Wyong Roos v Penrith Panthers: Roos hope to make it three in a row over Panthers
(Pepper Stadium, Saturday, 5 September, 12.40pm)
The Wyong Roos missed out on the minor premiership by a single point and will consequently take on the Penrith Panthers in a qualifying final this weekend at Pepper Stadium.
Despite the Panthers having the best defensive record in the competition, the Roos have had the wood on them in recent times – defeating them in rounds 16 and 18 by an accumulation of three points.
Roos’ 2015 recruit Omar Slaimankhel understands the tough task at hand and believes the Panthers will be playing for a little bit more than just a week off.
“I think (Penrith) will be really keen to beat us because we’ve had them twice at the bell,” said Slaimankhel.
“(I want to) come out this weekend and have a good game, it will be a tough game and it’s out at Penrith as well.”
Roos coach Rip Taylor admits that his side is probably unlucky to face a team who ranked lower than them on the ladder at their home ground due to logistical reasons, but maintains his side will have to be switched on no matter where they are playing.
Like Slaimankhel, Taylor believes his side took a lot out of those two close victories earlier in the year, and will take that into week one of the finals.
“We certainly know what we’re going to be up against,” said Taylor.
“Penrith on their home ground, we’ll have to turn up. They are a quality side and a quality club. Our focus will be obviously on Penrith and what we need to do to get that win.”
The advantage of a week off for the winning side is at stake, but the losing side will get the benefit of a second chance.
Taylor however, could certainly see both the advantages and disadvantages of having a week off.
“Every coach will tell you the same - if we get beaten we need to play on, if we win, yeah we need [the week off for bumps and bruises,” said Taylor.
This is set to be a tough encounter between the two clear best defensive sides in the competition.
Get down to Pepper Stadium to watch what should be an enthralling contest. Alternatively, the game will be shown live on Fox Sports 1 with a 12.40pm kickoff.
Mounties v New Zealand Warriors: Mounties look to build on Minor Premiership
(Belmore Oval, Saturday, 5 September, 2pm)
For the second week in a row, the Warriors take on Mounties, who were recently crowned minor premiers of 2015.
Mounties easily overcame the Warriors last week 36-10, but the physicality of the Warriors, mixed with their unpredictable style of play, has Mounties coach Steve Antonelli on high alert.
“(The Warriors) are very physical, put it that way,” said Antonelli.
“They’re big and physical, that’s probably something that we need to be a little bit better at. Defensively we were good last week, we only leaked 10 points through two kicks, so that’s probably our main concentration again this week, to work on our defence.”
As this is a first playing fourth match-up, the victorious team gets the advantage a week off while the losing side has the benefit of a second chance.
Antonelli was quick to highlight the advantages of getting a week off should they pick up a win against a tough Warriors outfit.
“I think so at this time of the year (a week of) would be good,” said Antonelli.
“Their bodies are starting to get a bit sore, a bit run down. So a week off, especially for my boys would be good.
“And it’s probably not something you look forward to but to achieve that would be a good thing to get a week off and rest up.”
While Mounties took a lot out of last week’s encounter, the Warriors certainly will be quick to fix their mistakes from the 26-point loss and hope to avenge that at Belmore Oval this Saturday.
The match will be the first of an exciting VB NSW Cup triple-header at Belmore Oval and an entertaining festival of Rugby League.
There are high stakes in this match, as the bottom four teams of the top eight are certainly no easy-beats, which means both teams will desperately battle for a one-way ticket to the preliminary finals with a win.
Manly Sea Eagles v Newcastle Knights: Knights aim for a good start
(Belmore Oval, Saturday, 5 September, 4pm)
The Newcastle Knights will take on the Manly Sea Eagles in remarkably the second Round 26 re-match of the week.
The Sea Eagles won that 38-24 showdown, and Knights coach Matt Lantry says his team will take out a lot from that loss into this week’s do-or-die match – where their season is on the line.
“We’ve got to get our defence right, that’s the big key,” said Lantry.
“If we can tidy up our defence we know we’ve got points in us. If we get that right, we can give ourselves every chance to win the game.
“They scored 38 points against us on the weekend. I thought we put ourselves in a position to still have a crack at the end of the game, we’ve got plenty of spirit within our team - we’ll keep fighting, we’ll keep competing.”
The Knights have some shaky form coming into the finals, winning three of their past six games – with two of those wins involving large comebacks at the death.
Conceding early points is a concern for Lantry this week and one of the main focus points against the Sea Eagles will certainly be getting off to a good start.
“It’s an attitude thing, we’ve been slow starters,” stated Lantry.
“Newtown 22-4, we had to come from behind; a month ago against the Dogs 34-12 we came back - if we can get our start right I think that’s they key thing.
“Our experienced players need to stand up, we need to be disciplined, we need to have the right attitude to win towards the defensive component and if we just go set for set with teams we’re happy to grind out a win too.
“Not always do we have to chase points. We’re happy to dig our heels in and play for field position and see what we can do with the footy when we get down that end.”
The Knights had a strong start to the year, while the Sea Eagles have finished the season in fine form– which makes for an exciting contest.
This match is do-or-die – one of these teams will play their final match of the season this Saturday at Belmore Oval.
Canterbury Bulldogs v North Sydney Bears: Two improving teams battle it out
(Belmore Oval, Saturday, 5 September, 6pm)
The Canterbury Bulldogs and North Sydney Bears did not play semi-finals in 2014, and the fact they face-up in the first week of finals is a testament to each clubs hard work in the 2015 season.
While some coaches would almost certainly under-hype the opportunity to play finals footy, Bears coach Ben Gardiner says his team is excited at the prospect of doing so.
“I think that a lot of this week for us is going to be worrying about ourselves and getting excited about playing semi final footy,” said Gardiner.
“Our club hasn’t played semi final footy for a couple of years, so getting our boys’ heads about that and dealing with the challenges of that because it’s a different style of footy semi-final footy.
“Preparing, thinking about us and what we’re going to do and what we need to do as a team is the key.”
While the focus will be on themselves early on, Gardiner understands the dangerous Bulldogs outfit cannot be ignored – as they are one of the most expansive teams in the competition.
“As the week goes along we’ll have a look at the Bulldogs,” said Gardiner.
“We’ll make sure we tick off our knowledge based points so we know what they’ve got in their team.”
The Bears have had a red-hot second half of the season, but are currently on a two-match losing streak.
Gardiner believes his team has to primarily work on ball control to avoid making it three losses in a row in this week’s must-win match against the Bulldogs.
“We’ve taken away from (the past two losses) that to win games, whether it’s semi-final games, competition games, trials or whatever it is, you need to hold onto the ball to win the match, we’ve spoken extensively about that,” said Gardiner.
“We’ve had a good look on how we’ve played and we’ve had a good look at our defence but, like I said, it’s about this week and what we’re doing this week and moving forward from there.”
This match features the competition try-scoring leader Tyrone Phillips from the Bulldogs, as well as dynamo five-eighth Cody Walker who has 17 tries himself.
There are attacking weapons across the park and on both sides of the field, so expect this match to be a high-scoring thriller.