Its that time of the week again! We’re heading towards the business end of the Intrust Super Shute Shield, and with a table as tight as this, there is everything to play for. Here’s our preview for round fourteen.
FREE-TO-AIR BROADCAST MATCH: Eastwood vs. Randwick, T G Millner Field, Kick Off: Saturday 3:10pm, LIVE ON 7TWO IN NSW AND THE ACT FROM 3:00PM, REPLAY IN QLD.
It’s great to see the Shute Shield on free-to-air TV. First of all, for many of us, it’s the only chance we get to see any regular rugby, but also it’s because we get to watch great rivalries play out today. Eastwood and Randwick have had come classic matches down the years, and both will be looking to turn their seasons round off the back of close losses last weekend.
The Woodies have been in all sorts the last few rounds, with losses to Southern Districts and a resurgent West Harbour, both away from home. However, they have been an imposing force at TG Millner this year, having won their last three at home. However, it doesn’t look like confidence is high at the moment, and it’s going to have to be a big performance to knock over a hurting Randwick.
The Wicks have been in very consistent form with the exception of last weeks shock loss to Warringah at Coogee Oval. It was a simple case of small mistakes proving costly (combined with a resilient Warringah side who took their chances), and it was a match they should have won. I reckon they would have been focusing hard at training this past week, and will be determined to make up for last weeks loss.
Prediction: Eastwood is always a handful at home, but their consistency the last fortnight has certainly been lacking. I’m going with consistency on this one. Randwick by 7.
West Harbour vs. Gordon, Concord Oval, Kick Off: Saturday 3:00pm.
This is the battle of the two resurgent sides of the tournament, as the giant killing West Harbour find themselves up against a consistently building Gordon side. This has the potential to be the match of the round for me, simply because these two sides have been playing some great rugby.
The Pirates have been playing like men possessed the last fortnight, with two big wins against a Super Rugby stacked Sydney University, and a highly ranked Eastwood side. While they had been relatively inconsistent up until this point, they are looking very dangerous off the back of these two wins, and they will be pumped to get a third on the trot at home.
The Highlanders have been on some great form of their own, having knocked over Northern Suburbs, Parramatta and Penrith in the last three weeks, as well as proving to be more than a handful for Eastwood when they met at TG Millner Field. However, they were lucky to escape last week against a strong performance from Penrith, and they will need to lift for this occasion and not give West Harbour a chance to get out in front.
Prediction: These two teams have been playing some great rugby, but when it comes to being the more clinical side, West Harbour has certainly ahead. I’m backing the Pirates for a good win here. West Harbour by 10.
Southern Districts vs. Northern Suburbs, Forshaw Rugby Park, Kick Off: Saturday 3:00pm.
South meets North this weekend in what looks to be a season defining clash at Forshaw Rugby Park. The Rebels have been absolutely phenomenal, and are riding on the back of four match winning streak, which has included taking the scalps of Eastern Suburbs and Eastwood. A few weeks ago, they were barely in touch with the top six, now they’re in fifth place! Consistency has really been key here, and they will see a good opportunity to knock aside the team they are on equal points with to consolidate their finishing position.
The Shoreman have been the exact opposite of consistent for the last month. Aside from a big victory against Penrith, the men from North Sydney Oval have had little in the way of on field success. They certainly have rekindled some form though, off the back of encouraging home losses to Manly and Sydney University, but haven’t yet rediscovered that winning formula that made them such a force last year.
Prediction: I’m anticipating a tight match here. If Norths build on their performance last week they should take this one, but Souths have been in great consistent form the last few weeks. I’m going with home ground advantage and consistency. Southern Districts by 5.
Penrith vs. Parramatta, Nepean Rugby Park, Kick Off: Saturday 3:00pm.
It’s been a long road for both sides this year, but the battle for the west looks to be one of the most interesting clashes of the round this weekend. Disagree with me? Well here’s why.
Ever since the start of the second half against Warringah at Rat Park a fortnight ago, the Emus have been playing some of their best rugby in YEARS. They nearly outscored the Rats in that half, and then backed it up with a solid first half performance against Gordon, where at halftime they led 5-22! While they eventually fell away in the second half and lost 36-30, even that second half had it’s moments, and they refused to go down without a fight! Yes, the scores still haven’t been pretty, but with Jeremy Paul and Julian Huxley as coaches over the last few years, the Penrith boys have started to show they can be competitive. Could that progress all culminate with a win this weekend? If there was any match they could win (especially on ‘Back to Penrith Day’), it’s this one.
The Two Blues have been on some pretty shocking form of their own the last few weeks, with big losses to Gordon, Southern Districts and Sydney University. Their last victory was against West Harbour in a one point thriller, and their previous victory before that was against Penrith, in a tight match, 26-20. For them, this is good opportunity to get some much needed confidence back. I remember it was only a few years ago that The Two Blues made the final! But, they should not take the Emus lightly. Gordon did that last week and they nearly lost.
Prediction: I think this will be another close one. My head says Parramatta should take this one, but stuff it! It would be great for Western Sydney Rugby to see the Emus finally get back in the winners circle. I’m going against the bookies and going with my heart! Penrith by 2.
Warringah vs. Eastern Suburbs, Pittwater Rugby Park, Kick Off: 3:00pm.
The Rats have had an emotional season, and for many, their snatching of victory from Randwick last week was an important moment for the club. They’ve been in consistent form all season (and it’s no mean feat to be the only team to knock over Manly so far). They will want to still get a good win here; their form has rewarded them with second place on the ladder, and with Eastwood and Randwick fighting it out this week, a win here would do much to consolidate their position.
The Beasties have been lacking the ability to finish games the last few rounds, which is a pity because they’ve been playing some champagne rugby. They were more than a handful for ladder leaders Manly last week, and for Randwick the week before that. This is a club that can compete against the best teams, they just need to keep their foot on the pedal for eighty minutes. It’s a tough ask at Rat Park, but with Eastern Suburbs, you never know.
Prediction: Eastern Suburbs should have some fight, but with homeground advantage and a lot to play for, I predict Warringah to run out winners here. Warringah by 10.
Sydney University vs. Manly, Sydney University Football Ground, Kick Off: 3:00pm.
The final match of the round sees the Students come up against the top of the table in another contender for match of the round. The Students had a tough shoot-out last week against Northern Suburbs, but eventually prevailed by two points to give them a crucial win. They were bolstered by a huge amount of Super Rugby experience for that game. However, with many Tahs returning to Super Rugby this week, they may have to do it a little tougher against a strong Manly side.
I don’t need to say much: the Marlins are the team to beat this year. However, they did suffer from some complacency last week against Eastern Suburbs, but fought their way back to take the win. However, I can’t see them taking Sydney University lightly. They will be up for a big match here, and a win would put them in a nearly unassailable position on the table. They will want to win here.
Prediction: The Students are losing their Super Rugby stars. The Marlins are top of the table. I expect a good match, but I only see one outcome. Manly by 7.
Image Credit: Penrith Emus Rugby Club