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Wests Tigers v North Sydney: Tigers look for 80-minute performance

(Leichhardt Oval, Saturday May 30, 10:45am)

The eleventh-placed North Sydney Bears will travel to Leichhardt Oval this Saturday to take on seventh-placed Wests Tigers

The Bears are carrying momentum into this game after defeating the defending premiers, Penrith Panthers, whilst the Tigers will still be seething after letting a 14-point lead against the Wyong Roos escape from them last week.

The Bears have shown fast-tracked improvement under new-coach Ben Gardiner. Tigers coach Paul Fletcher understands they are a very dangerous side despite their second-last spot on the ladder.

“[The Bears] had a great win against Penrith,” says Fletcher. “Any side can beat anyone on their day in the VB NSW Cup, so you’ve just got to have the right attitude and be prepared to work hard.”

After their bitterly disappointing loss last week, Fletcher believes that their main focus will be on putting in an 80-minute performance this week with minimal errors and the result should sort itself out.

“We’re really just looking after ourselves,” said Fletcher. “We ticked a few boxes last week in the first half and then we let ourselves down in a few areas in the second half.

“This week’s about ourselves, trying to put an 80-minute performance together.”

The Bears have only won three games this season but since Gardiner stepped in, plus the injection of exciting halves pairing Cody Walker and Darren Nicholls, they have greatly improved and been very impressive.

They have recently upset two top-four sides, which says that they have the ability to beat any team and are capable of notching up another win this Saturday.

The Tigers have been inconsistent this year with both winning and losing streaks.

Whilst this is frustrating for Fletcher, he explains what it will take for the Tigers to maintain consistency, along with the challenges of being a feeder club to an NRL side.

“Just having a consistent team. I know it’s hard at this level with guys coming in and out.

“If you can keep the same 15 or 16 guys you’re a lot better off. At the moment we’re chopping and changing each week and it’s hard to get the continuity.”

The Tigers could significantly climb the ladder if they can overcome the Bears this weekend, whilst the Bears will be looking to find a way into the top 8 in the next few rounds – and this weekend could be a perfect start to do so.


Canterbury v Mounties: Bulldogs look to avenge previous thrashing

(Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday May 30, 3:00pm)

Mount Pritchard Mounties are the competition front-runners as they enter their Round 12 clash against the Canterbury Bulldogs with eight wins under their belt.

These two teams played each other three weeks ago with the Bulldogs were on the wrong end of a 58-18 thumping.

Mounties coach Steve Antonelli insists the Bulldogs will come out a better side this Saturday afternoon.

“We had them two rounds ago and put a bit of a score on them,” Antonelli says. “But I think there’s probably six to eight changes from that side; they had a few blokes out.

“Blokes like Lloyd Perrett and Adam Elliot are dangerous. In their backline [Jacob] Loko is a big, powerful player, so we’ve got to look after them.”

Mitch Cornish stood out for the Mounties in that 40-point onslaught and after enjoying a few weeks in first grade for the Canberra Raiders, he will return to the side to play halfback.

Antonelli is delighted with the addition and believes his inclusion will be a massive boost for Mounties.

“[I am] looking forward to having him back,” he said. “It’s good for the side, he’ll give us a bit of control on the other side of the ruck this week and his kicking game will help too.”

Mounties are looking to bounce back from their loss against Wyong before last week's bye. The Bulldogs also had the week off after enjoying victory over the Newtown Jets.

Antonelli admits the bye disrupted their momentum and continuity they held at the start of the year.

“Coming off a loss is hard, coming off a loss into a bye doesn’t help,” Antonelli said. “In saying that, we’ve probably had our best week of training so far so maybe that’s the week they needed off just to freshen up and come back with the right attitude.”

The Bulldogs are currently sitting in ninth spot but have a strong side this week with the Bulldogs' first-grade side having the week off with the bye.

The Bulldogs have only won a single game since Round Six but are only two wins away from the top four in a tight VB NSW Cup.

This game is set to be an exciting contest with the Bulldogs full of hunger and confidence while Mounties will be determined to retain their top spot on the ladder.


Manly v Penrith: Panthers looking for top spot in VB NSW Cup

(Brookvale Oval, Saturday May 30, 3:00pm)

The second-placed Panthers will travel to Brookvale Oval this Saturday to play the tenth-placed Manly Sea Eagles, with both sides recording only one win between them since Round Nine.

Manly have shown positive glimpses this year and have named a strong side to take on the defending premiers.

In-form hooker Jayden Hodges will be key for the Sea Eagles this weekend, as well as fullback Dom Reardon and halves pairing Jack Littlejohn and Kurt Aldridge.

Panthers coach Garth Brennan says that his side is focusing on themselves this week rather than looking too much into the Sea Eagles side, particularly after the North Sydney Bears upset them just two weeks ago when they were sitting in last place.

“We need to worry about ourselves, [we are] not looking at Manly at the moment,” Brennan said. “Off the back of that loss against North Sydney we’ve really got to get back to start concentrating on ourselves and start playing for 80 minutes.

“If we don’t turn up ready to play we’ll get beaten.”

When asked if he thought the Sea Eagles would step it up against the defending premiers, Brennan said the competition is extremely close this season and any team can beat any other team regardless of ladder position.

“I think every team has stepped up,” Brennan said. “I’ve said this a few times now, I think this is the strongest VB NSW Cup comp in a long time and that was evident by that Round 10 weekend where I think the top five sides were beaten by the bottom five teams.

“It wasn’t just us that got upset, it was all the top five teams that were beat by the teams below them, so I think if you turn up on the day – anyone can beat anyone.”

The Panthers are coming off a bye, which Brennan believes came at the perfect time.

“10 weeks into the competition, that’s a fair stint,” Brennan says. “We were probably ready for a bit of a break then.”

The Panthers have the added incentive of a win potentially elevating them to the top of the ladder depending on the result of the Bulldogs and Mounties clash.

A Sea Eagles' victory would be an almighty upset against the defending premiers who are hungry and fresh after a week off.


Warriors v Knights: Knights travel to New Zealand for a top-four blockbuster

(Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday May 31, 9:30am (AEST), 11:30am (NZ Time))

The third-placed Newcastle Knights will travel to New Zealand to play the fourth-placed Warriors in the match of the round.

Both teams will enter this blockbuster fresh off the bye and both teams sit hold six wins for the season.

Knights coach Matt Lantry understands the challenges of travelling to New Zealand to meet the Warriors and expects an incredibly tough game.

“The Warriors in New Zealand is always tough,” Lantry said. “it won’t be any different on this occasion for us.

“We’ve got to make sure we turn up and play some good, consistent footy and give ourselves every chance.”

Lantry is not placing a great importance on ladder positions this early in the season, and just wants to focus on overcoming the Warriors this week.

“Sitting third on the ladder is nice, but we’re not paying too much attention to the ladder,” Lantry said. “It’s only Round 12 this weekend, not quite halfway through the competition.

“Hopefully with a win this week and a few more wins we can consolidate ourselves in that top four.”

The Warriors are renowned for their exciting brand of football but the Knights are hoping that their boom fullback Jake Mamo can counter attack.

Lantry appreciates having such an thrilling player that is a key compnent of the team.

“He’s an enjoyable person to coach first and foremost,” Lantry says. “He’s enjoyable to watch because he’s quite exciting as a player.

“It’s fantastic that he can do some of the things he does but at times it also can be his undoing.Finding that balance is something he’s got to consistently challenge himself in to give himself an opportunity to play some consistent first-grade football in the NRL.”

It's a vital contest for both sides trying to hold a top-four position with defeat meaning a drop to as low as seventh place.

Strap yourselves in for an absolute thriller with two entertaining sides full of attacking flair. 

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