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Newtown Jets v Canterbury Bulldogs: Pivotal top-eight clash

(Henson Park, Saturday July 11, 3:00pm)

It’s sixth vs seventh with the Newtown Jets and Canterbury Bulldogs holding identical records with seven wins, seven losses and three byes.

They meet for a pivotal top-eight clash, and by the end of the round, one team will move closer to the top four, whilst the other will be left clinging to the top eight.

Both teams have had two byes in their past three weeks for a disruptive period.

“It’s probably not the best thing when you’re winning a few games, we’d rather keep playing,” said Patmore.

“But on the other side it’s been good for the boys who are having a mid-season break and they’re all fresh again.”

Patmore understands the challenge of facing the Jets, who they defeated in round 10 by just two points.

“[The Jets] were very good against Manly two weeks ago.

“They’ve got really good momentum and enthusiasm, we’ve got to make sure we match them in those areas.”

The VB NSW Cup ladder has fluctuated wildly, so Patmore believes that every win is extremely important at the back end of the year.

“If you look at the whole comp it’s very close. You can change spots really quickly so you’ve just got to get as many points as you can to make sure you’re in that top eight, [and] hopefully that top four.”

It’s an intriguing match between two clubs with similar statistics.

While the Jets having possess attacking weapons such as Nathan Gardner and Todd Murphy, the Bulldogs have scored 61 more points this season – and have the most prolific try scorer in the competition in Tyrone Phillips.

This match could be a high-scoring thriller, but the Jets will aim to grind out the victory with a better defensive record.


Manly Sea Eagles v Wests Tigers: Desperate clash for top eight

(Brookvale Oval, Saturday July 11, 3:00pm)

Wests Tigers and Manly Sea Eagles are desperate for the two competition points to make a late-season bid for the Finals.

The Sea Eagles are coming off a 48-14 towel-up at the hands of Newcastle, while North Sydney smashed the Tigers 26-8 before last week’s bye.

If either of these sides are to make the Finals, now is the time to start.

“[A win] is very important for this week’s game,” said Wests Tigers coach Paul Fletcher.

“We have the bye again the week after, so we really need to win this weekend. I can’t stretch the emphasis enough on winning this weekend.”

Both teams have struggled defensively, conceding a massive 845 points between them so far this season.

Consequently, Fletcher says his team will focus on defence this week.

“The main focus is to get our defence back in order. We were very good against Newcastle scoring 24 unanswered points, and then coming out against North Sydney a week later our defence was non-existent.”

The Wests Tigers’ first grade side has the bye this week and Fletcher hopes to field a strong team against the Sea Eagles.

“I think a couple of the guys that came off the bench [for first grade] on Monday might back up for us on the weekend, but we’re just not sure yet. Jason [Taylor] is going to confirm that with me today.”

Wests Tigers are only one win out of the top eight, but a -37 points differential could prove to hurt them in the long run.

The last-placed Sea Eagles cannot be discounted as many of their narrow losses coming in heart-breaking fashion.

They are three wins away from the top eight with a -95 points differential, and it goes without saying that this is a must-win game.

Both sides have attacking weapons such as Jayden Hodges for the Sea Eagles and Josh Drinkwater for the Tigers.

Combining their defense with their attacking ability, expect a high-scoring entertaining affair.


Penrith Panthers v Wyong Roos: Two heavyweights collide

(Pepper Stadium, Saturday July 11, 3:10pm)

The two best defensive sides in the competition go head-to-head at Pepper Stadium this Saturday in the match of the round.

These two competition heavyweights clashed just two weeks ago, with the Wyong Roos stealing a 19-18 epic.

Roos coach Rip Taylor believes his side took a lot of that game coming into this week.

“We took a bit of confidence [out of that game], obviously they’re the benchmark of the competition,” said Taylor.

“You always take a little bit out of it when you get a victory like that.”

Taylor stated that their key focus this weekend will be defence and the goal is to carry that strong defenseive form to make a major run in the VB NSW Cup.

He also spoke about how important these games are at the back end of the season.

“The last few weeks of the competition, every game is a mini semi-final.

“We really need to perform well and hopefully get a win, but we need to be a confident football team if we think we’re going to go any further.”

This match is a potential Grand Final preview and the Wyong Roos will be motivated to test their premiership credentials against the top-of-the-table Penrith Panthers.

The Roos are the second best defensive team in the competition but have conceded 68 more points than the Panthers, meaning they need a focused performance.

They beat the Panthers in their last match, but the Panthers enjoy home-ground advantage and the benefit of learning from that loss.

In an extremely rare scenario, both of these teams had the bye last week – meaning they play each other twice in a row.

It will be interesting to see how the Panthers recover from that loss, and how both sides will perform in the return bout after a week off.


New Zealand Warriors v Illawarra Cutters: Battle of the forwards

[Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday July 12, 11.45am NZ time (9:45am AEST)]

The Illawarra Cutters travel to New Zealand to take on the Warriors - who have dropped just one game at home this season.

Its second versus fifth and the result could have a major bearing on the top four at the completion of round 18.

Cutters coach Scott Logan conceded that going over to New Zealand is one of the toughest challenges in the VB NSW Cup.

“There are going to be a lot of guys selected for us this week that are part-timers and a lot of them haven’t had to deal with these sort of challenges,” said Logan.

“Not only the travel, the opposition over there have their supporters and family around them to make the task a little bit harder.”

Last week the Cutters won despite losing a several players to first grade selection, and Logan believes they took a lot of that game moving into this week.

“We took a fair bit in terms of it didn’t matter who we had in the red jersey; that we all had an attitude, that we’re going to row in the same direction and have a good attitude to our work.

“If we can have that [attitude], especially defensively, that goes a long way to our attack.”

As a team currently in fifth position and eyeing off a top four spot with no byes in hand, Logan is adamant that every two points from now until the end of the season is vital.

“We’ve had all our byes, we’ve got eight weeks now of continuous football against arguably the harder part of the draw. And we’ve got to play the Warriors twice in three weeks.

“We’ve got a tough run going into [the finals], every two points we can jag from here on in is vital for us trying to cement a spot in the eight for the finals.”

The Warriors sit in second spot and will need to take advantage of every home game as they have a polarizing home-away record.

It’s an important match for them and it will certainly go a long way to securing a top-four spot.

This game features two of the biggest forward packs on show, so it will certainly be an interesting battle up the middle.