NSW Cup Previews - Week 3, finals


Auckland Vulcans Vs Cronulla Sharks
Leichhardt Oval, Sunday, September 25
Kick-off: 1.00pm
Referee: Jon Stone
Broadcast: 2GB Continuous Call Team (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)

Summary: While Krisnan Inu retains his place in the NRL, the Vulcans have named another international centre to take his place in former Kangaroo Shaun Berrigan. Berrigan will be partnered in the centres by the versatile Sione Lousi and combined with two sizeable wingers in Willie Peace and Nuivoa Taka, they provide halves Pita Godinet and Brett Seymour with some more than handy attacking weapons.

The Sharks have only named two Melbourne players in Jack Afamasaga and Sione Kite but you would expect a few players off Craig Bellamy's extended eight-man bench to make their way to Leichhardt on Sunday barring significant injury worries out of their NRL clash with the Warriors.

The battle of the engine room sees four of the top NSW Cup front-rowers and two of the best hookers do battle. James Gavet, Alehana Mara and Jeremy Latimore (Vulcans) and Johnny Mannah, Stuart Flanagan and Siosaia Vave (Sharks) have all either tasted NRL or are on the fringe of selection and whoever gains ascendancy here will give their side the best chance of progressing through to the Grand Final at ANZ Stadium next Sunday afternoon.

Talking Point: The shootout - The Vulcans (810) and the Sharks (656) were first and third respectively when it came to scoring points in season 2011 and the Sharks showed in no uncertain terms last weekend that they can put points on the board and do it quickly. Should conditions be similar to last weekend then it could be an all out shootout with the team who uses the blustery conditions better taking the spoils.

Prediction: Very hard to separate these two sides and don't think there will be much in it either way but favour the Vulcans ever so slightly. Vulcans by 2.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs North Sydney Bears
Leichhardt Oval, Sunday, September 25
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Matt Noyen
Broadcast: 2GB Continuous Call Team (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
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 28, 4.30pm

Summary: The Bulldogs were pushed all the way by the eighth-placed Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers in the first week of the NSW Cup Final Series and they will need a better performance should they want to hold off a Bears team playing with momentum after they snuck past sentimental favourites Newtown last weekend.

The Bears have everything that worries the Bulldogs. They have two wingers that are more than competent under the highball, two crafty halves in Matt Mundine and Malcolm Webster, and a sizeable forward pack lead by 19 year-old George Burgess, 21 year-old Neccrom Areaiiti and Gold Coast bound hooker Beau Falloon.

The Bulldogs aren't at full-strength either with Jonathon Wright, Grant Millington and Joel Romelo all unavailable for this Grand Final qualifier. Josh Reynolds moves back to halfback for the Dogs while tireless hooker Shane Pumipi takes Reynolds' spot at hooker. This games shapes as a grittier fixture that the 1pm game as both sides like to grind out victories given the chance.

To be any chance, the Bears must stop the Bulldogs pack from getting early momentum and should they rattle the Dogs, like the Tigers did a fortnight ago, they have the desperation in defence which could see them hold on and stop the Canterbury side from reaching a third-straight NSW Cup Grand Final. 

Talking Point:
Josh Reynolds back at halfback, help or hindrance? - Reynolds has excelled in the number seven jersey at NSW Cup level but is ultimately viewed by NRL coaching staff as a hooker if his recent foray into the NRL is anything to go by. Reynolds was the best player for the NSW Cup Representative side in the last two fixtures and loves getting down and dirty. This game will suit him and we expect him to excel.

Prediction: While perhaps not as dominant as say this time last year, the Bulldogs are still the favourites for the title. Bulldogs by 4.