Welcome to the Shute Shield Round 10 predictions.
The highlight of this week is undoubtedly the North Shore derby between the top 2 teams on the ladder, Gordon and Northern Suburbs. Gordon and Norths have a long and fierce rivalry that dates back to the 1930s when Gordon was admitted to First Division. According to Norths’ historians, Gordon broke the original agreement by encroaching on the Shoremen’s territory when they based their club on the lower north shore at Chatswood instead of further up the Pacific Highway at Waitara. Tensions were further strained after Gordon’s Wallaby fullback Laurie Monaghan kicked a drop goal after the siren in their final round clash in 1981 to not only win the game but also relegate Northern Suburbs to Second Division, where they spent the next 8 seasons. Gordon dominated the North Shore derbies in the early to mid-1990s when they won 3 premierships, including the 1998 victory over Norths in the Grand Final at the Sydney Football Stadium. In recent years, Norths’ hard work off the field has translated into a resurgence on the field, culminating in their emotional 2016 premiership win in front of a packed house at the historic North Sydney Oval. 2020 is the first time in many years that both clubs are sitting near the top of the table.
Elsewhere, Warringah and the Two Blues will do battle for the Rob “Noddy” Sawtell Trophy. The late Noddy Sawtell played over 200 games for the Rats and more than 100 for the Two Blues, as well as being a highly successful women’s coach. He suffered a fatal heart attack in 2005, aged 52. The trophy is highly sought after by both clubs and this year will be no exception.
This week’s 7 Two television game is Sydney University 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.
Eastwood v Penrith at TG Milner Field
Eastwood got back into the winner’s circle with their 45-27 win over Manly last week. Livewire scrumhalf Matt Gonzalez continued his impressive form, scoring yet another try from the scrum base. Although pleased with his side’s 6 tries, Eastwood coach Ben Batger will be looking for more complete performances as we head into the finals in 4 weeks’ time. Penrith has shown steady improvement over the first 9 rounds of the competition and the result of their round 9 game against West Harbour remained in the balance until late in the match. Scrumhalf Terry Fanolua was of the Emus’ best, scoring 2 tries.
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Eastwood will go into this contest as clear favourites. Their depth, class and fitness should be too much for the Emus.
Prediction: Eastwood by 34
Gordon v Northern Suburbs at Chatswood Oval
Gordon maintained their prefect record last week, scoring their 8th consecutive bonus point win, this time against Southern Districts. The Highlanders’ flawless execution ensured that the game was all but over by halftime. The one worry for Gordon has been their front row depth, which was again tested against the Rebels with injury and a yellow card leading to the need to go to uncontested scrums for a period in the second half. Northern Suburbs showed that they are a genuine premiership threat with a 46-17 demolition of Randwick at Pittwater Rugby Park. The Shoremen are benefiting from the return of some of Super Rugby contracted players like Hugh Sinclair and Cam Clark, and they are well coached by Earl Va’a and Zak Beer.
Gordon has named Western Force prop Dom Hardman at tighthead while Norths are unchanged from last week. I think that Norths are poised for an upset here but I’m going to stick with the Highlanders at home.
Prediction: Gordon by 5
Manly v Eastern Suburbs at Manly Oval
Manly looked to have turned the corner with their big win over Warringah a fortnight ago but came crashing back to earth with a disappointing 45-27 loss to Eastwood last week. The Marlins simply made too many errors, especially in attack, and were well beaten by the Woodies. Meanwhile, Eastern Suburbs snuck into the top 6 for the first time this season after their surprise 8-point win over Sydney University. The Beasties are another team that has benefited from the return of several big-name players from Super Rugby and they look set to solidify their finals’ position over the coming weeks.
Manly will need to improve considerably if they are to challenge the in-form Beasties. The Marlins will also be without scrumhalf Harry Emery, who suffered a season ending injury last week. I’m tipping an Easts win.
Prediction: Eastern Suburbs by 14
Southern Districts v NHRU Wildfires at Forshaw Rugby Park
Not even the presence of Southern Districts’ number 1 ticket holder, the Prime Minister Mr Scott Morrison, could prevent the Rebels from becoming Gordon’s eighth successive victim at Chatswood Oval last week. The Rebels’ scrum was a highlight before scrums went uncontested for a period in the second half. The NHRU Wildfires broke through for a historic first win against the Western Sydney Two Blues at Lidcombe Oval, the one-time home of Western Suburbs Magpies rugby league team. The Wildfires had to overcome an early 10-0 deficit, with flyhalf and goalkicker Brendan Holliday a key contributor.
The Rebels’ season is hanging in the balance, meaning that this game is a must-win if they are to qualify for the finals. The Wildfires will be hungry for more scalps over the last 4 rounds of the competition and will provide a stern test, despite the long bus trip down from Newcastle. I’m predicting a hard-fought victory for Souths.
Prediction: Southern Districts by 12
Sydney University v Randwick at Sydney University Football Ground
Sydney University lost their second game of the season last Saturday, going down to Eastern Suburbs by 8 points. The Students had a disrupted preparation with several late changes to their starting 15. In the end it was Uni’s lack of execution that let them down, with the Beasties scoring all 3 of their tries on the back of Uni mistakes. Randwick has continued to plummet down the table with last week’s loss against Norths sending them down to 5th. Inconsistency of selection, especially in key positions, is at least partly to blame for the Wicks’ three consecutive losses.
With Sydney Uni in 4th and Randwick in 5th, this is a key game for both teams. Randwick was flying high a month ago but are now in danger of slipping out of the 6. Both teams will be bolstered this week with the return of several Super Rugby contracted players. I expect Randwick to improve on last week’s performance but I think the Students will be too good for their traditional rival.
Prediction: Sydney University by 10
Warringah v Western Sydney Two Blues at Pittwater Rugby Park
Warringah going into this week’s game not having won for nearly a month, their last win coming in round 6 against Penrith. That was followed by a heartbreaking 1-point loss to Souths, a 20-point flogging by Manly and a bye last week. The Two Blues were disappointing in their loss to the Wildfires, especially after their morale boosting win against Penrith the week before. Inconsistency has again been the hallmark of the Two Blues’ season far.
The Rats know that they need a bonus point win if they are to retain any chance of making the finals while the Two Blues will be keen to secure their second win for the season. Warringah won’t have things all their own way but they are fresh and are always tough to beat at Narrabeen. I’m predicting a Rats’ win.
Prediction: Warringah by 22
Bye: West Harbour
Round 9 Results
|Eastern Suburbs v Sydney University||Sydney University by 7||Eastern Suburbs 22-14|
|Eastwood v Manly||Eastwood by 5||Eastwood 45-27|
|Gordon v Southern Districts||Gordon by 17||Gordon 56-21|
|Northern Suburbs v Randwick||Randwick by 4||Northern Suburbs 46-17|
|Western Sydney Two Blues v NHRU Wildfires||NHRU Wildfires by 4||NHRU Wildfires 28-15|
|Penrith v West Harbour||West Harbour by 16||West Harbour 33-29|
|Warringah – Bye|
41 out of 54 or 76%, 4 from 6 an average round of picks.