Welcome to the Shute Shield Round 9 predictions.
One of the highlights of round 8 was provided by the Western Sydney Two Blues, who used their social media channels to share some dressing room footage of their players singing the Fijian hymn Noqu Masu, which some may recognise as the pre-match hymn made famous in recent years by the Fiji Bati rugby league team. The footage has gone viral, being shared by news outlets across the USA and UK. If you haven’t seen it, then check it out here: https://twitter.com/WSTwoBlues/status/1302753199934251008. The Two Blues have an excellent social media presence and are well worth a follow.
My reasonably respective tipping record took a big hit last week, with Manly’s dominant win over northern beaches rivals Warringah being the most obvious surprise result, at least in this writer’s humble opinion.
Gordon remains the only unbeaten team and sits on top of the ladder with a perfect 35 points from 7 games. Southern Districts’ inconsistent form has seen them drop to 6th while recent wins by Easts and Manly are keeping both teams’ finals chances alive.
This week’s 7 Two television game is Northern Suburbs v Randwick. It can also be viewed online through 7 Plus at https://7plus.com.au/shute-shield. Replays of most other games are available via the Clutch TV app.
Eastern Suburbs v Sydney University at Woollahra Oval
After a sluggish start to the season, Eastern Suburbs have found some much needed form. The Beasties won their third successive game last Saturday when they convincingly defeated Southern Districts at Forshaw. Easts dominated the Rebels from the outset, with their forwards laying the platform for livewire scrumhalf Jack Grant to score a double. Sydney University’s class eventually proved the difference in their win over West Harbour. The Students managed to hit the half century, courtesy of 7 tries but also conceded 29 points, including a penalty try.
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The Beasties are still just outside the top 6 so will be looking to win all of their remaining games to secure a place in the finals. With some uncertainty surrounding the return of Super Rugby and PONI players, this is also a crucial game for the Students. I’m expecting a high scoring game with the Students winning by a narrow margin.
Prediction: Sydney University by 7
Eastwood v Manly at TG Milner Field
Eastwood had plenty of opportunities to beat Northern Suburbs in their round 8 clash at Rat Park but eventually lost by 3 points courtesy of a penalty goal by Norths flyhalf Angus Sinclair in the 81st minute. Although the Woodies started well, coach Ben Batger lamented the number of opportunities that they afforded the Shoremen in what was a disappointing defensive effort. Manly finally gave their fans something to cheer about when they produced their best performance of the season to defeat Warringah by 20 points in the Battle of the Beaches. The Marlins pack dominated the forward clashes and midseason recruit Harley Attwater provided the confidence and spark that has been lacking for most of this season. Hooker James Hiltebrand and the Marlins faithful on the Manly Oval hill demonstrated the passion involved in the Derby with a passionate post-match on-field rendition of the Manly club song, the “Manly Boom Boom”. In what is a pleasing statistic for the Marlins, 11 members of the 1st grade side have come through Manly’s junior and/or colts programs.
This is a key game for both clubs. Eastwood currently sit in 5th place on the ladder, only 2 points ahead of the 6th placed Southern Districts and 5 points ahead of the 7th placed Eastern Suburbs. Manly has moved up to 8th and will bring plenty of confidence and momentum into what is probably being viewed as a must win game if they are to qualify for the finals. If the Marlins can get up for another big game for the second consecutive week then they are a big chance but I think that the home ground advantage might just be enough for the Woodies to scrape home.
Prediction: Eastwood by 5
Randwick v Gordon at Coogee Oval
Gordon retained the premiership favourite’s tag with another impressive win in round 8, this time against the highly fancied Randwick side at Coogee Oval. Many viewed this game as the first real test for the Highlanders and they certainly passed with flying colours. Gordon’s defence and low error rate were integral to the win. The Highlanders’ depth is set to be tested in the coming weeks with 2 of their tighthead props now out for the season. Southern Districts have also had to deal with an increasing injury toll. This was epitomised by the forced retirement of one of the Rebels’ favourite sons, Harry McLennan, in the lead up to their loss to Eastern Suburbs last week. McLennan suffered a serious neck injury and a Go Fund Me page has been set up here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/funds-for-harry-mclennan. Besides injuries, the Rebels’ other greatest enemy has been their inconsistency from week to week. Coach Todd Louden has been forced to use 45 players so far this year which would be a major contributor to their rocks or diamonds performances.
Gordon still has to play Norths and Sydney University in coming weeks so will certainly be aiming to continue their winning streak against Souths. Coach Darren Coleman is far too astute to let any complacency affect the Highlanders’ performance. The Rebels should have a better preparation this week so I’m expecting an improved performance at Chatswood on Saturday. Having said that, Gordon look to be the better side so should get the win.
Prediction: Gordon by 17
Northern Suburbs v Randwick at Pittwater Rugby Park
Northern Suburbs scored an important win over Eastwood at their interim home ground at Narrabeen last week. A penalty goal by Norths flyhalf Angus Sinclair in the 81st minute saw the Shoremen sneak home in a seesawing affair. Nick Duffy and Angus Sinclair again stood out for the Shoremen, who this week will also welcome back Hugh Sinclair and Cam Clark from the Waratahs. Randwick was somewhat disappointing in their 27-point loss to Gordon. Although the Wicks’ set piece performed well, the Highlanders were too clinical in all facets of the game. Randwick will field a new halves combination this week, with the Waratahs’ Mitch Short and Ben Donaldson starting at 9 and 10 respectively, while Dave Horwitz moves to inside centre.
With Randwick currently in third position on the ladder and Norths in fourth, this game could have big implications for the standings at the end of this round. Norths have won their last two games but will need to tighten up their defence and contain Randwick’s electric backline if they are to win. Randwick were one of the form teams early in the competition but have begun to look a little fragile in recent weeks, with losses to both Eastwood and Gordon. The two teams are very evenly matched but I can’t see Randwick losing 3 games in a row.
Prediction: Randwick by 4
Western Sydney Two Blues v Hunter Wildfires at Lidcombe Oval
Round 8 saw the Western Sydney Two Blues record their first win in over a year, when they defeated their western Sydney neighbours, the Penrith Emus. The Two Blues’ forwards played a key role in the outcome of the match with prop Kalafi Pongi scoring 3 tries. Despite Penrith scoring first, the Two Blues were the dominant team for most of the match before the Emus finished strongly, scoring 17 of their 29 points in the closing minutes. The Wildfires had the bye in round 8 which followed a 10-point loss to Easts in round 7. The Wildfires were right in the match before a second half yellow card allowed the Beasties to assert their dominance.
The Two Blues have played some excellent rugby this season but have found it challenging to compete with the top teams for the full 80 minutes. The Wildfires have also been competitive and have shown plenty of grit and determination. However, they remain winless so far this season with a draw against Manly being their high point to date. The key for the Wildfires will be matching the Two Blues up front. I’d be more confident if the game was in Newcastle but I’m still tipping the Wildfires to get the win.
Prediction: Hunter Wildfires by 4
Penrith v West Harbour at Nepean Rugby Park
Penrith scored the first and last tries in their round 8 loss to the Western Sydney Two Blues. The Emus were well led by their centres Luke Nadurutalo and Riley Alcorn, who were constantly threatening the Two Blues defensive line. West Harbour scored an impressive 29 points against Sydney University last week but unfortunately still lost by 21 points. The Pirates again showed their attacking flair, playing some scintillating rugby. In the end, it was University’s ability to capitalise on West Harbour mistakes that was a key factor in the final result.
Penrith will go into this week’s game buoyed by the very real possibility that former Wallaby defensive coach John Muggleton will return to coach the Emus for a second season in 2021. Muggleton not only brings a wealth of knowledge and experience but also the ability to attract and hopefully retain young talent. The Pirates’ chance of securing a finals spot has now disappeared but they with remaining games against Penrith, the Two Blues, the Hunter Wildfires and Southern Districts, they will see themselves as a realistic chance of finishing the season with at least 4 wins. The Emus will keep Wests honest but the Pirates should be too good.
Prediction: West Harbour by 16
Round 8 Results
|Northern Suburbs v Eastwood||Eastwood by 4||Northern Suburbs 41-38|
|Western Sydney Two Blues v Penrith||Two Blues by 15||Two Blues 36-29|
|Randwick v Gordon||Gordon by 4||Gordon 42-15|
|Southern Districts v Eastern Suburbs||Southern Districts by 7||Eastern Suburbs 57-19|
|Sydney University v West Harbour||Sydney University by 24||Sydney University 50-22|
|Manly v Warringah||Warringah by 18||Manly 39-19|
|Hunter Wildfires – Bye|
37 out of 48 or 77%, tough round there with 3 from 6 but still going well overall.