NSW Cup Previews - Round 22

Central Coast Centurions Vs Auckland Vulcans
Morrie Breen Oval, Saturday, August 6
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Alan Shortall
Broadcast: www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast, proudly brought to you by Teamm8

Summary: The Central Coast Centurions looked something like the side that was in the top four earlier this year as they defeated the Tigers at Leichhardt last week while the Vulcans also kept the scoreboard attendants busy as they racked up 40 points against the Bears over in Auckland. Some exciting matchups right across the park await those who will make the trek out to Morrie Breen this Saturday and perhaps the most exciting of those will be the clash between Siuatonga Likiliki and Krisnan Inu. A bit of the old and the new awaits and adding to the drama will be the fact that Likiliki had to come out midweek and deny that he would in fact be returning to New Zealand next season and potentially turning out against his current team mates for the Vulcans/Warriors in 2012. In other team news Dan Tolar has been named to make his first appearance in the Centurions colours while for the Vulcans the likes of Brett Seymour and Ukuma Ta'ai will continue to push for an NRL recall.    
Talking Point: Where did that come from - After copping one of the all time bakes from yours truly in this very column last week, the Centurions made me eat a big fat piece of humble pie as they piled on the points at Leichhardt to secure a very valuable two points in their quest to secure a spot in the eight. With that said, one warm day doesn't necessarily make a summer and I will be watching with much interest to see how they back up here against a legitimate title contender in the Vulcans.

Prediction: The Vulcans to continue their charge towards the finals. Vulcans by 8.

North Sydney Bears Vs Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers
North Sydney Oval, Saturday, August 6
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Jon Stone
Broadcast: NSWRL Match of the Round to be aired on Fox Sports 2 HD and Fox Sports 2, Wednesday, August 10, 4.30pm
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)

Summary: Not unlike the Tigers V Centurions match from the week before, this clash between the Bears and Tigers holds significant finals ramifications to a number of sides. Currently sitting in sixth and eighth place respectively, the Bears and Tigers should enter this clash at North Sydney Oval with the mindset that it is almost like an elimination final. And with both sides tasting defeat last week neither one heads into this clash with a great deal of confidence and considering that when these two sides last played at this very venue back in Round 15 it was an 18 all draw, it is anyone's guess as to who will come out in front this time around. Tigers captain Sean Meaney has returned to fullback as cover for Jake Mullaney while for the Bears they have named a near identical side to the one that went down across the Tasman last weekend. So much to play for and should go down to the wire.          

Talking Point: A classic four point game - If the Tigers can win here they will get two points for the bye next week and will all but be assured of a spot in the top eight. Conversely the Bears will know if they lose here that they have to face the Dogs and Sharks the next two weeks followed by a potential elimination final against the Wolves in Round 25. Given what is at stake, this looms as a season defining match for both of these clubs and their respective actions on the field should reflect that this weekend. Buckle up...

Prediction: Leaning ever so slightly towards the Bears but could go either way. Bears by 2. 

Western Suburbs Magpies Vs Manly Sea Eagles
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, August 6
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Robbie Bowen

Summary: The battle of the birds, fibros Vs Silvertails... call it what you like, but this clash is always one that has plenty of feeling and given what is at stake, that should be no different here. Neither of these sides will want to finish the season anchored to the bottom of the table yet given Windsor's late season resurgence, the reality is that one of these sides will and this clash may tell us just which one that will be. Last weekend the Magpies were desperately unlucky to have not caused a huge upset when they buckled late and allowed the Bulldogs to get out of jail while Manly had the luxury of the bye. The Magpies appear to be fielding one of their strongest line ups of the year that includes the likes of David Harris, Josh Davis, Rocky Trimarchi, Chris Tuatara-Morrison and Andrew Everingham while the Sea Eagles also look strong, particularly in their pack. Another match here that could really go either way and will most likely be decided by the side that wants it the most.                  

Talking Point: The one that got away - I know it has nothing to do with this fixture but the Magpies must be congratulated on their effort last week against the Bulldogs. In a match where the visitors were given next to no chance, they went within a whisker of causing the boilover as they lead 18-10 late in the match. Coach Leo Epifania has done an outstanding job with this group of men and to have them so competitive to the point where they almost upset an NRL calibre outfit goes to show the outstanding coaching abilities of the unheralded coach. Well done Western Suburbs.   

Prediction: If the Magpies can pick up where they left off last week, that should be good enough here. Magpies by 8.

Windsor Wolves Vs Cronulla Sharks
Windsor Sports Complex, Saturday, August 6
Kick-off: 6.00pm
Referee: Jason Robinson
Broadcast: Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)

Summary: It has been a good few weeks for the Wolves and courtesy of two wins and a bye from their last three outings they are now a realistic chance of making the eight. The Sharks need not be concerned about making the eight but they will still be looking to finish as high up the ladder as possible and fine tune their play while they are at it. Despite sitting second and comfortably inside the top four, I would be surprised if Coach Tony Herman was getting too carried away with the Sharks form over the last month or so and he would be very aware that a trip out to Windsor on a cool winters evening could be a very dangerous test for his troops. Shane Elford has been named for the Wolves as a replacement for Ryan Walker who will once again go around for the Panthers in the NRL while for the Sharks they lose Ricky Leutele and Isaac Gordon to first grade for this one but do retain the services of Scott Porter who scored the match winning try for them last week against the Jets.     

Talking Point: Can the Wolves make the eight - Following their win against Wenty last weekend and the bye the week before that, the Wolves have now closed to within one point of the eighth placed Tigers and two points of both the Centurions and Bears. It would appear the Wolves fate is in their own hands as they play both the Bears and Centurions in the coming rounds as well as Wests. Perhaps last year's Grand Finalists are not done with just yet. 

Prediction: The Wolves are playing with a renewed confidence at present and the upset is on the cards. Wolves by 7.

Wentworthville Magpies Vs Newtown Jets
Ringrose Park, Sunday, August 7
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Michael Laverty
Broadcast: 2CCRfm 90.5FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)

Summary: The Wentworthville Magpies will look to avoid three consecutive losses when they play host to a Newtown Jets side that will be seething after they blew several chances to secure victory against the Sharks last weekend. The Jets dominated most facets of their match against the Sharks except for the most important one, the scoreboard. No doubt Greg Matterson will have his troops fired up for a clash against a Wentworthville side that will be looking for some consistency in the lead up to the finals. When these two sides last met at Henson Park back in Round 13 it was a close fought affair with the Jets holding on for a 16-14 victory and it would not surprise to see a similar style affair here. Wenty will be without Carl Webb here who is serving a two match suspension but they do get Chris Hicks and Matty Ryan back while the Jets field a similar side to the one that went so close against the Sharks however Francis Tuigamala has earned a recall with Arona moving to lock for this clash.        

Talking Point
: Where are Wenty at heading into the finals - Having now lost three of their last four with only a win against the last placed Western Suburbs Magpies to their credit during that stretch, the blowtorch is starting to be applied to Wenty's finals credentials. Their negative 107 for and against is worse than the three sides below them in the eight and is only slightly better than the ninth placed Wolves. Despite not mathematically being assured of their place in the eight it appears almost certain they will be there week one of the finals series yet their current form suggests they may not ask too many serious questions of their opponents. Although in fairness an improved showing here against the Jets may go some way towards rectifying that opinion.

Prediction: Expect it to be close for most of the game but perhaps the Jets can find a way to close this one out unlike last week. Jets by 4.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have the BYE