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PREVIEW: 2014 Round 2 VB NSW Cup
Firstly, my efforts last week weren't too bad with 4 from 6 - missing out on Newcastle & Wests Tigers, who were impressive in defeating an Illawarra Cutters outfit that looked quite strong on paper.
The Round Two teamlists for VB NSW Cup can be found HERE.
Now for this week's R2 #VBNSWCUP Preview!
New Zealand Warriors v Illawarra Cutters
Eden Park, Saturday, March 15 - Kick-off: 12.40pm (NZT); 10:40am (AEDT)
Referee: Aaron Donald
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ
Warriors Player to Watch: Carlos Tuimavave - replaced in the NRL side by Jerome Ropati that went down to Parramatta last Sunday night, despite overcoming a facial injury that saw him forced from the field early in the process of scoring a try hence could be considered a tad unlucky to have been dropped to the NSW Cup. Back in his preferred position of five eighth & partnering the talented Lohohea in the halves, it could be a long afternoon for opposing halves Duggan & Carr.
Cutters Player to Watch: Kiti Glymin - plenty of wraps on this young winger who has come up from the Holden Cup squad in season 2014. Bagged a double last week in a disappointing Cutters performance that saw them lose 34-14 after leading 14-6 early in the game. Will be an interesting battle on the flanks between mostly likely another rising star in Ngani Laumape.
The Verdict: A game that features two teams looking to getting their season back on track after first up losses last week. The Warriors are making their home debut in the NSW Cup this week & although weakened by the promotion of Ben Henry to the NRL squad, look stronger overall with the inclusion of Tuimavave & Dominique Peyroux. On the other hand, the Cutters have suffered a blow with Sam Williams promoted to the Dragons NRL squad to replace the injured Michael Witt in the halves. No doubt both coaches will have emphasised the importance of defence this week given between them last week 72 points were conceded. The Warriors at home however look the stronger of the two teams & I tip them to win comfortably by 12 points.
Wests Tigers v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Campbelltown Sports Stadium, Saturday, March 15 - Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of 2GLF FM 89.3 (Link available via 893fm.com.au)
Tigers Player to Watch: Taqele Naiyarovoro - the huge Fijian winger was on track for a memorable 2013 season leading the try scorer's list until injury in the NSW Residents' win over Qld last year robbed him of any chance to hang on to that title. With the benefit of last week's run under his belt he will be an imposing sight for his opposing winger Nathan Stapleton this Saturday.
Sharks Player to Watch: Penani Manumalealii - no longer has the luxury of playing alongside the likes of Chad Townsend in season 2014 & must step up as the senior playmaker given the need to bring Pat Politoni normally accustomed to the hooking role into the halves as Kurt Mann is required to cover the injured Nathan Gardner at fullback.
The Verdict: Two teams victorious first up in season 2014, I sense thou that the form of Blake Austin who has started his career with his new club might prove the difference in what should be an absorbing contest. Cronulla do appear somewhat weakened particularly in the backs with the likes of Gardner, Leutele, Grothe Jnr all unavailable & despite the hot form of likely 2015 Bulldogs recruit, hooker Michael Lichaa scoring 3 tries in 5 minutes last week, I will stick with the Tigers to win this encounter by a narrow margin of 4 points.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday, March 15 - Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Damian Briscoe
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via www.steelesports.com.au)
Bulldogs Player to Watch: Tim Lafai - the exciting centre returns from injury suffered in a pre-season trial & will no doubt be looking to using this game as the perfect preparation for another stint with the Bulldogs NRL squad. He will add plenty of experience to a young Bulldogs chock full of promising talent in Phillips, Sila, Templeton & Jaline Graham.
Sea Eagles Player to Watch: Jake Trbojevic - the Manly prop who won selection in the 2013 Holden Cup team of the year & like Gutherson, made his NRL debut in R26 last year v Penrith, has reverted to the back row in season 2014 whilst getting accustomed to the week to week grind of the NSW Cup competition. Facing the likes of Burr, Maitua & Alaalatoa will be a strong test for this up & coming Manly junior.
The Verdict: Another two teams that will be desperate to getting their first win of the season. Both teams were poor in defence having conceded 88 points between them last week but there is a lot to like about the Bulldogs young backline who were able to put on a late rally last week vs the defending premiers, scoring 30 points in the process. Manly's home loss by the heaviest margin of the round to a rampant Mounties outfit could set the tone for a long season battling to avoid the wooden spoon unless greater application is given to defence this week. Manly should improve but not enough to defeat this up & coming Bulldogs side hence its Bulldogs by 14 for mine, despite the unavailability of Moses Mbye.
Wyong Roos Vs Penrith Panthers
Morry Breen Oval, Saturday, March 15 - Kick-off: 6.00pm
Referee: Chris Treneman
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.hawkesburyradio.com.au)
Roos Player to Watch: Mitch Williams - Wyong's go-to skipper & NSW Cup player of the year in 2013, returns to face the pre-season premiership favourites smarting after last week's upset loss to the Knights at SportingBet Stadium. Will need to have a strong game to give his youthful & relatively inexperienced Roos outfit any chance of defeating what looks to be a strong Panthers outfit on paper despite their heavy injury.
Panthers Player to Watch: Will Smith - had a mixed game against his former club, Newcastle last weekend on debut for the Panthers but will be looking to bounce back in a big way this Saturday evening. Replaces Robert Jennings (SG Ball) in the centres to accommodate the elevation of Daniel Foster into the starting side alongside Isaac John.
The Verdict: Again another game where both teams lost their opening round games last weekend with both coaches likely to be emphasising the importance of getting to the kick such was the poor performance by both teams in maintaining possession. The Roos do welcome back Jay Florimo & inspirational hooker, Mitch Williams but do lose the experienced Shaune Corrigan in what is an already inexperienced Roos backline. Despite their injury toll the Panthers are still able to start with 8 players with NRL experience compared to Wyong's 1 in Mark O'Meley. Importantly coach Brennan has looked for more mobility this week bringing in back rower Iain Riccardi to make his NSW Cup debut for prop Michael Ross. Like last year where the Roos were competitive with the then feeder club, Windsor Wolves for three out of four halves in the two games that they met, I also expect this game to be close at halftime but Penrith's class should shine through to record a winning margin of 16 points.
Wentworthville Magpies v Newtown Jets
Ringrose Park, Sunday, March 16 - Kick-off: 3.00pm
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: Radio coverage courtesy of ALIVE fm (Link available via alive905.com.au)
Magpies Player to Watch: Ken Sio - like Chris Sandow, another 2013 NRL regular forced to start the season in 2014 in the NSW Cup due to the improved player roster at the Eels. Responded well to the challenge last week scoring 2 tries against the Warriors & this week comes up against promising ex-Raiders winger Jonathan Reuben this week as he bids to regain a first spot which will be no easy task given the form of Toutai & Radradra in scoring NRL hat-tricks last start.
Jets Player to Watch: Bobbie Goulding Jnr - all Jets eyes will be keen to see how the English import handles the pace in his NSW Cup debut for Newtown. Comes highly rated so the clash with Sandow is one not to be missed.
The Verdict: This represents the season debut for the Newtown Jets for 2014, having had the bye ain Round 1, putting it to good use in notching a convincing trial win v Dapto. The Jets have seen plenty of roster changes in 2014 with the likes of Henare Wells, Michael Oldfield, Adam Henry, Yileen Gordon, Ryley Jacks, Tinirau Arona, Josh Ailaomai & Nafe Seluini all moving on. The Jets have managed to recruit the likes of Shannon Gallant, Jonathan Reuben, Brett Lane, Bobbie Goulding Jnr, David Harris & Kem Seru to compliement the likes of Paul Rokolati, Samisoni Langi, Saulama Houma & Kurt Kara which should enable the Jets to challenge thereabouts for a top 8 spot.
The Magpies on the other hand were impressive winners against likely top 8 contender the Warriors last week 38-24 & will be hell bent on avenging for their heavy loss to the Jets in week 1 of the 2013 finals series.With the likes of Sandow, Sio, Morgan, Lasalo, Foran & Paulo leading the way it should nonetheless be two wins from two starts by a margin of 10 points against a side that looks a little down on class & experience compared to last year but will still offer stiff resistance.
Newcastle Knights v Mounties
Hunter Stadium, Sunday, March 16 - Kick-off: 4.15pm
Referee: Adam Cassidy
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au
Knights Player to Watch: Chanel Mata'utia - Chanel No. 5 as he is known as started the season with a bang scoring a hat-trick of tries in the upset result of the round last weekend over the Panthers away from home. Should be a great clash with another up & coming winger in Sami Sauiluma who was part of a rampant Mounties performance against hapless Manly last start.
The Verdict: Last game of the round where it features another two first up winners. The Knights with their relatively inexperienced side pulled off the upset of the round against competition favourites, the Penrith Panthers in hot steamy conditions at SportingBet Stadium while on the Peninsula, Mounties easily accounted for lowly Manly with the most decisive winning margin of the round. I can see this game going the distance but I do like the chances of Mounties making it two away wins in a row on the back of the likes of Setu, Nicholls & Pangai bolstering a squad that contains no less than 9 players with NRL experience. Conversely the Knights may have to do it without impressive halfback Matt Minto who was instrumental in last week's win thou Adam Clydesdale is a welcome return from injury for Rick Stone's young side. Mounties by 7.
BYE: North Sydney Bears