Previews | VB NSW Cup Rd 24

Newtown v Newcastle: Jets salvage pride
Remondis Stadium, Saturday 22nd August
, 12.40pm

Watch Live on Fox Sports Channel 501

It’s been a difficult season for the Newtown Jets. Their finals dream was smashed by the Penrith Panthers who stole a devastating last-minute 20-18 win at Henson Park last round.

“We haven’t found our groove for whatever reason and I’m not sure,” said Jets coach Greg Matterson. “We’ve wasted a season with the players in the team – we’ve underachieved. In saying that, those quality players haven’t put their best foot forward a lot of times.

“We’re pretty disappointed. We worked hard and even (Panthers coach) Garth Brennan said to me after the game he thought the best team lost which at the end of the day, I don’t really believe that. You’re the master of your own destiny and we didn’t do enough to win the game.”

It’s been a horror second half of the season for the Jets who last recorded victory in round 18, having won just one of their past nine matches.

“We’ve lost about seven games under six points. If we convert two or three of those we’d be in the finals. In saying that, that’s what footy’s about. We haven’t been playing consistently well all year.

“We’ve been mix and match for a lot of the season. We didn’t find our right combinations and our right team.”

The Jets are determined to salvage some pride and have a valuable opportunity to reclaim respect against the sixth-placed Newcastle Knights in the FOX Sports Match of the Round.

“We’ve got the TV game this week and we’ve got to put our best foot forward because a lot of people will be watching and a lot of these players have to make clubs next year,” Matterson said. “A lot of the full time players haven’t had their options taken up. Then we play North Sydney in our Reunion Day at Henson Park and we want to provide two good performances in our last two games.”

The Knights will be eager to bounce back after a 52-20 trouncing against the North Sydney Bears. Ranked fourth in defence, the Knights will have to be on their game to contain the likes of Nathan Gardner, Blake Ayshford and Mitch Brown.

 

Warriors v Penrith: Top-of-the-table showdown

Mount Smart Stadium, Saturday 22nd August, 
1:00pm (NZ Time), 
11:00am (AEST)

The depleted Penrith Panthers travel to New Zealand to face the Warriors in a blockbuster top-of-the-table clash.

“We’ve got a few players out from last week, like Ben Murdoch-Masila as well as Maliko Filino who won’t be travelling to New Zealand because he doesn’t have his passport,” Panthers coach Garth Brennan said.

The Panthers are carrying plenty of confidence after Filino claimed a hat trick of tries in a stirring last-minute 20-18 win over the Newtown Jets. While Filino won’t take his place against the Warriors, Brennan knows the Panthers are capable of a greater performance.

“It’s the last thing we wanted with our injury toll but a few young guys will come up like James Fisher-Harris who played in the 20’s this year,” Brennan said. “It’s another opportunity for the young kids to put their hand up and there’s no greater challenge to travelling to New Zealand and playing the Warriors.”

The Warriors return home after three consecutive road games and are in less-than-convincing form. The Warriors are coming off an indifferent 20-16 win against Wests Tigers, after losing 32-22 to the Bears the previous week. In their other game in Australia, the Warriors grinded out a narrow 30-28 win against the Jets.

The Warriors are a vastly better side at home but the game plan is simple for the Panthers.

“It’s controlling the football,” said Brennan. “It’s about giving them the football where you want them to have it – not where they want it. Kick well and complete your sets. If you make some errors against a physical side against the Warriors, they’ll make you pay – there’s no doubt about that.”

 

Manly v Wentworthville: Wenty spoil finals plans
Brookvale Oval, Saturday 22nd August, 
3:00pm

The equation is simple for Manly – win both remaining games and they will earn entry into the VB NSW Cup finals.

Manly seized eight spot on the ladder after an impressive 26-12 win over the Bulldogs last week. Trailing 12-4 at halftime, Manly held the Bulldogs scoreless in the second half and laid on 22 unanswered points.

Manly and Wentworthville go head to head for the second time in 13 days. In that meeting, Manly overcame the Magpies 34-20 at Ringrose Park.

Holding eighth-place, and two points ahead of the ninth-placed Cutters, Manly face a less difficult finals path against the last-placed Magpies and fifth-placed Knights. Whereas the Cutters take on the Bulldogs and defending premiers, Penrith Panthers next week.

While Wenty are out of finals contention, they will be desperate to gain some respect in upending their opponents finals aims.

It’s a crucial clash for Manly with victory virtually guaranteeing a finals appearance but Wenty will be eager to spoil their plans.

 

Mounties v Wests Tigers:
Mounties mounting for finals
Aubrey Keech Reserve, Saturday 22nd August
, 3.00pm
Listen Live on Radiohub.com.au

Mounties are gathering momentum in their run to the finals as they take on the Wests Tigers.

Mounties earned a hard-fought 24-20 victory over the Illawarra Cutters last week but Steve Antonelli asserts there’s still room for improvement.

“Defensive wise, we improved last week,” Antonelli said. “I was happy with our defence. There’s just little areas in our attack we need to be better.

“We’re slowly getting there. We’re not hitting our straps too early.

“I’d say we’re ready (for finals) – there’s just areas we need to improve on to be a side to be reckoned with. We’re excited and looking forward to it.”

Wests Tigers’ finals bid is all but over after a demoralising 20-16 loss against the Warriors. They need to win both of their remaining games and still need other unlikely results to fall their way.

“We know they’re going to be desperate,” Antonelli said. “They need to win both of their games to be a chance of making the eight, so we know they’re going to come out blazing. We’re trying to focus on our run to the semis and improve each week – that’s our big goal.

While Mounties are favourites for the match, anything is possible in the closest VB NSW Cup in history.

 

Canterbury v Illawarra: Bulldogs eager for tasty win without Cook
Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday 22nd August, 
6.00pm

It’s a week of mixed feelings for the Bulldogs who prepare to take on the Cutters without hooker Damien Cook – who earned his first NRL appearance of the season against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

“We’re exceptionally happy for Damien,” said Bulldogs coach Andy Patmore. “The boys are wrapped – all his team mates are very excited for him. He’s been our rock, our most consistent player all year and has played every game. He’s a big position to fill.”

Sitting two points outside the top eight, the Cutters enter a must-win contest if they are to remain in the finals race.

It’s also a crucial contest for the fifth-placed Bulldogs this week after their shattering 26-12 loss to the Manly Sea Eagles. Leading 12-4 at halftime, the Bulldogs were held scoreless in the second half that Patmore is keen to rectify before facing the Cutters.

“We were very poor,” Patmore said. “We completed six of 12 sets in the second half. That’s 50 percent and only 12 sets with the ball. We’ve put ourselves in the position of do or die now. We had a fair talk about it – it wasn’t pleasant.

“They’re a very big side. It’s about controlling the big forwards – Russell Packer, Shannon Wakeman and George Rose. They’re a very big pack and we need to work hard on that.

“We have to play better and control the ball. If we do that, we know we’re a chance of beating every side.”

The last time the two sides met in round 16, the Bulldogs run out 44-28 victors.

With plenty for both sides to play for, you can be sure it will be a tighter affair this time around.

 

Wyong v North Sydney: Wyong and North Sydney collide

Morry Breen Oval, Sunday 23rd August
, 3.00pm

Listen Live on Radiohub.com.au

The league-leading Wyong Roos and in-form North Sydney Bears are on a collision course in the most anticipated match of round 24.

The Bears ramped up their premiership aspirations with a 52-20 demolition of the sixth-placed Knights last round, while the Roos thrashed Wentworthville 52-16 to leap atop the ladder.

“It’s a challenge,” Bears coach Ben Gardiner said. “We know the Roos are a red-hot side.
“We’re putting everything into our preparation to make sure we’re ready to go.”

The Bears shocked the Roos for a 32-4 shellacking in round seven – which was Gardiner’s first time in charge as head coach. However, he doesn’t think it will be as easy again.

“It’s going to a be a tooth-for-nail game.” Gardiner said. “They’re the sort of team that fights hard for their wins. They’ve had good wins against good sides.

“They are a quality opposition. We need to make sure we worry about ourselves and be ready but in the back of our mind, we’ve had a look at them and know what they’re about.”

The Bears are missing key players Cody Walker and Paul Carter, who have been named in the South Sydney Rabbitohs’ NRL side. The game plan that’s proven so successful in his time in charge doesn’t change for Gardiner.

“The way we work as a team, the individual has a job within the team,” Gardiner said. “When a new individual comes in, he takes that job. We trust everyone can do their job and play their role within the team.”

Victory will certainly come down to whichever team plays their part best on Sunday.