PREVIEW | Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Illawarra RLFC
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Illawarra – Semi Final
UOW Jubilee Oval, Sunday 10 September
Streamed LIVE on NSWRL.com.au
Momentum – it’s a tough thing to win, and an even tougher thing to maintain, in Rugby League terms.
And ahead of an all-important Semi Final at UOW Jubilee Oval, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and defending Intrust Super Premiership NSW Premiers Illawarra are stressing the importance of gaining the early ascendency when the pair meet in Sunday’s do-or-die clash.
The Bulldogs – on the back of an agonising extra-time defeat at the hands of the Wyong Roos in Finals Week 1 – will take confidence out of their performance against the Minor Premiers, though the know they’ll have to be better still against the Illawarra side this weekend.
It took the Premiership favourites 90 minutes to shake off the gallant Bulldogs, who sent the match beyond regulation time through their determined efforts to advance to Week 3.
As it wasn’t to be for Steve Georgallis’ men last Saturday, the side’s would-be passage to a Preliminary Final berth meets another roadblock in the form of the unpredictable Premiers.
Showing their resilience last weekend, Mat Head’s chargers twice overturned a deficit to book their way into Week 2 of the Finals.
Inspired by livewire fullback Jai Field – who played a hand in four of the side’s five tries – Illawarra kept their hopes of back-to-back titles intact, and will be hoping to carry that moment into this weekend’s clash at Kogarah.
Canterbury-Bankstown’s most recent clash with Illawarra came only two weeks back, in the final round of the regular season, when the sides shared the spoils in a surprise 28-all draw in Wollongong.
On that occasion, the Bulldogs surrendered a healthy lead as time dwindled. Conversely, the result meant Illawarra shored up their place in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Finals.
Earlier in the season, the Bulldogs accounted for Illawarra with relative ease, disposing of the Premiers to the tune of 38-0 in the pair’s Round 14 encounter at Belmore Sports Ground.
Where It Will Be Won
On the surface, it may appear a cliché, but the Bulldogs have shown their hand – for Georgallis’ side, the middle-forwards hold the keys to success.
The Bulldogs’ big, mobile pack will be bolstered by the inclusion of Intrust Super Premiership NSW Residents representative Andy Saunders, who returns to action after last week remaining on call for the club’s NRL side.
Alongside ISP NSW Team of the Year members Rhyse Martin and Rod Griffin, Saunders and his prop partner Francis Tualau will play a big role in seeing the Bulldogs towards a Preliminary Finals start.
Expect the Bulldogs forwards to look to work through the heart of the Illawarra defence, freeing up time and space for two-time ISP NSW Five-Eighth of the Year Josh Cleeland to work his attacking magic on the back of the damaging runs.
Illawarra meanwhile, in their last-gasp win over the Mounties, looked their most dangerous on the back of a short interchange of passing, offloads, and link-up play around the ruck.
It’s no secret that Jai Field, and Matt Dufty who returns at fullback, have speed to burn – so watch for the pair to ask questions of the big Bulldogs pack with their light-stepping, back against the grain.
Be there to witness history, with tickets just $10 for adults and children under 12 free.