Welcome to the Shute Shield Round 8 predictions.
We have now passed the halfway mark of the 13 round season and the top 6 is starting to take shape. There are some huge games this week, with a top of the table clash between Gordon and Randwick, the battle of the west between the Western Sydney Two Blues and Penrith, and arguably the most anticipated game of the regular season, the Battle of the Beaches between Manly and Warringah.
This week’s 7 Two television game is Manly v Warringah. It can also be viewed online through 7 Plus at https://7plus.com.au/shute-shield. Replays of other games are available via the Clutch TV app.
Northern Suburbs v Eastwood at Pittwater Rugby Park
Northern Suburbs cemented their place in the top 6 with a 40-26 win over the Western Sydney Two Blues, a week after they were handed their first loss of 2020 by Eastern Suburbs. The Shoremen’s halves pairing of Nick Duffy and Angus Sinclair played a key role in the win, with Duffy scoring 2 tries and Sinclair’s tactical kicking ensuring that quality field position was consistently available. The return of Super Rugby players Cam Clark and Pat Tafa also paid dividends, with Clark scoring a valuable 5 pointer after an unsuccessful penalty attempt bounced off the upright. Eastwood’s dramatic 2-point win over the previously undefeated Randwick was the surprise result of round 7. The Woodies’ became the first team to make real inroads into the Randwick defence, scoring 6 tries including one to NSW Waratah Mark Nawaqanitawase.
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The result of this game could have major implications for the competition table, especially with the top 2 teams (Gordon and Randwick) playing each other and Sydney University having the bye. Both Norths and Eastwood are quality teams who should play finals football this year. Beating Randwick and Norths on the road in consecutive weeks is a tough task but I think that the Woodies are up to the task.
Prediction: Eastwood by 4
Western Sydney Two Blues v Penrith at Lidcombe Oval
Both the Western Sydney Two Blues and Penrith Emus are winless after 7 rounds. That is set to change this week as the clubs face off in the Battle of Western Sydney. Last week, the Two Blues again showed that they are competitive but have difficulty remaining focused and maintaining their intensity for the full 80 minutes. The Two Blues led 7-0 after 30 minutes against Northern Suburbs until the bounce of the ball went the Shoremen’s way and the dynamic of the game changed. The Two Blues did manage to score 4 tries against Norths, who are a top 6 team, so can be justifiably proud of their efforts. Penrith crossed the try line 3 times in their 64-22 loss to Manly last Saturday. The Emus certainly showed promise but ran into a much improved and more experienced Manly outfit.
Both teams have shown that they have the ability to start games well but often fall away during key periods. The team that can play for 80 minutes should win the game. The Two Blues have been slightly more consistent so I’m predicting that they will get the win.
In a great boost for the Two Blues and Emus, the Battle of Western Sydney will be livestreamed at 5pm on ClutchTV.
Prediction: Western Sydney Two Blues by 15
Randwick v Gordon at Coogee Oval
Randwick and Gordon are two proud clubs with long and storied histories. It’s no surprise that both clubs have enjoyed periods of considerable success over the past 50 years and that those periods have occasionally coincided, resulting in some classic matches. The last of these periods was towards the end of the amateur era when the Randwick 1st and 2nd grade teams were both full of Wallabies, with players such as David Campese, Phil Kearns, David Knox, Ewen McKenzie, Simon Poidevin and Lloyd Walker all donning the myrtle green on a regular basis. Gordon also emerged as a powerhouse in the early 1990s, led by the likes of Mark Harthill, Tim Wallace, Ross Reynolds, Tony Dempsey, Anthony Ekert, Alastair Murdoch and Andrew Blades. Matches between the two sides were regularly played in front of crowds in excess of 5,000 fans and often went down to the wire. No one who was at North Sydney Oval for the 1992 Major Semi Final will forget Mitch Hardy outpacing David Campese to score the match winning try. Randwick got their revenge a couple of weeks later when they defeated the Highlanders in the Grand Final to win their 6th consecutive premiership in front of a packed Concord Oval. Gordon broke a 17-year premiership drought the following year when they beat Warringah in the Grand Final, again in front of a capacity crowd at Concord. Late that evening at the Orchard Tavern, Gordon coach Chris Hawkins referenced Randwick in his victory speech, along with an accompanying “middle finger salute”. Gordon went on to win further premierships in 1995 and 1998, while Randwick claimed titles in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Both clubs have experienced several lean years since then, but have recently enjoyed a resurgence on the back of highly successful colts’ programs.
Randwick suffered their first loss of the season last week when they went down to Eastwood by 2 points in a try fest at Coogee Oval. The Wicks scored 7 tries to 6 but could only manage 3 conversions. Meanwhile, Gordon jumped to the top of the Shute Shield ladder with a clinical 24-12 win over a spirited West Harbour. The Highlanders’ backs have scored some spectacular tries over their first 5 games but it was their forwards that played a key role in the win over the Pirates.
Randwick has undoubtedly been one of the form teams in the Shute Shield. Their defence has been outstanding while they have scored some scintillating tries through their backline, which contains several Australian 7s representatives. Gordon are expertly led by their halves pairing of Harrison Goddard and Rodney Iona, and their forwards and backs have been combining beautifully. Although the Highlanders are undefeated, they have not played a top 6 team during the first 7 rounds of the competition. Randwick at Coogee will be a huge test for Gordon, who will be without outside back Jaline Graham who suffered a broken jaw last week. This one could definitely go either way but if Gordon can execute what will no doubt be an excellent game plan from coach Darren Coleman, then I think that they can win.
Prediction: Gordon by 4
Southern Districts v Eastern Suburbs at Forshaw Rugby Park
Southern Districts again showed they will always play the full 80 minutes when they scored a try after the siren to beat Warringah by a single point at Rat Park last Saturday. Although it was Will Latu who scored the match winner, it was winger Christian Kagiassis who was the hero for the Rebels, scoring 3 tries and kicking 4 goals for a personal tally of 24 points. Eastern Suburbs made the long trip across the harbour and up the M1 to Newcastle to take on the Wildfires in their round 7 match. The Wildfires kept the Beasties honest and it was a second half yellow card to replacement prop Dave Waller that was the key moment in allowing Easts to assert the superiority.
Southern Districts have played some magnificent rugby so far this year but their amazing 1-point win over University in round 5 was followed by a 29-point drubbing by Randwick 7 days later. Easts have now won 2 in a row and will be keen to maintain the momentum as they make a charge towards a top 6 position. I think that Souths are the better team and if they are able to back up after last week, then they should win.
Prediction: Southern Districts by 7
Sydney University v West Harbour at Sydney University Football Ground
Sydney University had the bye last week so will be fresh and looking to cement their top 3 position on the table. In their last outing, the Students defeated Eastwood 36-26 at TG Milner, which is never an easy thing to do. West Harbour made the going tough for Gordon in their round 7 match, with the Pirates well and truly in the match before 3 Highlanders’ tries in the last 20 minutes saw them run away with the win. Flyhalf Pat Pellegrini is making the number 10 jersey his own and as always, the Pirates are playing an enterprising brand of rugby.
In this year’s shortened competition, every game is crucial and Sydney University will be treating this game as such. West Harbour cannot be treated lightly and they will challenge the Students if they aren’t at their best. Having said that, the week off will help Uni and, unfortunately for Wests, they should produce a performance close to their best.
Prediction: Sydney University by 24
Manly v Warringah at Manly Oval
The Battle of the Beaches is, according to rugby fans on the Peninsula, the biggest and most
important sporting event on the calendar. This rivalry date back to the 1960s when a group of ex-
Manly players founded the Warringah club to provide another rugby playing option for those on the
northern end of the Peninsula. The Rats were very much in their big brother’s shadow in the early
years, spending time in 2nd Division until they won promotion to the Shute Shield in 1971. The rivalry as we know it today really took off when one of Manly’s favourite sons, Wallaby Tony “Slaggy” Miller (after whom the grandstand at Manly Oval is named), was lured north to coach the Rats in 1977. The Northern Beaches derby has since become one of the most watched and keenly anticipated matches in the Shute Shield. Games between the two clubs are just as hard fought at the junior representative and colts’ levels. The rivalry is best summed up through an anecdote by former NSW Under 19 and 21 representative and well-known rugby media identity Sean Maloney. Maloney grew up with the blue blood of the Manly Marlins (known as the Blues in those days) running through his veins. He captained junior rep and colts teams in the mid to late 1990s before progressing to 1st Grade and becoming Manly’s Club Captain. In 2006 he was lured north of the Narrabeen Bridge to Rat Park by then coach Andrew Cox who, through a family connection, was able to offer Maloney a shot at a gig with Fox Sports. That year Maloney’s father, a man who has spent many years on the field and on the hill at Manly Oval, only gave him one gift at Christmas – a large lollipop because “You suck”.
Manly produced arguably their best performance of the season in their round 7 win over Penrith. Harley Attwater is settling into the Marlins’ systems and he and scrumhalf Harry Emery looked like they had been playing together for years. Warringah let a 19-3 lead slip away to lose by a point after Southern Districts scored a try after the siren. The Rats were bitterly disappointed after the game as they know that this is one that got away and that the loss could play a key role in whether or not they play finals football this year.
Form counts for nothing when it comes to the Battle of the Beaches. Both clubs will be equally as desperate and will be treating this game as their most important game of the year. The Marlins have a great record against the Rats at the Village Green but I think that the Rats will be too good and will secure their 4th successive win over their Peninsula rivals.
Prediction: Warringah by 18
Bye: Hunter Wildfires
Round 7 Results
|Norths v Western Sydney Two Blues||Northern Suburbs by 33||Northern Suburbs 40-26|
|Penrith v Manly||Manly by 14||Manly 64-22|
|Randwick v Eastwood||Randwick by 7||Eastwood 43-41|
|Warringah v Southern Districts||Southern Districts by 12||Southern Districts 39-38|
|West Harbour v Gordon||Gordon by 18||Gordon 24-12|
|Hunter Wildfires v Eastern Suburbs||Eastern Suburbs by 27||Eastern Suburbs 31-21|
|Sydney University – Bye|
34 out of 42, another round with just 1 wrong! Hugh’s having a great season with his picking.
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