PREVIEWS | ISP Rd 24
Mounties vs St George Illawarra Dragons
Saturday 25 August 12.45pm
Broadcast LIVE on Fox League
The Mounties will need to overcome a late-season form slump to clinch a top four spot when they host an in-form Dragons side in the last game of the regular season on Saturday.
The sixth-placed Mounties dominated the Intrust Super Premiership NSW competition in the first half of the 2018 season but face the second-placed Dragons after four losses in a row.
St George Illawarra will be full of confidence following their gutsy 30-18 victory over the Blacktown Workers last weekend, as halfback Darren Nicholls shouldered the extra responsibility with ease in the absence of Jai Field (First Grade).
Expect a physical encounter as both forward packs attempt to dominate early and Nicholls and Mounties halfback Tyler Cornish to show their class in one of the most anticipated matches of Round 24.
Newtown Jets vs Western Suburbs Magpies
Saturday 25 August 1pm
Broadcast LIVE on Channel Nine and 9NOW
The Jets have firmly established themselves as Premiership heavyweights with a clinical attacking display in their last outing but they will need to continue their blistering form against a desperate Magpies.
While they boast the best attack in the competition with 106 tries this season, third-placed Newtown, one of three teams on 28 points, will host a determined Magpies who must win for a chance to claim a top-four berth.
The Magpies, sitting in sixth on 26 points, are coming off a strong patch of form thanks to the heroics of five-eighth Tyson Gamble, with the 22-year-old nailing two clutch field-goals in back-to-back games.
But they will need to find the formidable form they showed in defence early in the season after conceding 89 points in their past three games.
Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles v Penrith Panthers
Saturday 25 August 3pm
The Blacktown Workers can storm into the top-eight on Saturday if they can register their first win in three weeks against the minor premiers Penrith.
Sitting in 10th place, Blacktown are just one point behind three teams – Warriors, Wyong and Wentworthville - all on 22, while Penrith have a clear seven-point lead at the top of the ladder (37 points).
Blacktown will be banking on another barnstorming display from Tom Amone, with the lock-forward averaging 156m and 29 tackles per game in 2018.
Penrith scraped home against the Knights in Round 23 after a host of uncharacteristic errors, but their rejuvenated efforts in the dying stages showed plenty of character and they will be hard to beat.
North Sydney Bears vs Warriors
North Sydney Oval
Saturday 25 August 3pm
The Bears can leapfrog from the bottom of the ladder into the top eight to secure an unlikely finals appearance with a win over the Warriors at home on Saturday.
With just two points separating the Warriors in seventh place and the Bears in 11th, the home ground advantage could prove the difference for the Bears with the visitors chasing just their fifth win away and their first victory since Round 16.
Both sides are coming off losses, with the Bears' completion rate of just 54 per cent in the second half costly against the Bulldogs; while the Warriors missed 54 tackles in their 52-16 loss to the Jets.
The Warriors claimed bragging rights over the Bears in Round 1 with a 30-22 victory, but will now venture to North Sydney Oval in the hopes of cementing a place in the top-eight.
Wentworthville Magpies vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Sunday, 26 August 3pm
Wentworthville sit just outside the top-eight based on points-differential but a win against the Bulldogs on Sunday could be enough to clinch a finals berth.
The Magpies have shown glimpses of their potential in patches throughout 2018 and can take confidence from their six-point victory over the Mounties last weekend, while the fourth-placed Bulldogs will be looking to build on their back-to-back victories.
Expect Bevan French to be named in the No.1 jersey for the Magpies after the livewire proved potent in attack last weekend, while prop Magnus Stromquist worked tirelessly in defence with 53 tackles.
Meanwhile the Bulldogs will aim to build on the momentum from their second-half blitz against the Bears in their last outing which saw them score four tries and record an 88 per cent completion rate.