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NSW Cup Previews Round 4
Summary: The Centurions continue to improve each week despite increasing pressure on their depth with injuries in first grade. The pressure will continue this week with Joel Edwards and Marvin Karawana both being called up into first grade.
Steve Southern continues to impress for Rip Taylor and many believe he could have been an easy replacement for the injured Cameron Ciraldo instead of the front-row specialist Joel Edwards. Western Suburbs have made several changes hoping to avoid another heavy defeat here.
Ben Jeffery has moved into five-eighth, Gus Aiga to fullback and impressive youngster Lance Siataga to the wing. Michael Stolk has also forced his way into the starting side after two strong performances off the bench. The battle of the back-rows will go a long way to deciding this one with Southern, O'Donnell and Mika taking on Davis, Trimarchi and the Jukebox.
Game Breaker: Kevin Naiqama - The NSW Resident winger started 2011 where he left off in 2010, scoring meat pies! Naiqama seems to pop up in the right spot at the right time. He has already tasted the NRL and a permanent call up doesn't look to be too far away.
Cronulla Sharks Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Toyota Stadium, Saturday, April 2
Referee: Luke Phillips
Broadcast: NSWRL Match of the Round to be aired on Fox Sports 2 HD and Fox Sports 2, Wednesday, April 6, 4.30pm
Summary: Cronulla are coming off an impressive win against a resurgent Vulcans side in Auckland last weekend while, the Bulldogs defeated Manly 48-30 in a game where tackling looked to have been optional. Coach Justin Holbrook will need an improved defensive effort from his chargers if they are to come home with two points against this ever improving Cronulla outfit.
Sione Kite takes Adam Woolnough's starting spot in the front-row with Woolnough making his return to the NRL with the Storm against the Bulldogs on Monday night. For the Bulldogs, Heka Nanai returns and takes his place on an experienced bench with Harlan Alaalatoa and Brad Morrin.
Chris Armit is travelling with the Bulldogs side to Melbourne as an 18th man and his starting front-row spot has been taken by Martin Tapau. Cronulla are sweating on hooker Stuart Flanagan who injured a quad in last weekend's match against the Vulcans and is an outside chance to play.
Game Breaker: Rhys Jack - Has been more than handy for Coach Justin Holbrook in the early part of 2011. He covered amply for the injured Josh Reynolds at halfback until the inclusion of Kiwi International Ben Roberts forced him back into the hooking role.
Prediction: Last weekend should have wake up call for the Bulldogs. The Sharks will run riot if the Dogs bring a repeat defensive performance but class should shine through here. The Dogs in a thriller.
Summary: No one gave the Bears a chance last weekend and even the most passionate Bears fan would not have picked the 56-10 demolition of the solid Magpies outfit. A start-studded Jets outfit couldn't find the nail in the coffin for the Centurions last weekend and they paid the price when the Centurions snuck away with the two points in the final minutes.
Coach Greg Matterson would not be pleased with the ease of some of the tries his players conceded last weekend because after watching the tape he will be in for some more punishment if his side's defensive effort doesn't lift this weekend. Two of the shining lights for the Jets last weekend were Lama Tasi and Khalid Deeb.
Both players were in everything last weekend and they come up against an equally exciting young duo in George Burgess and Neccrom Areaiiti. The Bears will be without impressive lock Nathan Peats this weekend after he has been called up to the NRL along with Junior Kiwi Kane Morgan.
Game Breaker: Josh Mansour - Played Junior Kangaroos' in 2010 and has looked at home stepping up a grade in the NSW Cup thus far. Expect plenty of cross field bombs to be placed for this impressive athlete.
Prediction: The return of Tinirau Arona will go a long way to seeing the Jets sneak home in a close one.
Windsor Wolves Vs Auckland Vulcans
Windsor Sports Complex, Saturday, April 2
Referee: Phil Henderson
Broadcast: Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
Summary: The Wolves were unable to make it back to back victories at home last weekend when they were outgunned by a determined Wentworthville side. The Vulcans suffered their first loss of the 2011 campaign when they were somewhat upset in Auckland by an impressive Sharks outfit.
It was not necessarily the loss that surprised pundits but more so the margin of victory to the Sharks given the Vulcans impressive start to the year. Ivan Cleary has swung the axe at NRL level and as a result the Vulcans have lost Bill Tupou, Glen Fisiiahi, Ukuma Ta'ai and Alehana Mara for this one although they have got Joel Moon and Brett Seymour in return.
Junior Kangaroo, Evrett Vaurasi has slotted nicely into the Wolves starting pack, and along with the likes of Buddy Gordon and Dayne Weston, they appear to have the necessary muscle to match the visitors from over the Tasman.
Game Breaker: Arana Taumata - Although this playmaker has had as many NRL clubs as the week has days, there is no doubting his talent. The term untapped potential gets used a lot but it has never been truer than in this instance.
With the Wolves season a month in and Taumata's performances getting better and better each week, one would think it will only be a matter of time until Panthers Coach, Matt Elliot, picks up the phone and gives Arana the call that he is waiting for. But until then the NZ Maori representative will have to bide his time with the Wolves.
Prediction: A real toss of the coin here, but there were some bad signs for the Vulcans last week after what was a promising start to the year and as a result I am inclined to tip the home side in what should be a close affair no matter which way it goes.
Summary: The Wentworthville Magpies, off the back of a two week break, got the job done against a Windsor side that was perhaps still feeling the effects of a grueling match a week earlier against the Magpies opponents here in the Tigers.
The Tigers should not have the same excuse as Windsor considering they had the bye last round and have had a fortnight to prepare for their trip to Ringrose Park. The Tigers newest signing in Charlie Herekotukutuku will make his debut here as Balmain attempt to find Sean Meaney an able assistant while regular number seven, Nathan Waters, is out injured.
Game Breaker: Mitch Stanfield - While the Magpies field a backline that is the envy of most sides in the competition, it is perhaps their forward pack that will have the final say on how far they go in 2011.
And perhaps the most underrated player in that pack is Stanfield. A nuts and bolts type player with an extremely competitive streak, Stanfield may not always be the guy getting the wraps, but he will be the guy making the difference.
Prediction: The Tigers do not appear to be carrying that aura that they had for most of last season while the Magpies looked every bit the title contender with a strong win away to the Wolves last week. Given the Tigers injury concerns I expect the home side to make it two straight.
Manly Sea Eagles have the BYE