The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Summary: The Illawarra Cutters had won three straight prior to their mid-week loss at the hands of the Tigers while Wentworthville stopped their run of three consecutive losses with a big second half performance against Manly last weekend. Wentworthville head into this clash sitting sixth on the ladder with a 5-4 win-loss record while the Cutters missed a golden opportunity to force their way into the top eight on Wednesday night, but could actually join the Magpies on 10 competition points with a win here on Saturday. In fact, depending on for and against, the Cutters could actually overtake Wentworthville with a win, such is the closeness of this year’s competition. Brett Cook will take a largely unchanged side down to WIN Stadium, from the side that beat Manly, although they do get back Api Pewhairangi, who was on standby for a possible NRL debut last weekend, and he will slot into the centres with Ben Roberts retaining the six jersey. Not a lot to gain from speculating about the final make up of the Cutters side until closer to kick off given they will need to reassess players following last night’s outing. Nathan Green didn’t play mid-week and would almost certainly be Brett Morris’ replacement in the Dragons NRL side for their match against the Titans, meaning Kose Lelei may find himself lining up in the centres against the Magpies.
Talking Point: Back it up – The Cutters had gone on a nice little winning run up until their mid-week loss to the Tigers at Leichhardt. A win against an inconsistent Magpies outfit down in Wollongong is a distinct possibility here, however a lot will hinge on their ability to back up for what will be there third game in seven days. The club prides itself on its depth and the ability for their local Illawarra players to step up to the mark when required. One would imagine that this match will provide them with a chance to further enhance that reputation.
Prediction: Despite their mid-week slip up, the Cutters have found form and can go on with it here. Cutters by 6.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Vs Mounties
Belmore Sports Ground, Saturday, May 11
Referee: Michael Laverty
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Steele Sports Radio (Link available via www.steelesports.com.au or on the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page)
Summary: The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be desperately seeking a win on home soil here when they host a Mounties side shooting for their third straight win. After a narrow loss to the Bears some three weeks ago, Mounties have come out and defeated both the Jets and Wyong. These wins have seen them move into the top eight, and a win here against the Bulldogs will further entrench them in that log jam for places in the bottom half of the eight. The Bulldogs, with the assistance of a hurricane at their backs in the second half, manged to hold the Knights scoreless in the second forty last weekend, and it was only a number of poor fifth tackle options and some erratic goal kicking that cost them a win against top four opposition. If the Dogs are able to carry some of that momentum into this clash they will like their chances of registering their first win at Belmore in 2013. No Taupau or Browne here for Canterbury with Des Hasler taking an extended squad to Wellington for their clash with the Warriors, in fact the Bulldogs only named 16 players for this one on Tuesday so the full makeup of their side is a bit of a mystery. The physical nature of the VB NSW Cup appears to have taken its toll on young Mitch Cornish, so he is being freshened up in the Holden Cup, meaning that David Farkas will once again be presented with an opportunity to partner Sam Williams in the halves for Mounties.
Talking Point: Mate against mate – A little side note to what looms as a cracking match will be the matchup between the two half backs in Sam Williams and Nathan Massey. These two toured NZ together as members of the 2010 Junior Kangaroos’ squad, and at the time Massey was a Bulldogs NYC player, however not long after returning from the land of the long white cloud, Massey signed with the Raiders and became a teammate of Williams once again. Massey was presented with only limited opportunities at the club during his time there, although he did make his NRL debut for club in 2011. Williams has gone on to play plenty of NRL, while Massey has made his way back to the Bulldogs in an attempt to re-invigorate his career. These two will know one another’s games inside and out and it should be fun to watch them go at it.
Prediction: The Dogs need to find a way to win this one. Dogs by 7.
Summary: The Auckland Vulcans became the latest side to feel the wrath of the Cronulla Sharks, when they went down to the competition front runners 48-10 at Henson Park last Saturday. The Wyong Roos were always going to find it difficult against Mounties last weekend given it was their third match in seven days, and they certainly don’t have the depth of personnel to call on like many other NRL affiliated sides in the VB NSW Cup do, yet they still put their best foot forward and competed admirably, eventually going down 44-24. The Vulcans will be happy to be back home, where they definitely play their best footy, although this weekend they will be playing in their home away from home, at Westpac Stadium, so it will be interesting to see if their excellent ‘home’ form holds true there also. Despite their loss to Mounties, Wyong would still be feeling good about things following their maiden win last Wednesday against the Dogs, and will no doubt be jumping on the plane to New Zealand with plenty of wind in their sails. Todd Lewis, Brad Bennett and Brad Murray have all been given stints in the halves partnering Arana Taumata in recent weeks, and it appears Bennett has been given the nod here by Paul Stringer although Murray has been named on an extended bench. For the Vulcans, Ngani Laumape and Dominique Peyroux both return to the fold from the NRL and injury respectively, but they lose the services of Glen Fisiiahi who has been recalled to the NRL following the injury to Kevin Locke.
Talking Point: The Adventures of the Cake Tin – Not to be confused with ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, the ‘Cake Tin’ is the sporting hub of windy Wellington. Named after its cylindrical nature and external silver walls, the ‘Cake Tin’ has hosted a handful of Test Matches and NRL games since it was redeveloped in 1999-2000 however this appears to be the first ever VB NSW Cup game at the venue. In all seriousness though, if someone had told you twelve months ago, that you would be sitting in your lounge room on May 11, 2013 and watching live, on Fox Sports, a VB NSW Cup game between the Auckland Vulcans and Wyong Roos at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, you would have had numerous reasons to call them crazy! Yet here we are. Congratulations to all involved and let’s hope the ‘Cake Tin’ serves up a tasty treat for all come Saturday.
Prediction: The Vulcans are always tough to toss in New Zealand. Vulcans by 14.
Windsor Wolves Vs Cronulla Sharks
Centrebet Stadium, Sunday, May 12
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Hawkesbury Radio 89.9FM (Link available via www.hawkesburyradio.com.au or on the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page)
Summary: The third placed Windsor Wolves play host to top of the table Cronulla Sharks this Sunday as part of a triple header at Centrebet Stadium. The Wolves should feel fresh heading into this one having had their second bye of the year last weekend while the Sharks will be playing their third game in seven days having posted wins against the Vulcans (last Saturday) and Manly (last night) over the last week. The Sharks look set to be without a number of their Melbourne counterparts here but in fairness, they have managed just fine during their past couple of wins. The Wolves will welcome James Roberts to the fold as he returns from serious off season injury, as well as Brad Tighe, who will wear the six jersey here. These two sides have the best attack in the competition with the Sharks averaging 36 points a game and the Wolves averaging 33 points. Defensively though, there has been none better than Cronulla who are allowing a miserly 12 points per game while Windsor have been conceding closer to 27. The Sharks may be starting to tire given their hectic schedule of late, and if this is the case the Wolves attack will look to shift the Cronulla defence around the park as much as possible.
Talking Point: Finch Factor – There is no denying that Brett Finch has had a wonderful impact on the Sharks start to the season. The club currently sit comfortably on top of the competition table following a 9-0 start to the year, but there were some who were beginning to perhaps give Finch too much credit for the clubs success and perhaps thought the club would begin to struggle when he was not there later in the year around the Origin fixtures. Given their most recent two wins against the Vulcans (48-10) and Manly (32-4) were both registered minus Finch’s services, perhaps there is life beyond Finch after all. It appears that this young Sharks side now has enough confidence to win with any team they field, and regardless of who hops off the plane from Melbourne on any given Friday afternoon, the Sharks will be hard to knock off in any case.
Prediction: Looks to be a cracker on paper. Will stick with the Sharks but an upset wouldn’t totally shock. Sharks by 8.
North Sydney Bears Vs Manly Sea Eagles
North Sydney Oval, Sunday, May 12
Referee: Lawrence McDonell
Broadcast: Radio Coverage courtesy of Triple H 100.1FM (Link available via the www.nswrl.com.au Broadcast page)
Summary: Manly will play their third game in seven days against the second-placed Bears as part of a triple-header which includes the National Under 16 and Under 18 games at Bear Park on Sunday. The Sea Eagles dominated for long periods against competition leaders, Cronulla, at Leichhardt Oval last night but struggled to post points after losing halfback Jason Seage to a leg injury. With injuries and suspensions littered throughout the NRL squad, the task doesn’t get any easier for Luke Williamson and his men here. On a positive note, it has also meant that several VB NSW Cup players have made their NRL debut under Geoff Toovey in recent weeks. One of those debutants, Peta Hiku, was the shining light for the Sea Eagles against the Sharks and the boys from the northern beaches need him to fire against what is proving a staunch Bears defence. The Bears will be out to avenge their Round Eight loss to the Wests Tigers and have again named a strong line-up highlighted by the naming of impressive young rake Apisai Koroisau who made a successful return from injury last weekend. Although last night’s score doesn’t reflect it, the Sea Eagles were brutal up front at times against the Sharks and they need to bring that mentality into this clash. If the Bears get too much go forward and the likes of Keary and Farrell get room to move, the game could be out of Manly’s reach before they know it.
Talking Point: A rivalry renewed – We are not going to sit here and bang on about the rivalry between the Bears and the Sea Eagles for too long. Anyone who knows anything about Rugby League knows that these two clubs don’t like one another very much and haven’t done so for a very long time. Manly’s form running into this clash probably doesn’t suggest that they are a winning chance, but you know what? If they can’t win the game, maybe they can win the fight! We don’t condone that type of behaviour but you get the feeling it will be one of those kinds of games. Also can’t wait to see if any hardy soul rocks up wearing their retro Northern Eagles jersey. Who knows, maybe Wyong coach Paul Stringer will on his way back from Wellington.
Prediction: Expecting the Bears to bounce back after a home loss last round. Bears by 16.
Summary: The Knights come up against a battered and bruised Wests Tigers outfit here who will no doubt be thankful they have an extra day off to recover from their 38-24 win over the Illawarra Cutters last night. The Knights had been playing some indifferent football of late but they looked to have turned a corner in the first half of last weekend’s Fox Sports match. The Mata’utia brothers are firing and the backline, which has been a work in progress, is starting to come together. Probably the highlight of this battle is the matchup between two up and coming forward packs lead by some monstrous front-rowers. Mitchell Frei has been impressing all and sundry in VB NSW Cup circles and he will have a big challenge ahead of him when he and front-row partner Toka Likiliki square off against Ava Seumanufagai and Matt Groat, who both have NRL experience. Teenage prodigy Luke Brooks has been named to start at five-eighth for the Tigers after being rested for their mid-week clash last night. Brooks looked sharp in their win over the Bears last weekend and NRL Coach Mick Potter will certainly get a good look at him against some NRL experienced players at the Newcastle No.2 Sports Ground on Sunday.
Talking Point: Biggest man alive – Ok so that’s taking it a step too far perhaps, but Toka Likiliki is one of the biggest humans running around in our competition, or any competition for that matter, and over recent weeks his impact for the Knights is getting better and better. Cut somewhat from the George Rose cloth, Toka doesn’t appear to be the fittest athlete playing Rugby League, but when you watch him play, you can never doubt his ability to have a positive effect on a match. Heaven help the opposition if this guy ever gets fit enough to play 60-80 minutes a game.
Prediction: An extremely tough one to tip to finish the round. Knights by 4.
Newtown Jets have the BYE
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