PREVIEWS | ISP NSW Round 21
Newcastle Knights vs. Illawarra
McDonald Jones Stadium, Saturday July 29
The Newcastle Knights and Illawarra will kick off Round 21 of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW with both teams sitting eighth and ninth respectively on the competition ladder, and will be pushing for two valuable competition points after both coming off tough defeats last weekend.
The Knights were unable to continue their hot streak of form with a narrow 18-16 loss to the North Sydney Bears despite the sides scoring three tries apiece in a gutsy performance. Young fullback Nick Meaney has been a shining light for the Knights this season - adding a significant spark on the end of their clinical attacking raids.
A finals appearance is appearing more and more unlikely for last years premiers as they have struggled to find consistency this season with another heavy defeat to the Penrith Panthers in Round 20.
With dynamic fullback Matt Dufty earning first-grade selection after a starring debut performance against the Manly Sea Eagles, their strike power has taken a crucial blow in the lead up to the finals and will be relying heavily on the likes of Taane Milne and Adam Clune to revive their season.
New Zealand Warriors vs. Mounties
Mt Smart Stadium, Saturday July 29
The Warriors were flying high throughout the opening half of the season but the omission of key personnel has seen them take a significant dip in form. Heading into their battle against the Newtown Jets as heavy favourites in Round 20, an out-of-character performance saw them leak 38 points in a surprising defeat.
Mason Lino replacing Shaun Johnson in the first-grade squad has forced a re-shuffle in their potent spine with Jazz Tevaga taking over the playmaking duties. They will undoubtedly be looking to salvage some pride as they host an in-form Mounties outfit.
The Mounties will be brimming with confidence following their dominant 51-10 victory over ladder leaders Wyong Roos on Saturday afternoon, and will be desperate for another victory to climb into the top four.
The classy halves duo of Lachlan Croker and Isaac John has been instrumental in their success this season, playing behind a powerful forward pack that’s lead by Jeff Lima and new signing Liam Knight.
Wyong Roos vs. Penrith Panthers
Morry Breen Reserve, Saturday July 29
This fixture lines up as the Match of the Round with two of the best teams in the competition go head-to-head in a battle of the heavyweights.
Boasting the best attacking record in the competition with an abundance of strike power dominating opposition teams throughout 2017, the Roos have recorded back-to-back losses after poor performances against the Bears and Mounties.
The inclusion of Jayden Nikorima after a long stint on the sidelines is a major boost for the Roos who will need to be at their sparkling best if they are to muscle up against a red-hot Panthers outfit.
The Panthers have been a class above their opposition since Round 14, recording six consecutive victories and scoring plenty of points in the process. They average a whopping 50 points per game across their last three fixtures while also maintaining the best defensive record in the competition this season conceding just over two tries per game.
Halfback Darren Nicholls has played a key role in their barnstorming momentum with three eye-catching performance earning him TOTW selections in as many weeks, and combining well with halves partner Tyrone May and fullback Jerome Luai.
Wentworthville Magpies vs. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Ringrose Park, Sunday July 30
The Magpies will be searching for their sixth straight victory when they host the Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon.
After recording a commanding 46-10 win over the Wests Tigers, the Magpies find themselves clinging onto seventh place on the competition ladder, with a win over the Bulldogs seeing them potentially storm into the top four.
With Jeff Robson steering his team around with a wealth of experience it has allowed outside backs Honeti Tuha and George Jennings to show their class, with lock forward Magnus Stromquist instrumental to their go-forward with strong efforts through the middle-third.
The Bulldogs put in a clinical display for a majority of their 42-30 win over the Workers, but failed to put the nail in the coffin after leaking five unanswered tries in the closing stages of the contest.
Holding a slight edge on points difference has the Bulldogs just holding onto fourth place, with a strong 80 minute performance crucial to their chances of claiming back-to-back victories and further cementing a place in the top four.