Auckland Vulcans Vs North Sydney Bears
Mt Smart Stadium #2, Saturday, July 30
Kick-off: 1.00pm (NZST), 11.00am (AEST)
Referee: Craig Pascoe
Summary: The Auckland Vulcans relinquished their spot in the top two last week when they were run down late by a resilient Newtown team while the Bears made heavy weather of the Manly Sea Eagles at Brooky on Monday night but did enough to move into outright sixth on the ladder. The Bears were too good for the Vulcans back in Round 13 when these sides last played, winning on that occasion 32-14, so the Vulcans will no doubt be hell bent on returning serve back at home. The two competition points on offer will be valuable to either of these sides but for vastly different reasons. The Bears despite sitting in sixth know that they probably still require two wins to assure themselves of a place in the finals while the Vulcans probably need just one more to guarantee themselves a home final in week one. Auckland has once again named Brett Seymour who despite being named didn't take his place in the side that took to the field at Henson Park while the Bears side is largely unchanged from the one that got the job done at Brookvale Oval.
Talking Point: The Bears defence Vs Auckland's attack - If this match becomes a game of touch footy the Bears will not be able to win. Does this young Bears side have 80 minutes of finals calibre defence in them to repel this awesome Vulcans attack?
Prediction: The short turnaround plus a trip over the Tasman may present the Bears with one too many hurdles to jump. Vulcans by 12.
Newtown Jets Vs Cronulla Sharks
Henson Park, Saturday, July 30
Referee: Jon Stone
Broadcast: www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast, proudly brought to you by Teamm8
Broadcast: NSWRL Match of the Round to be aired on Fox Sports 2 HD and Fox Sports 2, Wednesday, August 3, 4.30pm
Summary: The Jets appear to be striking form at the right time of the year following a run of four straight victories while the Sharks continue to chisel out results and their nail biting draw against the Tigers coupled with the Vulcans loss sees them assume second place on the ladder. The fans that make the effort to head out to Henson Park look set to be treated to another fantastic spectacle following a similar affair last Saturday, with two fellow top four sides jousting for a home final here. The Sharks welcome back Scott Porter and Beau Champion for this all important clash while the Jets have swapped Brett Lane and Francis Vaiotu around and also bring Scott Jones back into the fold for this one. With the proposition of these two sides meeting once again in the finals, this fixture presents the winner with a great psychological edge heading towards September.
Talking Point: The Jets are taking off - While not always being renowned for their high octance offence, the Jets have turned into real entertainers of late, scoring 132 points in their last four outings. The Sharks also have the ability to rack up a score so given decent conditions at Henson this Saturday we may be in for another entertaining affair.
Prediction: Very hard to tip against the Jets at home and their confidence should be sky high after last weekend's win. Jets by 7.
Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers Vs Central Coast Centurions
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, July 30
Referee: Michael Laverty
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
Summary: Balmain almost pulled off the upset at Shark Park on Monday night when Sean Meaney crossed out wide late in the piece however his boot was unable to convert from the touchline and despite another chance with a penalty attempt from 50m out after the full time siren the spoils were shared while the Centurions season hit its lowest point to date when they were never in the contest against the 11th placed Western Suburbs Magpies. The Centurions went down to the Tigers back in Round 13 and have only registered a solitary win since while the Tigers haven't quite been setting the world on fire themselves but do have three wins and two draws to their credit from their last seven outing with the two losses coming against current top four sides in the Jets and Vulcans. Balmain have named Andrew Fifita in the number ten jersey for this one after he has been a late inclusion for them in two of their last three while the Centurions will be boosted by the inclusion of Steve Southern for this must win outing.
Talking Point: What's doing up on the coast - Other than their win against what was an under strength Jets side at Morrie Breen back in Round 13 you must go back to Round Nine to find the Centurions last win. A side that offered so much promise early on in the year is in danger of missing the finals completely with the Wolves breathing down their neck. While they do have the luxury of the bye and a certain two points in Round 26, the Centurions need some wins especially with a critical match against the Wolves at Windsor looming in a couple of weeks time.
Prediction: Tipped the Centurions last week, couldn't possibly bring myself to do it again. Tigers by 10.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Western Suburbs Magpies
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Western Suburbs Magpies
The Crest Stadium, Saturday, July 30
Referee: Adam Gee
Summary: The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs appear to be back in a big way, and you have only need ask the Manly Sea Eagles and Wentworthville Magpies who have been brushed aside with ease by the Dogs in recent weeks. Meanwhile the Magpies gave their hopes of offloading bottom place on the ladder before seasons end a real shot in the arm as they celebrated just their fourth win of the season against a disappointing Centurions side at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. It looks a real David Vs Goliath prospect on paper and given the Dogs most recent form it would seem hard to mount much of an argument against anything other than Bulldogs win here. To paint a better picture of what Wests are up against consider this, of the Bulldogs starting side only Nathan Smith and Shane Pumipi are yet to taste first grade while other than Rocky Trimarchi, the Magpies will field none. The Magpies were far from disgraced in a 36-20 loss earlier in the season and a similar type of result here may realistically be the best that they can hope for on the weekend.
Talking Point: Who can stop the Dogs - Let's look at the facts, the Dogs are on top of the table and have lost just three matches in 2011, once each to the fellow top four sides in the Vulcans (Rd 8), Jets (Rd 11) and Sharks (Rd 12). And despite some close wins of late to the likes of the Centurions and Wolves for example it now appears that only a severe run of bad luck with injuries or an even more unlikely loss of form will stop the Bulldogs from claiming the Minor Premiership.
Prediction: The Dogs look to be back to their brilliant best and the Magpies shouldn't pose too many problems for them at home. Bulldogs by 20.
Windsor Wolves Vs Wentworthville Magpies
Windsor Sports Complex, Saturday, July 30
Referee: Rob Bowen
Broadcast: Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
Summary: The Windsor Wolves will be fighting for their finals lives as they host a Wentworthville side left licking its wounds after they were the latest victim to feel the wrath of a rampant Bulldogs outfit at Ringrose Park last week. A win away against the Bears a fortnight ago combined with the bye last weekend has left the Wolves knocking on the door of the eight but with plenty of work left ahead of them if they are to be around in September. While Wentworthville is all but guaranteed of making the eight, Coach Brett Cook would now like to see his side establish some more consistency from week to week. A number of the recent Magpies performances have been indifferent to say the least and they will most certainly be looking to tighten up their play over the coming weeks. The Wolves will be without Harry Seijka here as he has earned a well deserved NRL debut after stellar form in the NSW Cup of late and as a result Masada Iosefa gets his chance to steer the Wolves around the park.
Talking Point: Have the Wolves left it too late - Now sitting just two competition points behind the Centurions, the question Windsor fans will be asking is