ICYMI, on Thursday the @NRL - National Rugby League released the 2018 #NRLDraw.
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NSW CUP MATCH PREVIEWS - ROUND 25
Auckland Vulcans Vs Western Suburbs Magpies
Mt Smart Stadium, Saturday, August 28
Kick-off: 1.00pm (NZST) 11.00am (AEST)
Referee: Shane Rehm
Last roll of the dice here for the Auckland Vulcans as they continue to look to force their way into the top eight before season's end. The equation is quite simple really. The Vuclans must win this tough encounter against the Magpies and then defeat the bottom of the table Bears in Round 26. It will certainly be interesting to see how the Western Suburbs side approaches this match as with two rounds remaining they cannot advance higher up the ladder and only two heavy losses would threaten to see them drop from their current position of fifth. They also head across the Tasman without the likes of Andrew Everingham, Jamie Sharkie and Andrew Pearn who are all regular walk up starts for Coach Leo Epifania, so it remains to be seen what affect this will have on the field. Unlike their counterparts, the Vulcans appear to be fielding one of their strongest teams in sometime with players like Lousi, Latimore and Godinet all pulling on jerseys for the Vulcans at the right time of the year. Congratulations to Alehana Mara who made his NRL debut last week against Manly and he has retained his spot on the Warriors bench for their Friday night clash against the Broncos. One team with it all to play for and another who will not want to lose momentum a fortnight out from the finals.
Cronulla Sharks Vs North Sydney Bears
Toyota Park, Saturday, August 28
Referee: Luke Phillips
Apart from an upset victory against the Bulldogs some three weeks ago, the Sharks have been going up and down in the one spot like a cork in the ocean having lost seven of their last eight. This run of outs has left the club in an awkward spot just two weeks out from the finals, yet they know a win at home against the struggling Bears should all but seal their place in the eight. Scott Porter missed a kick from the sideline to draw the match against the Dragons last week, but hopefully he has put that behind him as his combination with Albert Kelly holds the key to a Sharks victory. The Bears showed some signs of improvement following their 74 point loss against the Wolves a fortnight ago but were still no match for a final's bound Balmain Ryde-Eastwood last weekend. Jamie Simpson was just about the Bears best last week but he is set to miss this match after being called to the Rabbitohs for their must win clash against the Eels on Friday night. The Sharks have named a very similar side to the one that just missed against the Dragons with the exception being the return from injury of Tim Weyman. You would have to imagine the Sharks will be the more desperate of the two sides here as a loss coupled with a Round 26 match-up against the Jets at Henson Park could spell the end of the season for Cronulla.
Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers Vs Shellharbour Dragons
Leichhardt Oval, Saturday, August 28
Referee: Rob Bowen
Broadcast: www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast, proudly brought to you by Teamm8
The Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers welcomed back a number of key players last week as they disposed of the North Sydney Bears 42-16 at North Sydney Oval while across town, the Dragons kept their very small hopes of finals football alive by holding off the Cronulla Sharks at Henson Park. Shellharbour's victory against the Sharks was all that more remarkable when you take into account they were effectively fielding a 16 man team from kick-off and lost both Michael Lett and Junior Paulo to season ending injuries either side of halftime. Balmain Ryde-Eastwood appear to have bounced back after consecutive losses a month ago to post three on end since and they look set to leapfrog either Canterbury or Newtown into second place on the competition ladder dependant on the outcome of their one versus two match-up on Saturday. There is actually a scenario that could see the Tigers on top of the table by rounds end but it would involve them defeating the Dragons and hoping for a draw between the Jets and the Bulldogs, which wouldn't completely surprise given how close people feel the match will be. Regardless though of the results, the Tigers appear back on track with the likes of Meaney, Bennett and Carr all back from injury at the right time of the year while the Dragons recent resurgence has helped restore some much needed pride in the club but it would appear it has come all too late in regards to finals.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Newtown Jets
The Crest Stadium, Saturday, August 28
Referee: Mick Laverty
Broadcast: Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via www.nswrl.com.au's Weekend Game-Cast)
There is little argument this will be the match of the round but given that the Minor Premiership is potentially on the line, some may say this is shaping up as the match of the season. Both of these sides have only lost once each since Round 12 and have deservedly put themselves in the box seat for the top spot come seasons end but with fellow Minor Premiership aspirant Balmain set to potentially relegate the loser here to third, this match is shaping up as one almighty battle. The Jets may be winning but they continue to be the