The Cronulla Sharks are sitting nicely in the top four and are looking for three wins in a row when they meet the North Sydney Bears
on Saturday. They had a scare from Manly in Round 16 after a poor performance in the second half where they were outscored 20-7 by the Sea Eagles after leading 20-0 at half-time.
The Bears are in sixth position and will need to string some wins together over the next few weeks to stake their claim for a top four spot. They are coming off a loss to the Bulldogs in Round 16 but pushed the premiers for the first half of the contest taking an 11-4 lead to half-time before being overpowered in the second half.
The Sharks welcome back former Cowboys winger John Williams from a leg injury while the Bears have four players in Fetuli Talanoa
(pneumonia), Matt Mundine (foot), Beau Falloon
(back) and George Burgess
(knee) returning from injury in a boost to their chances.
Matt Mundine will make his first appearance in a red and black jumper after being injured in Souths 42-4 loss to the Gold Goast Titans in a trial match earlier this year.
John Williams - The Sharks winger returns from an ankle injury and will be looking for a strong performance to put the pressure on Matthew Wright
and Nathan Stapleton
in the top grade. Williams' battle with Bears winger Talanoa should be worth the price of admission alone.
Have to tip the Sharks but an upset would not completely surprise. Sharks by 7.
Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers Vs Auckland Vulcans Leichhardt Oval
, Saturday, July 9
Referee: David Munro
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast) Summary:
Redemption will be the word that is used by Tigers coach Paul Fletcher in the lead up to this clash with the Vulcans. Auckland easily accounted for Balmain Ryde-Eastwood back in Rd 11 this year with a 40-18 victory at Mt Smart Stadium
The Vulcans are sitting nicely in second position and have blown away sides in their last three encounters. They scored 52 points against Manly in Round 14, 44 against Windsor in Round 15 and 58 against the Central Coast in Round 16. The Tigers have finally discovered some form of their own with 3 wins and a draw in their last four outings which places them in seventh position.
In fact the loss to the Vulcans was the last time the Tigers tasted defeat and they will be hoping to turn the tables back on home soil. The return of Vulcans flyer Glen Fisiiahi
allows Pita Godinet
to return to his more favoured position of halfback.
The Tigers lineup remains largely unchanged and is the main reason the side has finally discovered some consistency of late. Either way this match is set up to be a belter and all rugby league fans should head out to Leichhardt Oval
this Saturday for the double header.
Al Schirnack - The Tigers second rower has been in and out of the Wests Tigers
side all year. He will be looking to push his claims for a permanent position in Tim Sheens' side with a solid performance against the Vulcans. The injury to Simon Dwyer helps his chances but he will need to be at his best to oust Ben Murdoch-Masila
and Todd Payten who return to the Wests Tigers
side this week.
Match of the round here and could easily go either way. Almost too hard to call so will tip our third draw of the year.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Central Coast Centurions
The Crest Stadium, Saturday, July 9
Referee: Shane Charman
Broadcast: NSWRL Match of the Round to be aired on Fox Sports 2 HD and Fox Sports 2, Wednesday, July 13, 4.30pm Summary:
The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
will look to maintain their place as the front runners for the Minor Premiership when they play host to a Centurions side that will be desperate to start heading back up the competition table.
Having come from behind to post a 32-15 win against the Bears a fortnight ago, the Dogs now return home looking to hone their skills as the run to the finals begins in earnest. The Centurions have certainly been through a rough patch of late and need to start to recapture their early season form if they are to be anything other than cannon fodder come finals time.
When these teams last met at Morrie Breen Oval back in Round 10 the Dogs came away with the two points and the Centurions have only tasted success once since with a victory against a depleted Jets side in Round 14. Josh Reynolds
scored a hat-trick back in Round 10 and will no doubt be keen to add to that tally here.
Trent Cutler - Coming off the back of two tries against the Bears in Round 16, the Bulldogs fullback will be one of many players the Centurions will have to watch very closely. Already crossing the stripe 10 times this season, Cutler will be a huge threat especially on the end of the Bulldogs' dynamic backline.
The Centurions continue to struggle to recapture their early season form and as a result one must favour the home side in this one. Bulldogs by 14.
Windsor Wolves Vs Western Suburbs Magpies
Windsor Sports Complex, Saturday, July 9
Referee: Gavin West
Broadcast: Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast) Summary:
Let's not beat around the bush, if the Wolves don't win this game their season is over. Perhaps not mathematically, but it will be all the same. On the flip side of the coin the Magpies should be equally as desperate, as a loss here will make them short priced favourites for the wooden spoon. So that leaves us with two fairly evenly matched sides that both on paper have plenty to play for.
It is hard to believe that not even 12 months ago the Wolves were deeply entrenched in the top eight and were regularly beating the likes of the Tigers, Jets and Dogs. Fast forward to now and they find themselves sitting in ninth place on the ladder, some three wins and considerable for and against behind the eighth placed Centurions with the season quickly drawing to a close.
The Centurions recent woes are certainly leaving the door ajar for the Wolves but the question remains