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NSW CUP MATCH PREVIEWS - ROUND 26
Auckland Vulcans Vs Western Suburbs Magpies
Mt Smart Stadium, Saturday, September 3
Kick-off: 1.00pm (NZST), 11.00am (AEST)
Referee: Craig Pascoe
Summary: The Auckland Vulcans will be out to take momentum into their maiden finals campaign as they play host to a resurgent Western Suburbs Magpies side. The Magpies last six weeks has seen them collect 10 competition points from a possible 12 courtesy of four wins, a bye and just the solitary loss, and that loss was arguably an unlucky one against the Bulldogs when they lead the match late.
A win here to the black and whites could see them finish alongside the Tigers on 20 competition points although it would be extremely unlikely that they could reverse the for and against differential needed to claim eighth this weekend. The Vulcans know a win will seal a top two spot and will also see them move into first place, albeit for maybe only two hours or so.
The Vulcans have one of the strongest home winning percentages in the competition with just two of their six losses for the year attributed to Mt Smart. The Magpies are almost unchanged from the side that beat the Wolves back in Round 24 with the exception of Rocky Trimarchi who returns for David Harris while the Vulcans have lost a few in the likes of Brown, Mara and Lousi but do welcome Elijah Taylor to their ranks for the first time since earlier in the season.
Talking Point: The year that still is and the year that was - The Vulcans are set to not only play finals but play host to a home final for the first time in the franchise's history and Coach Richie Blackmore and his staff has done a tremendous job getting his side to a position where they can now challenge for the title.
While the same (finals) can't be said for the Magpies I think it would be remiss not to heap some praise on Coach Leo Epifania and his troops who have certainly flown home with a wet sail in recent weeks and I think given the drastic differences in the clubs resources and playing stocks, when compared to say a Vulcans or Bulldogs side, the club, its players and its supporters can certainly hold their heads up high when the full time whistle is blown this Saturday, win, lose or draw.
Prediction: Could certainly mount a decent argument for an upset however as already mentioned the Vulcans know the win will secure second place and perhaps even a Minor Premiership if the Dogs were to slip up against the Tigers, and I can't see them letting that opportunity slip at home. Vulcans by 12.
Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, September 3
Referee: Matt Noyen
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
Summary: Two teams face off here that need a win for differing reasons. The Bulldogs will know that a win secures them another Minor Premiership and with it the best possible chance of advancing through the finals while the Tigers are all but assured of eighth place on the ladder however they have not won a match since their Round 14 win over Wests (they have drawn two matches during this time) and would be desperate to arrest that form slide and take some winning momentum in to week one of the finals.
It would appear that the Tigers just lack that bit of spark at the moment and their inability to turn close losses and draws into wins will probably be the difference between them finishing eighth and say fifth or sixth. For example the Tigers have lost four games this season by six points or less and add to that the two draws and the 2011 season may well be looked back on with a sense of