Three bruising battles take place this Saturday in the race for the 2016 Premiership.
This week, “Crackerjack” and “Rich_E” (yours truly) take stock of where things are at, what we can look forward to in this weekend’s matches and some players to watch.
If you missed what happened in Round 3, check out the match reviews, as well as “sidesteppas” highlights video of the New v View 1st XV clash.
Where are we at?
All the pre-season ‘sages’ look to have been right. This is the closest 1st XV season in years. For the statistically mind (and you know who you are):
- Five of the nine games played in the first three rounds have been won by the away team.
- Only two teams have cracked 40 points – View (twice) and Kings.
- No match has been a blow out, with only two occasions where the winning margin has crept into the 20+ points range.
- Most games could have gone either way, with the team that lost having had their chances.
After three Rounds, the ladder and this week’s schedule look a bit like a Cuban layered coffee.
The ‘crema’ so far in 2016, View and fellow co-leaders Kings, face off in the Match of the Round at Lane Cove that will leave the winner at the top of the ladder nearing the halfway mark in the season.
In the ‘espresso’ layer, Joeys host Scots, where either Scots will stay in touch with the top layer, or Joeys will join Scots on two wins for the season.
And in the ‘milk’ layer, where the spoon is sometimes found, New play Shore at home, with both teams desperate to get themselves off the bottom of the table.
Preview – Riverview v Kings
Last week, Shore might have given View and their supporters a collective heart-attack. But the undoubtedly gentle, soothing words of encouragement given by View’s coaching staff to their charges at half-time clearly worked a treat. View bounded back into the contest and finished with seven tries in what must be described as a festival of Schoolboy Rugby.
Kings on the other hand, led all day against the indefatigable Joeys, who run hard on a well-earned, “full 70 minute” game plan. But Joeys just failed to reel in the more deserving Kings outfit, who remained to the end, singularly focused on the task.
So to this week’s contest, where battles of tremendous quality will be fought all over the paddock.
The front row, the lock and back row clashes will all be fast and ferocious, with Charles Rorke (View 6) and Dylan Pietsch (Kings 8) both in sublime form. The halves and the 3/4’s are so evenly matched. Will Terry (View 13) had a huge game last Saturday and will be tough to contain. And the Back 3’s, with Kings’ 15 Osborne especially in imperious form, will be a treat to watch. To the winner, both the spoils and pressures of competition leadership.
My head thinks this one could well be a draw. On paper, it’s that tight. But if I have to, I’ll go with Kings by the slimmest of margins because they’ll feed off a superb defensive effort again to limit the View boys’ points.
“Crackerjack” Predicts: Kings by 3 or less.
Preview – Newington v Shore
Most of the GAGR GPS tipsters have predicted a New victory this weekend, but that outcome is anything but certain.
Shore really shocked View in the first half last week with some solid defence and a backline that looked deadly at times. While, on present form, New look quite vulnerable, particularly in defence.
At some point this season, New are going to click and when that happens, they are sure to take a few scalps. But will that be this weekend? Maybe. Maybe not.
On paper, you’d think New would be too big and strong in the set piece and should dominate possession. Plus it’s rumoured that Bayley Kuenzle is making a return from injury this weekend.
But Shore would appear a fitter side and, if they are close and can pile on the pressure in the last 15 minutes or so, a win is well within their grasp.
“Rich_E” Predicts: New by 7 or less.
Preview – Joeys v Scots
The last two minutes is going to seem like 10. That’s my first prediction for this important clash between the two teams with a chance to stay within reach of Kings and View as we approach the half-way mark in the 2016 championship.
Why? Because when the scoreboard clock stops with two minutes remaining, and the sole adjudicator of time is the Ref who makes an allowance for injuries, I reckon the match will still be in the balance. A cliffhanger is on the cards.
The vast majority of GAGR GPS tipsters are predicting a Joeys victory, and with plenty of good reasons. It’s a Joeys’ home game. They have a mongrel pack of forwards that lay a sound platform for a backline with speed to burn. And they would be desperate to make amends for the losses to View in round one and Kings last week.
But there are good reasons to believe Scots will put up one heck of a battle. They are now less phased about the Joeys home ground advantage, having won a few consecutive 1st XV clashes at Hunters Hill in recent seasons. They have more power to unleash in the forwards and out wide. And they won’t be too bothered if Joeys get off to a good start, having been behind at half-time in each of their last three wins.
All up I think it will be a classic clash of power (Scots) versus speed (Joeys) with power to be the winner.
“Rich_E” Predicts: Scots by 1 point.
Players to watch – Joeys v Scots
Lachlan Day (wing) – a speedy lad with a big boot who takes all the kicks – at the restarts, for the line and for goal.
Adam Tse (wing) – a brave rooster for a small bloke who has a knack of backing up in the right place and time, and finishing the movement.
Angus Vivers (hooker) – a rake who doesn’t throw in to the lineout (he jumps instead), and plays hard to the last minute.
Darcy Breen (prop) – a converted No. 8 who hasn’t taken a backward step in the scrum and was a leading try-scorer in the Scots Rugby 7s tournament.
Ryan O’Beirne (centre) – a hard runner with the power and pace you’d expect from a NSW Schoolboys opening fast bowler.
Tom Yassmin (wing) – a destructive runner who, in athletics, competes for Scots in the Shot Put as well as the 100m sprint.