Wyong Roos (6th) v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (7th) – Elimination Final
Pepper Stadium, Saturday 3 September
They’ve been the subjects of two dramatic finishes so far in 2016 and are level pegging heading into the finals, but only one can progress beyond Saturday’s showdown between the Wyong Roos and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
Between two teams oozing class and NRL experience, it is the Bulldogs who will go into this game as the form side; their only loss in the last five games was a two-point defeat at the hands of Mounties. The men from Belmore have been forced to lift their game in recent weeks, however, with the odds stacked against them to even play finals football in 2016. Coach Andy Patmore knows his side’s cannot spend any time reflecting on their incredible achievement.
“It can work two ways,” Patmore told NSWRL.com.au. “We can take a big, deep breath saying ‘look, we finally got there’ or we can continue it. It’s been a bit of relief as well as excitement.
“That’ll be a big week for us, to get the heads ready again.”
Patmore faces a dangerous side in the Roos, who have proved twice that they will play for the full 80 minutes. In Round 5, then five-eighth Omar Slaimankhel made them pay with a 78th-minute match-winner, finishing a 22-point comeback to win 28-22. A similar come-from-behind win looked to be on the cards in Round 14, but the Bulldogs held on for a 30-28 win; an important victory for their season. Patmore knows well the strike power that Wyong possess across the park.
“We’ve played each other that many times now, you tend to know each other pretty well,” Patmore said. “Mitch Williams is outstanding at hooker, obviously they’ve got some quality players. A couple of big forwards, Eloni (Vunakece) and (Zane) Tetevano.
“I think we both play a good style, it’s pretty open and we look both like moving the ball around. I think it’ll be a pretty good game.”
Where it will be won:
For the Bulldogs, the game could be won in their heads; their recent run of form has shown what they are capable of, but several weeks of sudden-death football could prove to be mentally draining. Patmore is confident that he can keep his players grounded after they snuck into the finals, but an open style is key to his side’s chances on Saturday afternoon.
“Wyong can put some tries on you so we’ve really got to make sure we’re ready,” Patmore said. “We’ve been excited about getting there and now we’re there we’ve got to make sure we’re up.
“I think we shift the ball really well – if we can do that and complete, I think we can play some open footy and score plenty. For us to win, more so than stopping Wyong, I think we need to move the ball around.”
The Roos face a similar ask and will look to exploit the edges to pile on points against the Bulldogs.
In a sideline-to-sideline game, the two steady halves pairings will of course be paramount for both sides. Joey Lussick and Tyler Cornish have been solid this year and will have to outplay Matt Frawley and Harry Siejka to send the Bulldogs packing. With the Bulldogs missing the experience and speed of Brad Abbey, who has been sidelined with a leg injury, the support play of replacement Alex Langbridge will be important; for the Roos, their halves will need to step up without second-rower Mitch Frei.
- Wyong: Paki Afu, Carne Doyle-Manga, Alex Langbridge
- Canterbury-Bankstown: Renouf To’Omaga
- Wyong: Mitch Frei
- Canterbury-Bankstown: Brad Abbey
Witness history this September at the 2016 NSWRL Grand Final Day. On Sunday, 25 September the Intrust Super Premiership NSW decider, along with the Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield Grand Finals, take place at Pirtek Stadium, with tickets just $10 for adults and kids under 12 free. Click here to secure your seat.