New Zealand Warriors v Mounties
Mt Smart Stadium, Saturday 20 August
Referee: Jeff Hartup
Touch Judges: Anthony Elliott, Chris McMillan
The race for the minor premiership has been wrapped up with two rounds to spare thanks to the sheer dominance of Mounties this season, sitting on 40 competition points with only three defeats next to their name.
With little to play for besides a bit of momentum heading in to the finals, it will be interesting to see how the players from Mount Pritchard react while they are under very ltitle pressure, but there is no doubt coach Steve Antonelli does not want the foot to lift off the accelerator.
The Warriors sit in the top four on 30 points, but are out of form in recent weeks having gone down to the Bulldogs and Roos in their past two matches. Another defeat could see them slip out of the top four, but the addition of Tuimoala Lolohea is a massive bonus for the kiwi-based side.
Wyong Roos v Newcastle Knights
Hunter Stadium, Saturday 20 August
Referee: Adam Devcich
Touch Judges: Mark Bohan, Benjamin Teague
Broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports 501
The Roos and Knights do battle in this week’s Fox Sports Match of the Round, with Wyong yet to confirm a finals place and Newcastle out to prove that their drought-breaking Round 23 win was no fluke.
While Rip Taylor’s Roos sit ahead of a number of challengers with 26 points, a loss here could easily bring them back to the field and put serious doubts on their finals hopes. Unfortunately for 2015 premiers the Knights, they are destined for the wooden spoon – but they certainly didn’t look like it with a 62-26 annihilation of the Sea Eagles last week. Having led the Jets in the dying stages the week before, Newcastle are in some patch of form and will be no pushovers this weekend.
The Roos got the chocolates in the last installment of the F3 derby – a 28-6 victory at Woy Woy Oval in Round 9. This time, the Knights’ ultimate fate is sealed – but they will be desperate to cause nuisance value in their home town.
Newtown Jets v North Sydney Bears
Henson Park, Saturday 20 August
Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
Touch Judges: John Woods, Faye Lehane
Broadcast LIVE on SteeleSports.com.au
The Newtown Jets would be kicking themselves after surrendering a big lead last week to go down to competition front-runners, Mounties. The Bears, meanwhile, suffered an embarrassing 42-6 defeat at the hands of Illawarra last week, which raises some serious questions over their finals-contending credentials for the 2016 season.
The Jets are full of class, and will be steered around the park by Josh Cleeland and Fa’amanu Brown, and with the likes of Jaline Graham, Jacob Gagan and Kurt Capewell in their starting line-up, it is hard to see how the Bears will be able match them in any position on the field.
Both sides are desperate for a victory, with the Jets knocking on the door of the top four, and the Bears hanging by a thread in eighth position on the ladder. Besides Dane Nielsen and David Tyrrell, there is next to no NRL experience in the North Sydney line-up, and it is tough to see how they can defeat a Jets side with so much to play for.
Penrith Panthers v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Pepper Stadium, Saturday 20 August
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Touch Judges: Mathew Damaso, Mitchell Stone
They’ve been unlucky to fall out of top four contention in recent weeks, but Penrith Panthers coach Steve Georgallis believes his side can turn things around with a strong showing against the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon.
Penrith had been one of the competition’s form teams earlier in the season and made many sit up and take notice with a 60-6 win over Newtown in Round 16. Since then, however, they have just one win to show for their efforts, suffering a narrow defeat every other week. Rather than be put off by the continuous close calls, Georgallis expects them to help the side should they make the finals.
“We’ve had a few injuries of late, so we’ve lost our last few games by two or four points,” Georgallis told NSWRL.com.au. “I think those close games that we’ve had in the last three or four weeks makes us a better team.”
The Panthers now sit in seventh position on 24 points – one point more than the 10th-placed Bulldogs. A win at Pepper Stadium could confirm a finals berth as early as this week, while a defeat will see them overtaken by the boys from Belmore. Do-or-die football starts early for Georgallis’s men and the team is well aware of the importance of a favourable result.
“Really big game for us this week against the Bulldogs,” Georgallis said. “If we play well against them and beat them that will hopefully cement a position in the top eight.
“It’s very hard at the moment, first grade have had a few injuries and players are moving up and down. But once you’re in that top eight and playing week in, week out, players gel.”
With proven game breaker Te Maire Martin steering the ship since returning from injury in Round x – at least for the time being – the Panthers are a side that could win from anywhere inside the top eight. It shapes as a mouth-watering clash for both sides.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v Wests Tigers
Brookvale Oval, Sunday 21 August
Referee: Daniel Olford
Touch Judges: Jimmy Oliveira, Richard Daizli
The Manly Sea Eagles are looking to bounce back after a defensively poor performance against the last-placed Newcastle Knights, where they conceded a massive 62-points. The Wests Tigers, meanwhile, are on fire, mainly thanks to the current VB Blues hooker, Robbie Farah, steering the side around.
The Wests Tigers are in third position on the ladder, and do not look like dropping a game any time soon. They are a chance of securing second position depending on how the Illawarra Cutters play, which is a huge incentive to win this game.
The Sea Eagles have not had a great year, but due to the fact the Wests Tigers have so much to play for, it is hard to predict any kind of upset at Brookvale Oval.
Wentworthville Magpies v Illawarra Cutters
Ringrose Park, Sunday 21 August
Referee: Damian Briscoe
Touch Judges: Jay Farlow, Feras Karem
The Wentworthville Magpies had their five-match losing streak ended by the Wests Tigers last week, but that is little indication of how dangerous the Nathan Cayless-coached is. They currently sit in ninth position, so this game is well and truly a must win.
The Cutters, meanwhile, are also currently in-form, cruising to a 42-6 victory against the Bears last week, and by doing so have secured their position in the top four. Shaun Nona and Drew Hutchinson are a deadly combination that have been on fire this year, and they are successfully working together to steer their side into the finals.
The Magpies have shown they can match it with any team in the competition, and despite the Cutters great run of form, is it certainly a danger game.
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