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Mounties v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
GIO Stadium
Saturday, 24 March 12:45pm

The ladder-leading Mounties side, one of only two teams to keep a winning record so far in 2018, host the Bulldogs in this week’s Fox League match.

The hosts possess the best defensive record thus far in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW competition, conceding a total of just 26 points in their two fixtures.

The Bulldogs, however, will present a significant challenge, following a strong second-half performance against the Warriors in Auckland that ultimately resulted in a 30-14 victory.

Mounties are in fine form following a heart-stopping win in Round 1 against the Dragons, and a 42-6 shellacking of Wyong in Round 2.

Some of the competition’s best performers and biggest names with line up in this one, including Brad Abbey, Ata Hingano, Craig Garvey and Jarrad Kennedy (Mounties) and Josh Cleeland, Matt Frawley and Greg Eastwood (Bulldogs).

Western Suburbs Magpies v Wyong Roos
Campbelltown Stadium
Saturday, 24 March 1pm

More big names are on show in Channel 9’s Intrust Super Premiership NSW fixture this weekend. Some of Rugby League’s best performers, including Test representatives, former Origin players and Super League stars will run out at Campbelltown on Saturday – including Mahe FonuaTim GrantChris McQueen, Mitch Cornish, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Mitch Williams and Eloni Vunakece.

Wests are, alongside Mounties, the only side to have won their opening two matches, but the Roos will prove strong opponents. Last year’s grand-finalists will be stinging from their 36-point loss to Mounties last week, and coach Rip Taylor will be demanding a much better performance.

St George Illawarra Dragons v North Sydney Bears
Ron Costello Oval
Saturday, 24 March 3pm

At the moment this is a battle of the cellar-dwellers, with the Bears in 11th place and the Dragons in 12th, but coaches Shane Millard and Mat Head will be hoping Shellharbour’s Ron Costello Oval is where their 2018 season begins.

The Bears lost 30-22 against the Warriors in Round 1 and 30-24 against the Panthers in Round 2. The Dragons, meanwhile, experienced a heart-breaking two-point loss to Mounties in Round 1and a 12-point loss to Newtown in Round 2.

The Dragons might have a slight advantage – they played their Round 2 clash on Thursday, while the Bears faced Penrith (in extreme heat) on Saturday.

Penrith Panthers v Warriors
St Marys Leagues Stadium
Saturday, 24 March 3pm

Two sides which have been up and down over the first fortnight meet at St Marys on Saturday as both look to settle into the new season.

It will be the Warriors’ first trip across the Tasman in 2018 – and as with every year, their form away from home will dictate how they fare throughout the season. There can be no bigger challenge than the defending premiers, who earned their first competition points with a come-from-behind win over North Sydney in Round 2.

That, in fact, appears to be the Panthers’ biggest area of improvement: having trailed in both their matches this year, they have won both second halves after coming to life late in the game. It wasn’t enough to come back against Wentworthville in Round 1 and only narrowly got them home last week, but with a better first half defensively they can go a long way to winning the game.

Young guns Hayze Perham, Lewis Soosemea and Chanel Harris-Tavita will look to continue their strong start to the season for the Warriors, while Wayde Egan, Tom Eisenhuth and Kaide Ellis are ones to watch for the Panthers.

Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles v Newtown Jets
HE Laybutt Field
Sunday, 25 March 3pm

Round 2 was a weekend few Manly Warringah or Blacktown fans will ever forget, with the two sides registering 100 points and conceding none across the NRL and Intrust Super Premiership. That included 46 for the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles, but they’ll face a very different task when they meet the Newtown Jets on Sunday.

Immediately following the Jets’ tough 24-12 win over the Dragons in Round 2, an intention to play out the grind from the start was revealed. “Our game plan was to just calmly grind and grind and grind – points will come,” centre Jesse Ramien told How that mentality fares against a team which just shut out Wentworthville for a 46-0 victory is one of the more intriguing questions of the weekend.

With a deserved NRL call-up, Ramien will not be wearing Newtown colours this weekend, but an updated Jets squad will still feature plenty of strike power in Round 2. New signing and NSW True Blue Trent Hodkinson will return from injury, with highly-touted rookie Kyle Flanagan partnering him in the halves. Hodkinson’s ability with well-documented knee issues and Flanagan’s handling of senior football will be two factors that decide the game. The Sea Eagles’ Manase Fainu, Joey Lussick and Jack Gosiewski will be vital for the home side.

Wentworthville Magpies v Newcastle Knights
Ringrose Park
Sunday, 25 March 3pm

The score line was far worse for Wentworthville on the weekend, but both the Magpies and the Knights will be disappointed with their performances in Round 2.

For Wentworthville, a pleasing Round 1 victory over Penrith seems like a distant memory after their more recent demoralising 46-0 loss to Blacktown, with Nathan Cayless’s men trying to replicate what worked for the team originally. The Knights were much more impressive in getting out to a lead over Western Suburbs, but coach Simon Woolford did not mince his words when summing up the side’s second-half showing.

The Knights’ halves rotation of Christian Hazard, Jack Cogger and Jack Johns has plenty of promise, along with Danny Levi continuing to ply his trade in the No.9 jersey. Wentworthville will continue with Andy Saunders on the bench, which will also feature the returning Tony Williams; if that pair can have the impact that is expected of them, it will  help the home side greatly.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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