Wests Tigers v Newtown: Finals Hopes on the Line
Leichardt Oval, Saturday 8th August, 10.40am
Watch Live on Fox Sports on Channel 501
Listen Live at Radio Hub at radiohub.com.au
It’s do or die as Wests Tigers tackle the Newtown Jets in the Fox Sports Match of the Round. Both sides are desperate to keep their slim Finals hopes alive in the must-win encounter.
“Semi-finals start a month early for us,” said Wests Tigers coach Paul Fletcher. “That’s the situation we put ourselves in, so every game is a semi-final for us now.”
The 10th-placed Wests Tigers are on a three-game losing streak in-between three byes since Round 17. The Jets are also struggling with four straight losses to drop out of the top eight into ninth position.
Fletcher is well aware of the attacking prowess of the Jets despite their recent form slump.
“Newtown traditionally have a big pack of forwards who play in the middle and have some classy speedy backs too such as Nathan Gardner, Blake Ayshford and Mitch Brown,” said Fletcher.
“We’ve got to hold and match them in the middle to go set for set and get in the grind with them.”
Ayshford moves to five-eighth, but it’s their defence the Jets will be desperate to rectify after conceding 142 points in their past four losses – an average of 35.5 points per game. Wests Tigers, on the other hand, have the second-worst attack with 384 points scored this season.
Ultimately, Fletcher believes the key to victory is to have a high completion rate.
“We need to go set for set with them,” Fletcher said. “We can’t afford to give them back-to-back sets too many times. We need to make their forwards do some tackling as well.”
It’s set to be an explosive contest with finals football on the line.
Penrith v Mounties: Top-Four Showdown
Pepper Stadium, Saturday 8th August, 3:00pm
Listen Live on Hawkesbury Radio on 89.9FM or hawkesburyradio.com.au
The top-of-the-table Mounties take on the fourth-placed Penrith Panthers in a scintillating clash between the VB NSW Cup’s best attack and the best defence.
With just two competition points separating the two sides, Mounties test their deadly attack against the Panthers’ league-best defence.
The last time the two teams met in Round Eight, the Panthers ended Mounties’ seven-game unbeaten run to start the season with a 16-10 win.
There’s no doubt Mounties want revenge for that loss and consolidate first place with three rounds before the finals. However, beating the Panthers will be a very tough assignment.
Despite holding the third-worst attack, the Panthers have been inspirational this season to sit in the top four. They have dealt with a number of weekly line up changes due to injuries as well as having to fulfill first-grade duties for their NRL side – who are in the middle of an injury crisis.
Don’t miss one of the games of the season.
North Sydney v New Zealand: Bears Fight and Claw for Finals
North Sydney Oval, Saturday 8th August, 3:00pm
The red-hot North Sydney Bears are on a roll to set up an eagerly-anticipated contest against the Warriors, who are tied for first place.
The Bears have lost just two of their past nine games – recording five wins and two draws – to climbinto the top eight.
After trailing 12-6 at halftime, the Bears dismantled competition heavyweights, the Canterbury Bulldogs, last week despite Missing key players – Cody Walker, Kyle Turner and Cameron McInnes.
“It was a good win,” said Bears coach Ben Gardiner. “We were particularly happy to get the win considering we had a few guys out. Obviously the boys pull confidence out of that but our cohesion wasn’t there last week, particularly in the first half.”
For the Bears, the key to their season turnaround is their keen ability to improve on each match.
“Whether we win or lose, doesn’t impact on what we do at all,” Gardiner said. “We still go about the same process because we believe that what we do is effective.
“We spend a bit of time looking at what we need to do to get better. Each week, there are a few things we adjust or could do better.
“If you’re not critical of the team, you’re not going to get any better. It’s about getting better week in, week out to adjust and perform better.”
The Warriors escaped with a indifferent 30-28 win on the road against the Newtown Jets to remain at the top of the VB NSW Cup but face a tougher challenge at North Sydney Oval.
How far can the Bears go? This is the test that North Sydney fans have been waiting for.
Newcastle v Illawarra: Crucial Top-Eight Test
Hunter Stadium, Sunday 9th August, 11:45am
The fifth-placed Newcastle Knights are coming off the bye, taking on the seventh-placed Illawarra Cutters in a pivotal Finals preview contest.
With just two points separating the two sides on the ladder, the Knights are aware of the importance of victory this weekend.
“From a table perspective it is a crucial clash,” said Knights coach Matt Lantry. “We win and we retain fifth-position with three weeks remaining in the competition. We lose and we are in jeopardy of the Canterbury Bulldogs and Cutters jumping us.”
While ladder positions are vital, Lantry asserts the Knights can’t let it affect their performance before the Finals. With the fifth-best attack and the third-best defence, the Knights are determined to build momentum with each match left in the regular season.
“Momentum is certainly important when you’re rolling into the Final period,” said Lantry. “It’s a cliché but it’s a week at a time because in the VB NSW Cup, a week is a long time and anything can happen.
“Like any VB NSW Cup team, quality (of the line up) is dependent on the depth and health at this time of the year. Hopefully, over the next couple of weeks we can get a few of the NRL boys back to give us the opportunity to cement ourselves in the eight.
The Cutters earned a hard-fought 22-18 win against the Penrith Panthers last week and pose a tough challenge for the Knights.
“The forward pack they possess with Luke Page, Shannon Wakeman, Russell Packer – who’s a great addition – they’ll look to roll through us,” said Lantry. “You look at their outside backs Eto Nabuli, Nathan Green, and Junior Vaivai as well – there’s quality there.
“We’ll need to be on our game defensively and make sure we can control the middle of the field as best we can.”
It’s an intriguing battle between two sides determined to gain any psychological advantage over their opponents before the Finals.
Wentworthville v Manly: Must-Win at Ringrose Park
Ringrose Park, Sunday 9th August, 3.00pm
The Wentworthville Magpies and Manly Sea Eagles enter this Sunday’s clash with Finals contention on the line. According to Sea Eagles coach Luke Williamson, it’s a must-win match.
“I’d say so,” Williamson said. “We’re two points from seventh. Hopefully we win the game on Sunday and then it’s a week-to-week proposition.”
With both sides anchored to the bottom of the ladder, victory is essential to keep their faint Finals prospects alive with four games remaining.
Last week’s bye couldn’t come at a better time for the Manly Sea Eagles with several key players fulfilling first-grade duties in the NRL.
“We’re at the brink now,” Williamson said. “Losing three players – Justin Horo, Jesse Sene-Lefao and Michael Chee Kam – is hard but it happens to every team with injuries and players missing. That’s just part of the gig.
“I really want to focus on this game and hopefully we can get the right mix of players available to perform well and give ourselves a chance.”
The Sea Eagles will be carrying plenty of confidence after upsetting the competition leaders, the Warriors, 18-16 in New Zealand before the last week’s bye.
“It gives us a lot of confidence,” Williamson said. “It’s just personnel. When we’ve got our full range of players available, we’re confident of what we can do, like most clubs.”
Williamson isn’t taking the Magpies lightly by any means and is adamant they will be tough to beat in front of the home crowd.
“We have to get something sorted for this Sunday and make sure we’re ready because I know Wenty will be very hard,” Williamson said.
“They’ve been good in their past few games. They beat the Bears (27-20 in Round 19) at North Sydney, which is very hard to do and lead Mounties 6-4 at halftime.
“It’s going to be very tough. It’s an extremely difficult place to play – very hostile like most times when you play there. It’s going to be a very challenging game.”
Wyong v Canterbury: Roos Eye Revenge
Morrie Breen Oval, Sunday 9th August, 3.00pm
Listen Live at Radio Hub at radiohub.com.au
The Wyong Roos are determined to keep their five-game winning streak alive against the Canterbury Bulldogs, who are determined to bounce back from consecutive losses.
The two sides last met in Round Four when the Bulldogs claimed a 34-24 win at Belmore and Roos coach Rip Taylor is fond of the encounter. The Bulldogs lead 22-8 at halftime and led 34-14 before the Roos scored two late consolation tries.
“The Dogs gave us a fair touch up in the first part of the competition,” Taylor said. “We know what they can bring to the table. It’ll be a tough day for us.”
The Roos are in a three-way tie for first place – behind the league-leading Warriors on point differential. Capturing the Minor Premiership would be a huge confidence boost entering the Finals
The fifth-placed Bulldogs are hungry for the win following their humbling 36-16 defeat to the North Sydney Bears. The week before they suffered a demoralising last-minute 35-34 loss against the Newcastle Knights after leading 34-12 with 12 minutes remaining.
It’s a pretty simple game plan this week for Taylor and the Roos.
“The battle will be won in the middle,” Taylor said. “It’s certainly the key against the Dogs. If you don’t beat them in the middle, you won’t beat them anywhere else.”
The Roos have the added benefit of fresh legs as they come off the bye and welcome back inspirational skipper Mitch Williams into the side.
Everything is on the line with just four rounds remaining until the Finals.