PREVIEWS | ISP NSW Round 24
Wentworthville Magpies v Newcastle Knights
McDonald Jones Stadium, Saturday 19 August
Broadcast LIVE on Fox League
In a match set to shape the make-up of the 2017 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Finals series, Wentworthville head up the M1 to ‘host’ the Newcastle Knights in the Hunter.
In a battle of eighth-plays-ninth, Wentworthville will be desperate to rediscover their winning ways after back-to-back losses in rounds 21 and 23, to leapfrog the Knights back in to the all-important top eight.
Newcastle themselves head into the clash on the back of a gritty two-point win over a 12-man Mounties outfit away from home in Round 23 – that match their third in succession where the full-time margin was of exactly two points.
These sides last met in Round 4 of the competition, where the Knights scored what was their first win of the 2017 season, edging the Magpies by four points at Lyall Peacock Oval in Cessnock.
Illawarra v Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles
WIN Stadium, Saturday 19 August
Having not played in Wollongong since their 16-point loss to Wyong in Round 15, Illawarra return to WIN Stadium to host the in-form Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles on Saturday afternoon.
Time spent on the road and playing out of UOW Jubilee Oval at Kogarah has kept Illawarra away from the venue where they’ve found much success this year, having won four of their six matches played in Wollongong throughout the 2017 season.
Blacktown will be confident of overturning that record though, high-flying on the back of consecutive wins over Wyong and the Wests Tigers respectively.
Blacktown got the better of the Illawarra side when the pair last met, running out surprise 36 points to 18 victors in Round 4 at Lottoland.
Wyong Roos v Warriors
Morry Breen Reserve, Saturday 19 August
All eyes will be on the Wyong Roos’ clash with the NZ Warriors at Morry Breen at the weekend, in a match-up that could settle the race towards the Minor Premiership in the battle of first-plays-second.
The Warriors will fancy their chances of claiming a win over the Roos, heading into the match with the league-leaders buoyed by back-to-back wins.
They’ll have to overturn a poor record away from Mt Smart Stadium in 2017 if they are to do so however, having not posted a win on the road since their visit to Wentworthville in Round 11.
After a blistering start to the season – a standard maintained throughout much of the campaign – Wyong have won just one of their past four matches.
The Roos edged by Warriors by just six points when the sides last met in Round 9 of the competition.
Newtown Jets v Mounties
Henson Park, Saturday 19 August
Out of the finals race after back-to-back big losses to the Bulldogs and Panthers respectively, the Newtown Jets will be playing the role of ‘spoiler’ when they welcome the Mounties to Henson Park in Round 24.
In what can only be described as a disappointing season for the Jets, Greg Matterson’s men will be playing only for pride, now out of the hunt to play at the business end of the season.
Poised in sixth, a win the Mounties would likely seal their berth in the 2017 finals series, pending the form and success of Illawarra, Newcastle and the Wentworthville Magpies.
Mounties teeter on the edge of the top eight after two-straight losses, and will be hoping to quickly rediscover the form that saw them put on 51 points against the Wyong Roos in Round 20.
Wests Tigers v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday 19 August
Defensive flaws have plagued the Wests Tigers throughout much of the 2017 season, not least in the past month, having conceded more than 40 points in each of their past five outings.
It’s been a tale all too often told out West way, the side having leaked an average of 29 points per game throughout the campaign.
They’ll need to find an answer – and quickly – as the in-form Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs head to Campbelltown, the ‘Dogs coming out on top 24-12 victors when the sides last met in Round 10.
Fresh off a Bye, the Bulldogs will be out to extend their winning run to four matches.
Arguably one of the more consistent teams this season, the Bulldogs have tasted defeat only once since that Round 10 outing against the Tigers; the loss coming in the form of a shock 20-point defeat at the hands of the Knights in Round 18.
Penrith Panthers v North Sydney Bears
St Marys Leagues Stadium, Saturday 19 August
Rounding out the last of the weekend’s play, the red-hot Panthers take on the North Sydney Bears at St Marys Leagues Stadium on Saturday night, in an all-enticing battle of third-plays-fifth.
Alike the Bulldogs, the Panthers have caught the eyes of all onlookers at the tail-end of the season, lead by superstar halfback – and former North Sydney Bear – Darren Nicholls.
Starring in the Red and Black of North Sydney in 2015, Nicholls will be out to haunt his former club when the sides meet at the weekend.
The Panthers have won seven of their past eight ISP NSW matches, including a 7-point victory over the Bears in Round 17 On that occasion, Nicholls sealed the deal with a field-goal at the death, consigning the Bears to a tough-to-take defeat in their own backyard.
The Bears head into the Round 24 clash on the back of an indifferent last month, posting a draw against the Mounties, before wins over the Knights and Tigers respectively. Their last-start effort however, a poor defensive showing against Illawarra at Kogarah in Round 23.
If the Illawarra performance was an indication of their form heading into the clash with the Panthers, Ben Gardiner’s men can again expect to be hard-pressed to find the competition points out West.