PREVIEWS | ISP NSW Round 19
Warriors v Illawarra
Mt Smart Stadium, Saturday 15 July
The Warriors will kick of Round 16 of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW when they play host to Illawarra on Saturday afternoon with both teams fresh off the bye.
Having cemented themselves as one of the premiership heavyweights of 2017, the Warriors have enjoyed little success in recent weeks with three consecutive losses.
Despite their dip in form, they still sit second on the ladder but will look to regain their clinical attacking prowess in the coming weeks in the hope of building strongly towards the back-end of the season.
Illawarra will relish the week off after a last start 24-10 win over Mounties in Round 17. Sitting seventh on the competition ladder, Illawarra will be desperate for two valuable competition points and will be looking for the likes of Matt Dufty and Jai Field to lead their charge towards a possible spot in the finals.
Key match-ups in this fixture will see their respective forwad packs go head-to-head; both have been instrumental in their go-forward throughout their 2017 fixtures.
Newcastle Knights v Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles
McDonald Jones Stadium, Saturday 15 July
Looking unlikely to appear in this year's finals series after an inconsistent first half of their season, the Knights have found some brilliant form with three successive wins seeing them earn a spot in eighth place of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW ladder.
With their attack being the cornerstone of their recent run of form, it was their defence that saw them concede just one try in their 22-4 victory over the Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon.
Expect a big performance from crafty hooker Tyler Randell who has been a key figure in his team's three straight wins after recording three tries in the past two games. Randell has worked well with young fullback Nick Meaney in recent weeks, who has played well beyond his years during his first season in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW.
Blacktown were arguably one of the most improved teams over the past month of football but crept back into old habits with a 54-0 loss to the Penrith Panthers.
With the absence of dynamic five-eighth Cameron Cullen due to his admission to the first grade squad, the Sea Eagles' attack was far from clinical with their back-to-back losses now having them sit five points outside the top eight.
A win this weekend will put them in good stead before their Round 21 Bye, but will look for a more committed defensive performance against a well-drilled and highly-skilled Knights outfit.
Penrith Panthers v Wests Tigers
St Mary League Stadium, Sunday 16 July
The Panthers will be brimming with confidence following their 54-0 shutout of a struggling Blacktown side on the weekend. Recording their fourth straight victory with hard-fought performances over Mounties, the Warriors and Bears, the Panthers now sit comfortably inside the top four and boast the defensive record in the competition in 2017.
Halfback Darren Nicholls was instrumental in his team’s commanding victory recording an 18-point haul with a classy try and kicking 7/10 conversions, while fullback Jerome Luai was constantly causing havoc with two handy tries of his own.
The Wests Tigers will be looking for a fresh start after enjoying their second week off this season in Round 18. Struggling for form with just four victories so far in 2017, they will be looking for a more disciplined performance against the side that posted 52 points in the corresponding fixture in Round 2.
With the worst defensive record in the competition having conceded nearly 500 points, head coach David Heath will urge his players for a much improved defensive effort after conceding 100 points in their last two fixtures.
North Sydney Bears v Mounties
North Sydney Oval, Sunday 16 July
Arguably the most intriguing match-up of Round 19, the Bears will be looking to continue their return to form after an upset 22-6 victory over ladder-leaders the Wyong Roos.
Struggling to find the tryline consistently throughout 2017, their four-try performance on the weekend will give the Bears an array of confidence considering it was the first time they have posted more than 20 points since Round 9.
Having won the previous fixture with a grinding 12-4 win in Round 4, The Bears will need to deliver a similar attacking display against a team clinching onto fourth spot on the competition ladder.
The Mounties no doubt have the class to deliver a much-needed victory against the best defensive team in the competition, but their inconsistency in recent weeks is a worrying sign considering they haven’t won since Round 13.
With their experienced forward pack that includes the likes of David Taylor, Jeff Lima and Glen Buttris, expect last year's grand finalists to use their power game through the middle third in the hopes of denting the Bear’s brutal defensive line.