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With just three rounds remaining final positions of are yet to be decided, and with five of the seven clubs in finals contention facing off this weekend, round 20 of the Tooheys New Shute Shield could prove decisive.
Randwick (6th) v Eastwood (1st) at Coogee Oval (3:10pm, ABC TV)
Randwick are still struggling to find top form less than a month out from the finals and face the toughest of challenges when they meet Eastwood at Coogee Oval.
With the Sydney Children’s Hospital Cup of for grabs in this match, the home side will be hoping to improve on what has been a somewhat disappointing season at home. Coogee Oval has long been one of the toughest grounds to win away at, however Randwick has dropped three games at home this year including last weekend’s big defeat at the hands of West Harbour.
Randwick must win at least two of their last three matches to guarantee their place in the finals with Warringah sitting nine points behind in seventh. A victory at home tomorrow will make their task a lot easier with clashes against a resurgent Gordon at Chatswood next weekend followed by Manly back at Coogee in the final round of the competition.
Conversely, Eastwood’s fortunes are looking very positive with last week’s win over Penrith returning them to the top of the competition ladder. The Woodies have dropped just two games away from home in 2010, which is the equal best in the competition along with Manly and Eastern Suburbs.
Looking ahead to a penultimate round meeting with Parramatta, Eastwood know that if they could earn a bonus point win against Randwick they would all but guarantee a top two finish.
Randwick: 1. Sekope Kepu, 2. Patrick Hodgetts, 3. Lotu Taukeiaho; 4. Dave Parsons, 5. Steve Brennan; 6. Seilala Lam, 7. Dave Vizer, 8. Tim McGann; 9. Tony Luxford, 10. Toby Browne; 11. Tim Wright, 12. Gene Fairbanks, 13. John Tamanika, 14. Tom Tombleson; 15. Danny Kroll.
Eastwood: 1. Matt Dunning, 2. Damien Fitzpatrick, 3. Keiran Longbottom; 4. Tom Alexander, 5. Ben Hand; 6. Gareth Palamo, 7. Hugh Perrett [c], 8. Locky McCaffrey; 9. Dave Rimmer, 10. Jimmy Hilgendorf; 11. Mark Frost, 12. Sione Piukala, 13. Tim Bennetts, 14. John Grant; 15. Ben Batger.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Southern Districts (4th) v Northern Suburbs (8th) at Forshaw Rugby Park (3:00pm)
Southern Districts are one of the hardest teams to get a gauge on however their round 20 clash against Northern Suburbs at Forshaw Rugby Park may provide some answers.
The Shoremen took it to the Rebels when they met in round nine at North Sydney Oval and know if they can stay in the game for long enough they are a great chance of an upset.
After going undefeated through the opening ten weeks, Souths have won just three of the last nine matches including a last-minute draw against Warringah last weekend. While they are guaranteed a place in the semi-finals, they have not returned to their early season form. The ball-carrying ability Radike Samo caused problems for Norths last time they met, which combined with the similar attributes of Sitaleki Timani could be a decisive factor.
Northern Suburbs have had a mixed 2010 however despite a good start in the first three rounds have regularly failed to get over the line against teams ranked above them on the ladder. Last weekend’s victory over Parramatta was their first win in more than a month and they will be hoping the return of AJ Gilbert may provide the impetus for just their third win away from home this year.
Southern Districts: 1. Nic Henderson, 2. Nick Seymour, 3. Dan Palmer; 4. Rome Nifo, 5. Kane Douglas; 6. Sitaleki Timani, 7. Hamish Paterson, 8. Radike Samo; 9. Josh Gamgee [c], 10. Kurt Morath; 11. Nicky Price, 12. Gareth Morton, 13. Brackin Karauria-Henry, 14. Ben Connolly; 15. Marshall Milroy.
Northern Suburbs: 1. Lawrence Hunting, 2. Scott Podmore, 3. Nick Lah [c]; 4. Ben Matwijow, 5. Seti Tafua; 6. AJ Gilbert, 7. Carlos Blanco, 8. Matt Lamont; 9. Steve Evans, 10. Chris Burnett; 11. Gordon Whitehead, 12. Chris Moore, 13. James Lew, 14. Ben Borg; 15. Cam Crawford.
Referee: Andrew Lees
Parramatta (12th) v West Harbour (9th) at Granville Park (3:00pm)
Parramatta are still searching for the maiden win of 2010 and will be hoping to break their duck when they host West Harbour at Granville Park.
The Two Blues best form so far this year has come at Granville with an inability to hold onto their defensive structure for a full 80 minutes the biggest factor in their failure to shine. They will take some confidence from a three-try effort against Norths last weekend going into this match.
However they come up against a West Harbour side which in the second half last weekend finally found a confidence which had been lacking for more than two months. The Pirates stormed home in the second forty at Coogee in round 19 to upset Randwick and will no doubt hope to take that form into this match right from the kick-off.
Parramatta: 1.William Pasi, 2. Michael Kline, 3. Richard Just; 4. Ryan Aniseko, 5. James Riddell; 6. Andrew Cox [c], 7. Nick Boland, 8. Maile Latekefu; 9. Lua Vailoaloa, 10. Pierre Hola; 11. Brendan Lane, 12. Caylum Merrick, 13. John Fonua, 14. Iliasa Toroca; 15. Jesse Leota.
West Harbour: 1. Campese Ma’afu, 2. Todd Pearce, 3. Scott Sio; 4. Mitch Hardy, 5. Damien Lloyd; 6. Tom Hikila, 7. Sam Latunipulu, 8. Sione Tau; 9. Shannin Proctor, 10. Ben Volavola; 11. Tito Mua, 12. Lester Salanoa, 13. Rory Sidey [c], 14. Todd Liubinskas; 15. Liam Windon.
Referee: James Leckie
Penrith (11th) v Gordon (10th) at Nepean Rugby Park (3:00pm)
In a clash which may determine which team finishes second last on the Tooheys New Shute Shield ladder in 2010, Penrith host Gordon at Nepean Rugby Park.
The Emus certainly make life tough for their opposition at Nepean and currently sit on a 5-4 win-loss record at home in 2010. Last weekend’s loss to Eastwood was caused by a second half drop-off with Penrith still well in the game against the competition leaders at half-time.
Gordon is another team which it is hard to get a handle on with strong performances of late in stark contrast to the majority of their season. An upset of Manly in round 18 was followed up last weekend with a determined effort against the form side of the competition, Sydney University.
The Highlanders travel to the foot of the mountains with confidence in their form, but with an opponent keen to impose their strong home record upon them, this shapes as an enticing encounter.
Penrith: 1. Dave Coventry, 2. Elvis Levi, 3. Toa Asa; 4. Sione Tonga, 5. Johnny Smith; 6. Winnie Paulo, 7. Rob Carlson, 8. Vili Napa’a; 9. Sikuti Vunipola, 10. Aaron Mattin; 11. Luke Cross [c], 12. Albert Hopoate, 13. Stan Tuionuku, 14. Dave Alo; 15. Gavin Duncan.
Gordon: 1. Marty Plokstys, 2. Ben Whittaker, 3. Tobius Gukibau; 4. Jared Barry, 5. Mark Johnson; 6. Bryan Perry, 7. Chris Alcock, 8. Jason Peseta; 9. Terry Preston, 10. Josh Keil; 11. Greg Wade, 12. Luke Duncan, 13. Dion Berryman, 14. Barry Mansfield; 15. Dave Harvey [c].
Referee: Steve Hardy
Eastern Suburbs (3rd) v Warringah (7th) at Woollahra Oval (3:00pm)
Eastern Suburbs continues to stay in the title fight and will be hoping to push harder for a top-two finish when they host Warringah at Woollahra Oval.
While winning blow-outs by big margins has not been a problem for the Beasts in 2010, grinding out the tough games has been just as impressive and was highlighted by their ability to hold onto a four-point advantage against a charging Manly outfit in the dying stages last weekend.
Easts are now on a four-game winning streak but will be wary of the Rats who not only inflicted upon them their biggest loss of the year (49-13, Rd 9) but is the only team outside the top six to take them down in 2010.
Put simply, Warringah has it all to play for. With three rounds to go they need to win every match and have a big stroke of luck to slip into the playoffs. Following the Easts match on Saturday the Rats face Norths and West Harbour which means their season relies heavily on this game.
The Rats have made life tough for themselves with just two wins from their last six matches including a draw against Souths last weekend when they conceded a try in the final minute to tie the scores.
Eastern Suburbs: 1. Ofa Fainga’anuku, 2. Huia Edmonds, 3. Guy Shepherdson; 4. Phil Mathers, 5. Ed Brenac; 6. Talalelei Gray, 7. Will Brock, 8. Andrew Shaw; 9. Brendan McKibbin, 10. Matt To’omua; 11. Damon Anderson, 12. Ben Ward, 13. Ryan Cross, 14. Anton Lavin; 15. Gavin Debartolo.
Warringah: 1. Pek Cowan, 2. Luke Holmes, 3. AJ Whalley; 4. Brent Murphy, 5. Tom Hockings; 6. Beau Robinson, 7. Paul McGugan, 8. Trevor Richardson; 9. Josh Holmes, 10. Brett Sheehan; 11. Dylan Smouha, 12. Sam Harris, 13. Ed Doyle, 14. Joelin Rapana; 15. Hamish Angus.
Referee: Steve Walsh
Sydney University (5th) v Manly (2nd) at University Oval No.1 (7:00pm)
Saturday night footy returns to University Oval No.1 tomorrow with the Students kicking off their round 20 clash with the Marlins under lights at 7:00pm.
The Sir Roden Cutler Shield will be on the line for the home side which is currently the hottest team in the competition on the back of seven consecutive bonus point wins. While five of the matches in the streak have been against teams outside the top six, Uni has had to work hard for their last two wins against Eastwood and Gordon.
Impressively, the Students have averaged over 45 points per game during their winning streak proving any team’s defence will need to be on song if they hope to bring down the defending champions. Setting up a classic encounter is the fact that Manly is the best defensive team in the competition conceding less than 17 points per game.
The Marlins are hitting a late season slump, and after dropping just three of their first 16 matches, they have now dropped three in a row to be in danger of falling outside the top-two. However one of the most amazing statistics of the competition is that they have not lost any of their six matches by more than four points proving that this match is likely to go right down to the wire.
Sydney University: 1. Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 2. Ben Roberts, 3. Jeremy Tilse; 4. Sam Carter, 5. Dave McDuling; 6. Dave Dennis, 7. Pat McCutcheon, 8. Tim Davidson [c]; 9. Nick Phipps, 10. Dan Kelly; 11. Nathan Trist, 12. Tom Carter, 13. Lachie Mitchell, 14. Peter Betham; 15. Julian Huxley.
Manly: 1. Eddie Aholelei, 2. Elvis Taione, 3. Tim Fairbrother; 4. Dylan Sigg, 5. Greg Peterson; 6. Will Brame [c], 7. Chris Westenenk, 8. Tevita Metuisela; 9. Chris Cottee, 10. Mark Swanepoel; 11. Lui Siale, 12. Tyrone Smith, 13. Luke Johnson, 14. Chris Yarrington; 15. Joe Metuisela.
Referee: Stuart Dickinson
Sat Mar 19, 7:40PM AEDT
Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney