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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Penrith celebrate their teams win at the VB NSW Cup Grand Final match between Newcastle and Penrith at Allianz Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Renee McKay/Getty Images)

VB NSW Cup Previews - Rd 4

Newcastle v Penrith: IT’S THE GRAND FINAL REMATCH!
(Hunter Stadium, Saturday 28 March, 12.40pm)

The Newcastle Knights take on the Penrith Panthers in a Grand Final rematch from last season but Knights coach Matt Lantry insists his team isn’t looking for revenge.

“For us it’s a new season and we’re focusing on our own performance this week rather than looking back at last year’s Grand Final loss,” Lantry said. “We have a new team, new personnel and we’re just concentrating on our performances and gaining some consistency week-to-week to be competitive in all our games.”

The reigning VB NSW Cup premiers, Panthers, will be determined to bounce back against the Knights after their 10-game win streak was snapped at the hands of the Newtown Jets last week.

“No team likes to get beat,” Lantry said. “(Penrith coach) Garth Brennan is a former Novocastrian going through the coaching ranks and has gone through to Penrith. This match will be added motivation for him as well as the fact the Panthers are coming off a loss.”

It’s a big test for the Knights looking to stamp their premiership credentials for the season against the competition’s leading contenders.

“Penrith is certainly the benchmark of the competition this year with the strength of their VB NSW Cup and first grade teams,” Lantry said. “We will be testing ourselves to where we are currently at but it’s more about consistent performances this season.”

Newcastle is also looking to return to the winners’ circle this week after a tough 18-6 loss against local rivals Wyong, in which they were held scoreless for the final 72 minutes of the contest. However, defence has been the priority in training for the Knights this week.

“We had a look at what we are doing with the footy last week but for me, first and foremost, our defensive issues are the things we need to sort out to be better in the middle of the park and better under fatigue,” Lantry said.

“If you’re winning the battle defensively, the footy side of things takes care of itself from my perspective. It’s all about concentrating on our defence to give ourselves a chance with the footy.”


(Mt. Smart Stadium, Saturday 28 March, 1.00pm NZ time [11.00am AEDT])

The road doesn’t get any easier for the North Sydney Bears who travel across the Tasman for their toughest test yet against the in-form New Zealand Warriors.

It’s been a challenging schedule for the Bears who are still yet to play at home.

“It has been a tough opening to the season having to travel to Bathurst, Wollongong and now New Zealand to face the Warriors,” Bears coach Wayne Lambkin said. “It’s been particularly difficult with a lot of the boys filling in for South Sydney.”

As the South Sydney Rabbitohs’ feeder club, Lambkin has the added challenge to an already difficult assignment without many of his regular team members in support of the reigning NRL premiers and competition leaders.

Coming off a disappointing 50-12 loss to the Illawarra Cutters last week, Lambkin is determined for his team to respond positively.

“It’s all about our attitude,” Lambkin said. “It’s important to make our completions and get through our sets early on in the season.”

The Warriors are riding a wave of momentum after their impressive 44-20 win led by five-eighth, Api Pewhairangi, at home against the Wentworthville Magpies.

“We know the Warriors like to score points and get bored carrying the footy out of their own end. We need to make it a down-and-dour affair for them.”


Wests Tigers v Mounties: WHO WILL REMAIN UNBEATEN?
(Leichardt Oval, Saturday 28 March, 3.00pm)

Who will stand as the only undefeated team of the VB NSW Cup as the Wests Tigers and Mounties look to keep their perfect records intact?

While many consider the Wests Tigers lucky to remain unbeaten in escaping with a thrilling 34-32 win over the Bulldogs last week, coach Paul Fletcher is confident the team will use the victory as a building block for the rest of the season.

“I said to the boys that I think we will get the benefit of that win later in the season when there’s more adversity and things aren’t going well,” Fletcher said. “We can look back at that win and take strength from that.

“The boys deserve a tonne of credit to play 54 minutes with 12 men against a big side like Canterbury. To be under adversity and not give up but keep coming – that was very pleasing from my view.”

It will be a tougher task for the Wests Tigers against Mounties who have been impressive after winning their first three matches of the season.

“They have a quality team there,” Fletcher said. “They have Sam Williams at halfback, Jack Ahearn at fullback.”

Although they would love to stay undefeated, Fletcher’s men and Mounties have the big picture in mind and are concentrating on building for the season rather than focusing on one game.

“It’s only round four,” Fletcher said. “We’re still coming together as are the Mounties. No one has fully hit their straps yet but it would be nice to win. Everyone likes to win, don’t they? But the main emphasis for us is to improve on those little areas we need to improve on.

“It’s about getting our own house in order and working to get things right with what we do. That’s our main focus.”


(Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday 28 March, 4.00pm)

The Bulldogs are desperate to bounce back after last week’s bitter loss where they led 32-22 with five minutes remaining before the Wests Tigers scored two converted tries to steal the most unlikely of victories.

“The boys are obviously very upset, which is good,” said Bulldogs coach Andy Patmore. “I’m glad they’re upset by it. We did lots of good things as well and we really want to focus on the positives while we work on those areas from last week and the couple of lapses we had.”

Canterbury face a hard task in trying to breach a stubborn Wyong defence that held out the Newcastle Knights for 72 minutes in last week’s 18-6 win.

“It’s an old cliché but we’re worried about a couple things on our side of the field first,” Patmore said. “A bit of our defensive work needs to improve and we certainly need to restrict sides to less than 30 points. I think our attack is good enough to score some points.”

That’s much easier said than done however with the Roos, as the Sydney Roosters’ feeder club has the benefit of extensive first-grade experience.

“They have some quality players there,” Patmore said. “They’ve got some of the boys from the Roosters all the way through from Mitch Williams and Yileen Gordon, who has a lot of NRL games.”

“Their back-row is big and strong and that gives them a lot of momentum with a hooker like Williams that presents a lot of danger to us. We’ll definitely focus on it and if we can control that, we should go ok.”


(Leichardt Oval, Saturday 28 March, 5.00pm)

The Jets are flying high after ending the Penrith Panthers’ 10-game win streak but know it counts for very little if they can’t follow it up with a win over Manly.

“Hopefully last week gives us a bit of confidence to go into next week but it will mean nothing if we don’t back it up,” Newtown coach Greg Matterson said.

With just one win after three rounds, the Jets are desperate for successive victories.

“We were competitive in our first two matches but we lost them both,” Matterson said. “We need to string a couple of wins together and that’s our aim. This week is no different, we’ve got to turn up and get ready to play again.

“[Last week] we had a bit of soul-searching and we turned up ready to play. We had good line speed, we had good defence and put some pressure on them. We need to bring that to the table every week.”

Having recorded only one victory so far, Manly are equally hungry for victory after getting crushed 46-20 by Mounties last week.

The Jets will be without their star playmaker, Jack Bird, who is on-duty with the Cronulla Sharks’ NRL squad this week.

“[It’s hard] when you lose good players but it’s an opportunity for someone else to step up,” Matterson said.

“I’ve got plenty of NRL quality in the backline so they should be able to get the job done and stay focused. It’s all about good completions and good defence. It doesn’t matter who we play, that’s going to be our aim.”


Wentworthville v Illawarra: MAGPIES DESPERATE FOR FIRST WIN
(Ringrose Park, Sunday 29 March, 3.00pm)

It’s been a rough start to the season for both sides but Wentworthville go into their match against the Cutters with full knowledge of how important victory is.

“After losing three straight, or after losing one game for that matter, you treat the following game as a must-win to get back on track,” Magpies coach Brett Cook said. “This game is very important for us and we need to approach it that way.”

One of the pre-season favourites to take out the VB NSW Cup, the Cutters are coming off a monster 50-12 win against the North Sydney Bears last week but Cook is only concentrating on his own side and addressing their own weaknesses.

“It’s more about us getting our things right and not concentrating on them,” Cook said. “If we do that, then we will give ourselves a good opportunity. They’re obviously a really good footy side and they were one of the favourites before the season started but we just need to worry about ourselves at the moment.

“The biggest thing that has let us down is that we have given the opposition too much ball and I don’t think we’ve given ourselves a fair share of possession,” Cook said. “Completions for a start and definitely our defence needs to be stiffened up a bit. We need to control the ruck a bit more because teams are getting a roll on against us.”


Click here for VB NSW Cup Round 4 match details and team line-ups.

Click here for complete VB NSW Cup Round 3 match highlights.

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