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NSW Cup Round 23 Match Previews
Mt Smart Stadium, Saturday, August 14
Kick-off: 10.30am (AEST) 12.30pm (Local Time)
Referee: Leon Williamson
Newly crowned ladder leaders, the Newtown Jets, make the trip across the Tasman to take on a Vulcans outfit that will be fired up to try and reclaim their spot in the eight. Cronulla's upset win over the Bulldogs last week had a twofold affect on these sides. 1) It helped the Jets leapfrog the Bulldogs after the Jets victory over Wests and 2) It knocked the Vulcans out of the eight after they went down to Shellharbour 50-20. The Jets are a bit of an enigma when you look at their form from the previous 22 rounds of the competition. They aren't the most potent attacking team in the NSW Cup with a few sides ranked better statistically in that category including the seventh placed Wentworthville, and they don't have the stiffest defence either as they are also ranked fourth in that category. So how does the side with the fourth best attack and the fourth best defence finds themselves in first place on the ladder a month out from the finals? Pretty simple really, they are winners! While it may not always be pretty and they often make heavy weather of lower ranked opponents, Greg Matterson's side has developed and cultivated an amazing will to win at all costs attitude this season and that is showing in their performances. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for their opponents here as the Vulcans have only won one of their last eight and despite the fact they are effectively playing for their season. It is hard to mount a case for them, although the recent return of Pita Godinet to their line up plus the fact this game is in Auckland does provide their supporters with some hope though.
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, August 14
Referee: Adam Devcich
Broadcast: www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast, proudly brought to you by Teamm8
Fifth playing sixth on the ladder as the Western Suburbs Magpies top four aspirations go on the line against the Storm. With a maximum of eight points still available in the 2010 NSW Cup and the fourth placed Wolves some five points clear of them entering Round 23, realistically the Magpies will need to win their remaining four matches to be any chance of hosting a final. Four wins still may not be enough though as the Wolves play the Bears at home this round and also host the Centurions in Round 25, both matches they would be expected to win and that would give them 34 competition points and a guaranteed spot in the top four. Melbourne's recent run of outs means they are now in danger of falling further down the ladder and potentially limping out of the finals in week one. A gutsy second half comeback fell just short against the Wolves last round and shock home losses the previous two weeks sees them battling to keep their grip on sixth place with little hope of reeling in Wests for fifth as they are now five points clear. Rhys Pritchard seems to have regained his early season form and will need to be marked closely by the Storm defence while Luke Kelly was at the centre of everything good that the Storm did against Windsor last round and will be a constant threat for the full 80 minutes. Jesse Bromwich looks likely to be rewarded for his stellar form with a call up to the NRL as Coach Craig Bellamy starts to prepare for 2011. Wouldn't imagine there will be much in this one and you can expect it to be decided late in the match.
Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers Vs Cronulla Sharks
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, August 14
Referee: Henry Perenara
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, Wednesday, August 18, 5.00pm
The giant killing Sharks will see if they can pull off an upset for the second week running as they head across town to take on a Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers side that will still not have given up on taking out the Minor Premiership. In fairness it must be said that the Sharks victory came out of nowhere last weekend, the Dogs had won nine straight and the Sharks had won only three times in the same period which included losses to the Bears and the Vulcans, so to say the Sharks win and in particular the ease of it came as a surprise to most would be an understatement. The Tigers rebounded after their first back to back losses in 2010 with a professional display against the Centurions, winning 28-20 at Morry Breen Oval. Blake Lazarus has scored three tries in his last three matches whilst also taking over the kicking duties from Sean Meaney who is still missing with injury. The Sharks trio of Tim Smith, Albert Kelly and Josh Lewis were electric last week and despite the fact Smith will be missing here, the Tigers defence will need to be on high alert for the full 80 minutes if they are to repel the Shark's attack. These two sides have only faced off once this season and that resulted in an 18 point win to the Tigers, but with the Sharks confidence high after last week and the Tigers still somewhat plagued by injury, this may be the perfect time for the Sharks to turn the tables.
Referee: Phil Haines
Just about the last roll of the dice here for the Centurions as a loss would almost certainly spell the end to their finals hopes in what has been an up and down season for the club during their inaugural year. The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be reeling after they suffered a 32-8 loss last week, snapping a nine game winning streak in the process. The Centurions face a monumental task to force their way into the eight with three of their last four games remaining against sides currently in the top eight and away from home with only their Round 26 match against the Dragons being the exception. So facing the prospect of needing to win at least three of those to have any hope means things seem bleak for the side from the Central Coast. The Dogs also face a tough run home with matches against the Storm and Wests plus a Round 25 blockbuster against the Jets that could potentially decide the Minor Premiership still to come. In team news George Ndaira has been moved into halfback with the hope that his leadership in a more central role may have a flow on affect while Bulldogs young gun Daniel Rauicava has been rewarded by Coach Kevin Moore for his outstanding play so far in 2010 with a call up to the NRL. You would have to think while the Centurions will be fired up for one last crack at a finals run, they have had their chances in recent weeks and this match means a little more to the Bulldogs who are still fighting for top spot on the ladder.
Windsor Sports Complex, Saturday, August 14
Referee: Luke Phillips
Broadcast: Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
With the Bears loss to Wentworthville and the Dragons second win on the trot last week, the Bears once again find themselves in the unfortunate situation of last place on the NSW Cup ladder, and a club with their proud tradition and culture, and one that was in the Grand Final only a few years ago will not want that unwanted award come season's end. But unfortunately for them the Wolves are flying and will not care too much about the Bears dramas as they look to all but sew up a home final with a victory at the Windsor Sports Complex on Saturday night. The club will look to celebrate the welcomed news of a new $2.5 million dollar grandstand (dependant on Labor's Re-Election) by continuing their recent hot form which has seen them win three straight since a loss to the Dogs back in Round 19. A key to their recent success has been the consistency of the side with minimal changes being made to the starting line up in the past month or so. Unfortunately the same can't be said for North Sydney as their side has been decimated by South Sydney's recent issues with injury and suspension. They will regain the services of both Jamie Simpson and Shaune Corrigan however after their heroics for Souths last weekend.
Wentworthville Magpies Vs Shellharbour Dragons
Ringrose Park, Sunday, August 15
Referee: Jon Stone
Shellharbour will look to keep their slim finals hopes alive at Ringrose Park when they take on a resurgent Wentworthville Magpies side. The Dragons have again named a strong line up with the likes of North Queensland bound Ricky Thorby, Jake Marketo, Bronx Goodwin, Nick Emmett and Junior Paulo while for the Magpies, it is rumoured young gun Daniel Mortimer may make his first appearance in Wentworthville colours. Parramatta NYC winger Ken Sio makes his return to the NSW Cup after a hat-trick in the Bundaberg Red Cup last weekend and his blistering pace will be welcomed back with earnest. Wentworthville currently sit four points clear of the eighth-placed Cronulla Sharks and two points here will almost guarantee them a finals match against either Newtown or the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. A win for the Dragons keeps the improbable dream alive with a further three rounds remaining. A result either way would not surprise.