Wyong Roos (1) v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (4) – Qualifying Final
Allianz Stadium, Saturday 2 September
12:40pm AEST
Broadcast LIVE on Fox League

The 2017 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Finals Series kicks off with a blockbuster at Allianz Stadium on Saturday afternoon, with minor premiers the Wyong Roos taking on the in-form Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs for the first spot in the preliminary finals. Seven competition points separated the two sides at the conclusion of the regular season, but recent history suggests this could go either way.

Wyong come into September as the best-performing team this year, particularly impressive given they’ve had to play without regular halves Jayden Nikorima and Mitch Cornish for various parts of the season. Their recent form leaves some to be desired – they’ve won just two of their past six games, both of which they trailed at points in the second half – but only the bravest fan would dare write them off in the big games. Following a thrilling draw with the second-placed Warriors in Round 24, the Roos required a big second-half showing to down the Knights last weekend, but got the job done in a boost for Rip Taylor’s men.

The Bulldogs’ final regular-season match was also far from the dominant victory they would have liked ahead of the finals; three tries conceded in the final 14 minutes resulted in a draw with Illawarra. Over their own six-week period, however, Canterbury-Bankstown has lost just one game and has largely displayed the type of form required to instil belief in the side.

The match will be the competition’s first played at Allianz Stadium this year, in the lead-up to the Roosters’ final home game against the Titans. It will also be the club’s Old Boys Day – and in celebration of the event, pre-purchased general admission family tickets will be available for just $40. In addition, kids aged 14 and under are encouraged to take advantage of the free sausage sizzle offer operating near the Allianz Stadium gates for the first 1000 fans.

FULL PREVIEW HERE

 

North Sydney Bears (6) v Newcastle Knights (7) – Elimination Final
UOW Jubilee Oval, Sunday 3 September
12pm
Streamed LIVE on NSWRL.com.au

The Bears and Knights meet to kick off a triple-header of live-streamed matches on Sunday afternoon, both hoping to stay alive in the competition. It will require a reversal in fortunes for Newcastle, while the Bears welcome back some key men as they look to continue their winning run.

North Sydney’s past six games have brought three wins – one of which came over their Sunday opposition, albeit by a two-point margin. Newcastle boast the same success rate from their past six matches and importantly, all but one of those games have finished with no more than six points the difference. Simon Woolford’s men are certainly prepared for a close encounter, but admits the team has a big challenge ahead of them.

“We’ve played them twice this year and they’ve beaten us twice,” Woolford tells NSWRL.com.au. “Obviously they’ve got some key NRL players that probably drop back into their team this week.

“They’ve got some big strong forwards, we need to match them there and Luke Kelly in the halves is quite creative too. He hurt a few weeks ago when we played them at North Sydney so we’re going to have to do a good job on him.”

FULL PREVIEW HERE

Mounties (5) v Illawarra (8) – Elimination Final
UOW Jubilee Oval, Sunday 3 September
2pm
Streamed LIVE on NSWRL.com.au

As far as first-week elimination finals go, it doesn’t get much bigger. Mounties and Illawarra, grand final combatants in 2016, face off once again with one team to be sent packing from the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Finals race.

Much has already been made of the highly-anticipated rematch, with coach Mat Head admitting “the boys spoke about it a little bit” when asked about it earlier in the week. Both teams, of course, have vastly different personnel than the 34 men who contested the premiership last year – while Mounties have kept eight men from that side, Illawarra will have just four – but the memories will be fresh in the minds of both parties. Mounties’ thirst for revenge is sure to pose an extra challenge for Illawarra, but the defending premiers’ recent success in the match-up will also give them confidence.

Mounties’ six-week form is a pass mark with three wins in that period, including their best win of the season in a 51-10 thrashing of Wyong in Round 20. Illawarra have won just twice in that time, most recently coming away with a draw against the Bulldogs to secure their place in the finals, and have been victorious just once in their three games at UOW Jubilee Oval this year.

Jacob Hind, who was involved with the side but did not play in the grand final last year, knows there’s belief that his men can go on a run from eighth place.

“I think we’ll just take it as another game – we’ve had the wood on them this year so we’ll speak about what’s worked for us this year,” Hind tells NSWRL.com.au. “Hopefully we can make it three from three against them.

“If we can get on a run, a bit of momentum and play the footy that we want to play, I think we definitely can make the (grand) final again.”

FULL PREVIEW HERE

Warriors (2) v Penrith Panthers (3) – Qualifying Final
UOW Jubilee Oval, Sunday 3 September
4pm
Streamed LIVE on NSWRL.com.au

Two seriously impressive sides will wrap up the first week of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Finals Series on Sunday – and absolutely anything could happen in the meeting at UOW Jubilee Oval.

The Wyong Roos finished first and the Warriors second after the home-and-away rounds, but a quick glance at the for-and-against column of the final table shows why many people have the Panthers as premiership favourites. They have scored just three more points than Wyong to be the best attacking team of the season, but are easily the best defensively and have notched up more dominant wins than any other side. Throw in a recent record of five wins from their past six matches and they are undoubtedly the competition’s form team.

The Warriors will face the additional task of having to open their finals series away from home, which recently has posed a challenge. Altogether the side has won four games and played out an incredible four draws in NSW this year – better than their usual record – but then went on to lose three of their past four on this side of the Tasman. A few good wins at home to finish the regular season, however, has star hooker Manaia Cherrington full of belief.

“We started the season really well, then we had a bit of a slump towards the middle of the season and we’re starting to find some form,” Cherrington tells NSWRL.com.au. “We’re really looking forward to a big performance this weekend.

“The feeling in the club now is really positive. I know first grade hasn’t had the season they’ve wanted but for us boys, we’re just looking to put in a big finals series.”

FULL PREVIEW HERE