VB NSW Cup Previews - Rd 8
Warriors v Newtown: JETS HEAD FOR NZ
(Mt Smart Stadium, Saturday 25 April, 11:40am local)
The Newtown Jets fly to Auckland to take on the inconsistent New Zealand Warriors in the Fox Sports match of the round.
The Jets climbed the VB NSW Cup ladder to fourth place with their four-game win streak and they aim to begin another string of victories after their first loss in five weeks against the top-of-the-table Mounties last round.
It’s also a vital clash for the Warriors who have had difficulty putting back-to-back wins together as they sit in sixth place.
There’s more than just two points at stake with VB NSW Cup Representative Side selections also on the line.
One of the major talking points in this game will be the inclusion of former NRL star Konrad Hurrell in the Warriors' side.
Wyong v Illawarra: CUTTERS LOOK FOR PAYBACK
(Morry Breen Oval, Saturday 25 April, 3:00pm)
It didn’t take long for the Illawarra Cutters and Wyong Roos to meet again.
Illawarra suffered a demoralising 24-20 loss against Wyong in round six after leading 20-12 with 10 minutes remaining. It’s a match that still lingers in the mind of the Cutters coach Scott Logan.
“When we played Wyong we should have won that game,” Logan said.
The Cutters are determined to build on their second win of the season, beating the Wests Tigers 24-14 last round.
“It was our best performance so far,” Logan said. “We got closer to an 80-minute performance than we have all year.”
While their two-and-five record isn’t ideal Illawarra knows their standing isn’t reflective of their performance in losing three of their five losses by four points or less.
“We’ve been in every single game and should have won a few more,” Logan said. “We’re at the point where we’re working hard during the week but we still had errors at crucial times. The fact we weren’t getting those wins and let ourselves down, we needed the attitude to get those two points last week.”
Their win could certainly be the vital turning point of their season.
“Considering we had three straight losses before that, I thought we went out with the attitude to bounce back and our intent in everything was a lot better,” Logan said. “It was very pleasing we went out with that attitude.
“Obviously we want to improve from there but it’s a good stepping stone to win two games together which we haven’t done all year.”
The third-placed Roos – coming off a disappointing 32-4 thrashing at the hands of the North Sydney Bears – are looking to consolidate their top-four position on the VB NSW Cup ladder.
“It’s a no-brainer, we’re going to have to complete our sets and try to turn their pack around,” Logan said. “They’re a very hard-working pack. Defensively we need to be on our game and control the ball when we are in attack.”
It’s a task easier said than done.
Mounties v Penrith: CLASH OF THE TITANS
(St Marys Stadium, Saturday 25 April, 3:00pm)
It's a showdown for the ages as the undefeated Mounties take on defending premiers Penrith Panthers this Saturday.
“It’s a big clash, it’s a big challenge for us against the reigning premiers,” Mounties coach Steve Antonelli said. “ It’s a real test for us to see where we are at.”
Mounties snapped the Newtown Jets' four-game winning streak last weekend to remain unbeaten and set up a salivating blockbuster top-of-the-table clash between two of the competition's heavyweight contenders.
In their respective Round 7 matches, Mounties outclassed the Jets 24-8 in dramatic fashion while Penrith overran the New Zealand Warriors 34-20 after trailing 16-6 thanks to Will Smith's dominant performance in the halves.
With representative selections in the NSW Cup next Sunday up for grabs for both sides, it’s a huge occasion for Mounties who are motivated to beat the premiers and stamp their premiership credentials.
While they are the only team not to lose in the VB NSW Cup this season, Antonelli insists staying unbeaten is not their focus.
“We don’t really look at that,” Antonelli said. “We just worry about our week-to-week performance and improving each week. Seven wins from seven matches is good but we move into each week and try to improve collectively as a team and as individuals.”
The second-placed Panthers will be hungry to be the first side to topple Mounties this season and reassert themselves as the team to beat.
“It’s becoming a bit of a challenge each week with teams aiming up to knock us off,” Antonelli said. “It’s a challenge for us to take but if, individually, all 17 of my side are at their best, then we will be very hard to beat. That’s what the VB NSW Cup is all about. It’s about every individual being at their best.”
Wentworthville v Wests Tigers: DESPERATE CATS CLAWING FOR WIN
(Ringrose Park, Sunday 26 April, 3:00pm)
The Wests Tigers opened their 2015 VB NSW Cup campaign with three consecutive wins in what was a promising start to the season. However, their season is slipping away after losing their last four games.
Wests Tigers coach Paul Fletcher is quickly looking for answers to turn his team’s recent performance around.
“We lost by four points to Mounties in round four where we had a chance to win the game,” Fletcher said. “We dropped the ball over the line with a couple of seconds to go that would’ve earned the win. Against Penrith in round five, we were down 10-nil before we drew back to 10-all and were beaten by a penalty goal. The last two weeks we have really let ourselves down.
“Our defence hasn’t been up to scratch and our completion rates haven’t been near acceptable.”
Their demise comes down to their attitude according to Fletcher. “It’s an attitude problem,” Fletcher said. “For the last two weeks we have spoken about attitude both individually and as a group. And it’s hard to see any improvement.”
Wests Tigers are taking on local rivals, the Wentworthville Magpies who are coming off a frustrating 25-22 defeat against the Newcastle Knights. The Magpies led 22-12 with 10 minutes remaining before suffering their fifth loss of the season.
“Whichever club gets up and has the right attitude will win in every game in this competition,” Fletcher said. “It’s just attitude and desire.”
North Sydney v Manly: RIVALS SET FOR PIVOTAL CLASH
(North Sydney Oval, Sunday 26 April, 3:00pm)
New coach Ben Gardiner is hoping to build on the North Sydney Bears’ impressive 32-4 upset victory over the Roos as they face off against old foes, the Manly Sea Eagles.
“I didn’t expect things to go as well as they did last week,” Gardiner said. “The boys played with good energy and did a lot of basic things that have been around in rugby league for over 100 years that came together for us in one day. Our challenge is to do that week in week out, not just as a one off. We’re working really hard to ensure that and make sure the process takes care of the outcome.”
It was an unforgettable coaching debut but Gardiner places the credit on his side.
“As a coach it’s always really nice to win,” Gardiner said. “Along the way you need to put in the work and if you get the result it’s an even greater benefit. The boys do that- it’s not the coach. The coach just stands in the background making sure the team is ready to go. It’s rewarding for me but even more rewarding for the players.”
The Sea Eagles are also coming into the match full of confidence after a solid 18-14 victory against the Canterbury Bulldogs. It’s an important match for both sides sitting with just two wins after the opening seven rounds. Gardiner knows the Bears can’t get ahead of themselves in a long season.
“You have to stay grounded,” Gardiner said. “We’ll worry about ourselves and what we do. That was key for us last week. We knew Wyong were a good side but it’s about us and making sure our standards are at a high level. That means doing all the little things on the field and ticking all the boxes so that we perform the way we should.
“I know it’s a cliché but I like to take it week by week. Last week was last week and this week is this week. We won’t worry about the opposition and focus on improving on last week. We want to continue to keep moving forward in addressing those areas for improvement.”
It’s set to be a cracking Sunday afternoon of footy at North Sydney Oval this Saturday.
Newcastle v Canterbury: KNIGHTS AIM TO BREAK SHACKLES
(Morry Breen Oval, Sunday 26 April, 3:00pm)
After another last-gasp 25-22 victory over the Magpies, the Newcastle Knights are the Harry Houdini’s of the VB NSW Cup this season with a tendency for final-minute theatrics.
“We’ve had our share of last minute wins,” Knights coach Matt Lantry said. “We’ve also had our share of last minute loses like against Mounties in round six- we should’ve won that game.
“Against Illawarra in round five we were up 24-4 at halftime and run down to find ourselves behind 26-24 (before winning). It shows good character within our team and we don’t lie down when things are going against us.”
While Lantry is pleased with his side’s ability to prevail in the final moments, he is more alarmed with a consistent 80-minute effort and knows that his side can’t afford any slow periods against the Bulldogs on Sunday.
“We keep chipping away knowing there are opportunities at the end of the game. Our starts are really good but it’s the middle period of the game that we need to focus our attention to be better for the entire 80 minutes.
“It’s not anything other than concentration and how you handle adversity where you have to defend repeat sets, back-to-back errors or penalties. “
Canterbury is desperate for the two points against Newcastle in keeping their standing in the top eight of the VB NSW Cup ladder.
“We’re expecting a typical Bulldogs performance-tough and gritty. We need to make sure of starting well and stay in that consistent grind for two 40-minute periods.”