Mounties (1st) v Peninsula Seagulls (2nd)
Leichhardt Oval, Sunday 18 September
11am
Broadcast LIVE on Triple H 100.1 FM

Previous meetings: Mounties 34 def Peninsula 26 (Round 13)

In what has the potential to be one of the matches of the year, the first and second-placed sides after 24 rounds face off in the first of four big Preliminary Finals at Leichhardt Oval. Both teams will need to be at their best, with the winner likely to be a slight favourite in the Sydney Shield Grand Final the following week.

The Minor Premiers, as expected, had a reasonably smooth run into the Grand Final Qualifier; following just one defeat and one forfeit defeat in the regular season, Mounties came back from a significant half-time deficit to overcome Belrose in the Qualifying Final. After looking like being blown off the park by the Eagles, five unanswered second-half tries showed what Mounties are capable of when they click into gear. Maika Sivo, who has scored 35 tries in 2016, bagged another in the victory as Jake Horton and halves Maile Li and Brad Speechley helped secure the victory.

It was less of a straightforward path for the Seagulls, who has enjoyed 10 consecutive wins before a forfeit in Round 24. After being upset by St Marys in the opening week of the finals, Peninsula never trailed to Wentworthville a week later to progress to Week 3. The Magpies came seventh, however, and the Seagulls may have been hoping for a more convincing win than their 42-32 victory at St Marys.

Mounties should remain the favourites for this one and are of course red-hot favourites for the competition having won the last 20 games they’ve played. With the Seagulls challenging them earlier in the year, however, they will have confidence that they can secure a place in the decider.

St Marys Saints (3rd) v East Campbelltown Eagles (5th)
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Sunday 18 September
1pm
Broadcast LIVE on Triple H 100.1 FM

Previous meetings: St Marys def East Campbelltown by forfeit (Round 7); St Marys 22 def East Campbelltown 16 (Round 21)

The second of the Sydney Shield Preliminary Finals, to be held at Campebelltown Sports Stadium, sees two of the surprise packets of the finals series face off. While the Eagles enjoyed a strong run into September and have now won 12 of their past 13 matches, the Saints were fast-tracked through to the Preliminary Finals with an upset over the Seagulls a fortnight ago. The pressure has only got bigger since then, however, and Peninsula will be hoping that the week off will get them over the line and into the decider.

With a few key team changes to both sides – including variations to both sets of halves – the contest could go either way and will come down to which team handles the pressure better. While the Saints will be favourites, having performed better than the Eagles all season, the East Campbelltown side will be hoping to lift in front of what should be a supportive home crowd.