Mounties (1st) v Wests Tigers (3rd)
Aubrey Keech Reserve, Saturday 28 May
LIVE broadcast on steelesports.com.au
After two more promising wins in Round 11, two sides in tremendous form meet at Aubrey Keech Reserve on Saturday; the first-placed Mounties host the Wests Tigers, who sit in third place on the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Ladder.
While the Tigers have now won four games in a row, Mounties’ sole defeat came way back in Round 2 and they have since gone from strength to strength against all levels of opposition.
For the second week running Mounties will have to make do without inspirational second-rower Mitch Barnett this weekend, but a wealth of experience joins the forward pack in his place via Frank-Paul Nu’uausala. They will be home town favourites over the Tigers, who last week begun life without Josh Drinkwater and have also been missing NRL young gun Josh Addo Carr. Matt Ballin, who was impressive in his club debut last weekend, is another notable omission who will play NRL – but with young dummy-halves Manaia Cherrington and Jacob Liddle filling in, they reap the rewards of the depth they have in that position.
This shapes as the match of the round and both sides still boast plenty of experience across the park. With last week’s go-forward from the Mounties forwards falling short of their lofty standards, however, it could be a danger game for them if they are to take the clash lightly.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (11th) v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (10th)
Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday 28 May
LIVE broadcast on steelesports.com.au
Both sides are coming off last-start defeats and find themselves languishing at the bottom of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW ladder, but Saturday’s match-up at Belmore Sports Ground has all the makings of a thriller. Last time the teams met – in Round 3 at the same venue – it took an 80th-minute Blake Leary try and Hugh Pratt conversion to steal victory from the blue-and-whites, who had led the game for the previous 79 minutes.
That game was one of several last-minute losses for the Bulldogs and they suffered yet another narrow defeat at the hands of the Panthers last week. With the inclusion of in-form NRL fullback Will Hopoate, they threw everything they could at the eighth-placed Penrith side but eventually went down 16-12 at Belmore.
The Sea Eagles, meanwhile, have developed an uncanny knack of losing in high-scorers; while they have scored the sixth-most points in the competition, the have conceded the most and now sit on equal points differential with their Saturday combatants. Since being blown off the park by an NRL-boosted Warriors side in Round 9, the Bulldogs have improved without the ball and it may just be a battle of attack versus defence in their Round 12 clash.
Illawarra Cutters (5th) v Wyong Roos (7th)
WIN Stadium, Saturday 28 May
LIVE broadcast on Fox Sports 501
While the two 3pm games feature close encounters at the two extremes of the table, this one is poised right in the middle; the fifth-placed Cutters play host to the seventh-placed Roos in the Fox Sports Match Of The Round at WIN Stadium.
Neither side was able to overcome their higher-placed opposition last weekend, with Wyong losing to Newtown 32-16 and Illawarra to Mounties 22-10. The Roos have not been quite as strong in attack as the Cutters this season, but will be boosted in that department by the relegation of Jackson Hastings. The 20-year-old is still learning the ropes 29 games into his NRL career, but has proven he has the ability to turn a game when the big men are firing.
For the Cutters, it was Kurt Mann who was chosen to slot into the Dragons’ backline which this week will be without NSW Blues centre Josh Dugan. With Adam Quinlan and Taane Milne still in good form for the Illawarra side, however, the backline remains largely intact and capable of overcoming their Wyong counterparts. This is a toss of the coin battle and can be viewed in full at Fox Sports Channel 501 on Saturday night.
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