NSW Cup Match Previews - Week 1, Finals


Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers

Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday, September 10. Kick-off: 2.00pm
Referee: Michael Laverty
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)

Summary: As predicted, Joel Romelo, Josh Reynolds, Jonathan Wright and Chris Armit all return from the NRL for the Bulldogs' assault on their third straight premiership in the NSW Cup.

They face an injury ravaged Balmain Ryde-Eastwood outfit who will be hoping the Wests Tigers get through Friday night's blockbuster against St George Illawarra unscathed. Tim Sheens has named an eight-man extended bench which includes Wade McKinnon, Matt Utai and Andrew Fifita for Friday night and should the NRL squad sustain some serious injuries during the match, these three could be held back from the game against the Bulldogs.

It will be interesting to see how Josh Reynolds plays his hand for the Bulldogs. Reynolds made the step up to the NRL this year and played admirably in the hooking role but many believe at this level he is more suited to halfback.

Balmain isn't without their trump cards either though. Representative halfback Nathan Waters has the ability to control the game with his impressive kicking game and his combination with George Ndaira should be watched closely by the Bulldogs defense.

Talking Point: Back to Belmore - The Bulldogs return to their spiritual home for the first time since last year's finals game against Cronulla which saw a monstrous crowd flood into Belmore to watch the Dogs sneak past the Sharks in a thriller. The Dogs faithful love the ground and should turn out in force to see their chargers progress to week three of the final series.

Prediction: Finals football can be a weird beast at times however it would be hard to imagine anything other than a Bulldogs victory here. Bulldogs by 13.

Newtown Jets Vs Wentworthville Magpies

Henson Park, Saturday, September 10. Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Jon Stone
Broadcast: www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast, proudly brought to you by Teamm8

Summary:  Isaac Maliota, Sam Brunton and Francis Tuigamala return to Henson Park after securing the 2011 Bundaberg Red Cup Premiership with Cabramatta last weekend while Brad Takairangi joins the squad after impressing all and sundry in the NRL in recent weeks.

Wentworthville have named an almost identical squad to the team which snuck home against the Bears in Round 26. Many still believe the Magpies are a smoky for the premiership and we can see their point. Joseph Paulo, Danny Howard and Matthew Ryan are three of the best back-rowers in the NSW Cup and their halves are in some impressive form.

The weather forecast for Saturday's fixture doesn't look conducive to champagne rugby league however. It looks like it may come down to a slugfest upfront and with the size of the Newtown pack, you would think they have a slight edge there.

We like the look of the battle between two of the less praised hookers in the competition in Scott Jones (Newtown) and Matt Hunt (Wentworthville). Jones and Hunt moved from Shellharbour and North Sydney respectively last year and have slotted in well with their new teams.              

Talking Point:
Daniel Mortimer - much has been publicised about Mortimer's situation but he now has his chance to answer his critics. No one doubts his ability and there is no better way to press your case for resurgence in your NRL career than leading your team to the NSW Cup Grand Final.

Really like the way that the Jets have been going about their business recently and a parochial Henson crowd should provide them with a lift when required. Jets by 8.

Auckland Vulcans Vs Central Coast Centurions
Mt Smart Stadium, Sunday, September 11
Kick-off: 1.00pm (NZST) 11.00am (AEST)
Referee: Chris Sutton

Summary: Both teams love scoring points so the crowd should be treated to an absolute belter. The Vulcans have called in the big guns for what will be their last match on home soil for 2011. Krisnan Inu and Elijah Taylor have both been named by Coach Richie Blackmore and they will add more impetus into what is already a backline brimming with point-scoring ability.

The Centurions forward pack is as strong as ever with names like Dan Tolar, Con Mika, Marvin Karawana and Junior Kangaroo, Kyle O'Donnell and they will need to front up to stop a Vulcans pack which has steamrolled their opponents in 2011. The matchup between two of the best up and coming fullbacks in the NSW Cup is worth well beyond the gold coin donation being asked for entry at Mount Smart Stadium.

Glen Fisiiahi and Peter Mata'utia have both debuted for their respective NRL sides this year and have been invaluable for their respective NSW Cup sides. Forget Scotland V Romania, Fiji v Namibia, France v Japan or Argentina v England. Mt Smart is the place to be in New Zealand this Saturday.             

Talking Point: The Vulcans - The Vulcans have broken new ground in season 2011 and their management, staff and players should be congratulated. They now train alongside their NRL counterparts and, with a number of exciting players making the step up from NYC, they have been an integral part of the Warriors success in the NRL this year.               

Prediction: Expecting plenty of points in this one however the home side should have a few more in them than the visitors. Vulcans by 10.

Cronulla Sharks Vs North Sydney Bears

Toyota Stadium, Sunday, September 11. Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Matt Noyen
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)

Broadcast: NSWRL Match of the Round to be aired on Fox Sports 2 HD and Fox Sports 2, Wednesday, September 14, 4.30pm

Summary: The Bears face a tough ask against a Sharks outfit which has 12 payers with NRL experience in the starting 13. The Sharks have weapons all over the park with excitement machines Isaac Gordon and Nathan Stapleton out wide and size upfront with Johnny Mannah and Siosaia Vave.

The Stapleton match up against the competition's leading try-scorer, Curtis Johnston, should be a ripper. Johnston crossed the stripe 26 times this season, three more than Bulldogs flyer Michael Lett. Stapleton and Johnston are arguably the two best players in the NSW Cup under the highball and fans can expect to see plenty of cross field kicks sent their way.

Wayne Lambkin will have his men primed and ready with the thought that should they lose and an upset happens higher up the draw, the Bears will be packing their bags and refocusing on 2012.

The Sharks' aspirations centre on their experienced halves combination and mainly around one man that we will outline in the talking point.     

Talking Point: Tim Smith -  Smith almost sits in the same situation as Daniel Mortimer. Nobody doubts his talents and everyone knows that he could single-handedly lead his side to a NSW Cup Premiership they just want the best out of him. Coach Tony Herman should (and probably will) pull his halfback aside and mention this fact, mention also that should