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NSW CUP MATCH PREVIEWS ROUND 18
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Auckland Vulcans
The Crest Stadium, Saturday, July 10
Referee: Jon Stone
The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will look to maintain the pressure on the top of the table Tigers as they host the ninth placed Vulcans. Winners of their last five matches, the Bulldogs are the hottest team in the NSW Cup at present and would fancy their chances at home against a wounded Auckland line up. The Vulcans have lost their last three after losing regular halves Pita Godinet (injury) and Isaac John (NRL) in recent weeks, and their replacements in Shaun Johnson and Kelvin Wright, have struggled to replicate the form that saw the Vulcans sitting as high as seventh on the ladder only a month or so ago. The Dogs will be sweating on the availability of their NSW Residents representatives that helped propel the NSW team to a rousing 28-20 victory at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night. Tim Browne (concussion) and Daniel Harrison (injured hand) are in the most doubt while Josh Reynolds looks certain to back up. Jarrad Hickey makes a rare appearance in the NSW Cup as he looks to push for an NRL recall in the coming weeks while Sione Lousi will be a welcome addition to the Vulcans ranks and should add some punch to their backline. Hard to see anything but a Canterbury victory here, but it may be closer than some might think, particularly if the Dogs are forced to field a weakened side due to any late withdrawals.
Central Coast Centurions Vs Windsor Wolves
Morrie Breen Oval, Saturday, July 10
Referee: Adam Devcich
Broadcast: Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
The Centurions will look to put the disappointment of their loss to the Jets behind them when they welcome an inform Windsor Wolves side to Morrie Breen Oval this Saturday. After having looked much the better side for most of their encounter with the Blue Bags at Henson Park a fortnight ago, a poor last twenty minutes let the Jets off the hook as they went down 38-34. The Wolves have won their last four and looked to have arrested a mini form slump of sorts that saw them lose to the Bears and also held to a draw by Wentworthville, both matches they would have expected full competition points from. The Windsor halves combination of Craig Trindall and Joseph Paulo looks to have settled nicely while Dave Simmons and Sandor Earl return to the Wolves after starring for the Panthers in their victory over the Dragons on Monday night. The Centurions look to field one of their strongest line ups of the year, with NRL regulars Scott Dureau, Keith Lulia and Cooper Vuna all named to tackle the Wolves while Kevin Naiqama should still be on cloud nine after scoring a vital try for the NSW Residents on Wednesday evening. The ladder would suggest that the Wolves should win this match but the Centurions are more than capable of springing the upset if they play their best football.
Melbourne Storm Vs Newtown Jets
Olympic Park, Saturday, July 10
Referee: Rob Bowen
An intriguing matchup looms as the sixth placed Storm play host to the third placed Jets. Having lost the opportunity to go top of the table after going down to the Tigers last weekend, Newtown will be desperate to avoid a second straight loss but that will be easier said than done as Melbourne are a formidable outfit at the best of times, but particularly at Olympic Park. Having already beaten the likes of Balmain and Western Suburbs at home in 2010, the Storm will hold no fears of the visiting Jets. One hurdle that may stand in the Storm's way however is the availability of their players. Gareth Widdop, Willie Isa, Jesse Bromwich and Rory Kostjasyn all played vital roles in the NSW Residents victory and will need to monitored in the lead up to game time while Hep Cahill looks certain to miss after being a late scratching on Wednesday night due to an ankle injury. Newtown has no such concerns as Aiden Guerra was their only representative and he looks set to go around again here on Saturday. Lopini Paea will also be a welcome addition to the Jets pack as he returns from a recent injury lay off. When these sides met at Henson Park in round ten, the Jets were comfortable winners 24-10 as Luke Towers scored a double on that occasion and will need to be watched once again here. The Jets recent form has been a little shaky after come from behind wins against the Magpies and then the Centurions plus their most recent loss against the Tigers, if the Storm field a full strength outfit, an upset of sorts is a very real possibility.
North Sydney Bears Vs Cronulla Sharks
North Sydney Oval, Saturday, July 10
Referee: Matt Hawkins
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
An important match for both of these sides, but for very different reasons. The eighth placed Sharks know a victory here coupled with a Bulldogs win at the Crest, will see them with a three point buffer between them and the ninth placed Vulcans at rounds end. Meanwhile the Bears have realistically bowed out of the finals race for 2010 but they will still be hell bent on winning as many of their remaining games this season as possible and avoiding the wooden spoon in the process. New recruits Jaiman Lowe and Craig Stapleton form a formidable front row combination for the Bears while the Sharks continue to field a steady seventeen which has seen them win three of their last five. The big positive for the Sharks in recent weeks has been their defence. They have allowed only 16 points to be scored against them in their past two games which includes holding a dangerous Western Suburbs side to a single try. The Bears meanwhile have conceded 98 points over the same time and 146 in their last three. No doubt this is a massive cause of concern for Coach Wayne Lambkin, and clearly a similar performance here would result in a Sharks win. If the Bears can find a way to plug the holes in their defence then expect them to be mighty competitive here, but if they can't, Scott Porter and company may have a field day at the Bears expense.
Western Suburbs Magpies Vs Shellharbour Dragons
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, July 10
Referee: Phil Henderson
Broadcast: NSWRL Match of the Round to be aired on Fox Sports 2, Wednesday, July 14, 5.00pm
Broadcast: www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast, proudly brought to you by Teamm8
If there were any doubts before, there aren't any more, the Western Suburbs Magpies are officially in a form slump. Having lost four of their last five which also included a less than convincing win against the Vulcans in round 14, the break may have came at the perfect time for the Magpies. The Dragons will head to Campbelltown knowing that they haven't tasted victory since a win against the Bears way back in round five and there is little doubt that Terry Gilogley and his men will be trying to move heaven and earth to break that unwanted streak. Michael Lett returns to the back for Shellharbour after spending some time in the NRL recently as cover for Brett Morris, Matt Cooper, Darius Boyd and Beau Scott who have all missed games over the origin period. With the Dragons (NRL) having the bye this weekend, there is some chance that a number of fringe players may make surprise appearances here. After playing a pivotal role in the NSW Residents victory against QLD on Wednesday night, Nathan Waters despite not being named is expected to play and Andrew Fifita is the Wests Tigers 19th man on Friday night against the Titans, but once again he may take his place here if his services are not required in first grade. Despite Wests recent indifferent form it would be hard to see them not win here, if they are serious about contending for the 2010 title then surely this is a game they can't afford to lose.
Wentworthville Magpies Vs Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers
Parramatta Stadium, Monday, July 12
Referee: Gavin Reynolds
A special Monday night edition of the NSW Cup awaits us at Parramatta Stadium next week as the Wentworthville Magpies will attempt to do what many have failed at in 2010, beating the Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers. The Tigers are flying high after seeing off Newtown's challenge in the top of the table clash last Sunday at Henson Park but they will not want to underestimate the seventh placed Magpies as they are capable of mixing it with anyone on their day. Like so many round 18 fixtures this weekend, the fallout from the Residents clash may have a big bearing on the outcome of this match. Sean Meaney, David Gower and Jared Farlow will all be backing up for the Tigers while Lee Te Maari will also need to do likewise for Wenty. The fact that this fixture is being played on a Monday evening as opposed to 24 hours earlier as originally scheduled certainly helps those facing the daunting task of having to back up from such a physical encounter on Wednesday. In other team news Henry Raiwalui has been rewarded for his excellent form in the lower grades as he will line up on the wing here while for the Tigers both of the Schirnack brothers have been named to return from recent injury lay-offs. A full strength Tigers outfit should be packing too many punches for Wentworthville, but whether or not they will be full strength remains to be seen.