:

Illawarra Cutters 26 def. Newcastle Knights 0 at WIN Jubilee Oval (Round 17)

Newcastle Knights 38 def. Illawarra Cutters 16 at Newcastle No.2 Sports Ground (Round 21)

Knights leading try scorer 2014 –
Nathan Ross (17 tries)

Cutters leading try scorer 2014 – Geoff Daniela (13 tries)

Prediction: It looms as a good old fashioned toss of the coin job, but leaning towards the Knights who have not lost since, ironically enough, round 17 against the Cutters. Knights by 2.

Make sure you are following @NSWRL on twitter and monitoring the #VBNSWCup hashtag all season long for all the latest news and scores.

Here is a recap of last weekend’s scores and scorers

Click here to view the team lists for this weekend

Click here to view the entire match highlight’s from last weekend’s games

Click here to find out everything you need to know about this year’s Grand Final day at Allianz Stadium