Intrust Shute Shield Round 5: Match Previews

Eastwood Rnd 4 - Tom Alexander - Serge Gonzalez

Randwick v Eastwood

Undefeated after a month of rugby, Randwick face their biggest test this weekend when they host the defending premiers at Coogee Oval.

Despite sitting pretty on top of the Intrust Shute Shield ladder heading into round five, Galloping Greens coach Shannon Fraser seemed eager to talk down his sides early season success, labelling their opening four rounds as “acceptable.”

“We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves and doing our best to only focus on the next game ahead. We measure ourselves on our performance, not results and it’s fair to say that we are not yet satisfied. There are still plenty of improvements to be made,” Fraser said.

Randwick kept Penrith scoreless last week but will again be without stars Andrew Kellaway and Dave Horowitz for the top of the table clash.

Eastwood will also be missing a handful of their more experienced players with Jai Ayoub and Ben Shorter both set to miss the match.

Ben James has been named at flyhalf, pushing Blake Sutton back to No.12, with Joey Afualo is also set to return after missing last weekends tight victory over Norths with concussion.

“Randwick will be very similar to Norths I think. They have really good line speed and patient defence and are have running threats right throughout their team,” Woodies coach Stu Woodhouse said.

“We’ll need to be at our best to beat the competition’s form side.

Eastern Suburbs v Parramatta

After a slow start to the year, Easts have registered back to back wins over the last fortnight, upsetting Southern Districts at Forshaw last weekend.

“We were really happy with out performance last week, particularly the first half. It showed we can compete with the better teams in the competition,” Darren Coleman told Rugby News.

The Beasties have lost Will Fay for the remainder of the season after he was forced to have surgery on his wrist earlier this week, but are looking to continue to build momentum this weekend against Parramatta.

“Parra’s scrum and physicality have been really good so far this year. They’re been unlucky in three of their four losses so we can’t afford to take them lightly,” Coleman added.

The Two Blues frustrating season continued last weekend, going down 11-7 to Warringah at Merrylands.

“Last week, we finished the game with 11 men on the field and only played 32 of the 80 minutes with a full compliment of players. The lack of discipline has been the difference between us running a close second compared to racking up a win,” Parramatta coach Paul Hardwick said.

The Two Blues have made three changes for Saturday’s match with Nick Blacklock and Andrew Vatuvai added to the forward pack and Niko Uele named on the wing.

Gordon v Warringah

Gordon have struggled through the opening month of the 2016 season and the news isn’t getting any better at Chatswood with Henry Carmichael and Harry Rorke both ruled out for the remainder of the season through injury and Sione Ala leaving the club.

“We’ve now lost about 10 players from last year’s first grade side through injury and work, but on a positive note, we should have McDougall and Preston returning soon,” Geoff Townsend said.

The Highlanders were disappointing against West Harbour last weekend and struggled to capitalise on a number of scoring opportunities.

“We also allowed them scoring opportunities through error. We conceded two tries from long range kicks and a turnover in carry. We need to reduce our unforced turnovers,” Townsend added.

Warringah snuck home against Parramatta last weekend with an inconsistent performance.

“We combined some of our best footy with some of our worst against Parra. I’m happy we got the win, but not happy with the overall performance,” assistant coach Ed Doyle told Rugby News.

Josh Holmes will miss the clash after being called in to the Australian 7’s squad, while Michael Adams has been ruled out through injury and will be replaced by Chris Arnold at No.13.

Manly v Penrith

Manly were beaten by Sydney University in their 2000th first grade game last weekend, but Marlins coach Damien Cummins didn’t think the 43-29 scoreline was a fair indication of the match.

“The result was obviously disappointing, but I think our performance was actually quite good. In saying that, our set piece needs to improve and so does our decision making,” Cummins told Rugby News.

Waratahs recruit James Hilterbrand will miss Saturday’s clash and has been replaced by Sio Tatola, with BJ Hartmann also ruled out.

Penrith were kept scoreless against Randwick last weekend, but aren’t shying away from the challenge of taking on the competition’s best sides.

“We have a massive injury count and are struggling for numbers but the boys are in for the fight. The scores really don’t reflect how hard the boys are working. I’m happy we get to play the top sides twice so we can judge our improvement throughout the year,” Penrith coach Jeremy Paul said.

Paul identified No.8 Taunaola Kei and fullback Joseph Tafili as his two best performers so far, adding that he expected the pair to continue to improve throughout the year.

Southern Districts v Northern Suburbs

Souths were disappointing in a one point loss to Eastern Suburbs last weekend and will be looking to bounce back when they host Norths on Saturday.

“It was really disappointing. We lacked aggression and enthusiasm and we’ll need a lot more of both this weekend along with a strong set piece if we are to beat a dangerous Norths outfit,” Souths coach Matt Barr said.

The Rebels were disappointing across the board, losing all seven grades to Easts after a strong start to the year.

Barr has added giant lock Fili Tufui to his starting side, pushing Jake Douglas to the bench.

Despite falling just short against Eastwood in the match of the round last weekend, Norths coach Simon Cron was filthy with his sides execution in a match the Shoreman let slip.

“I wasn’t impressed. We had 18 handling errors against the defending premiers, so that just killed us in attack,” Cron said.

“We’ll need to maintain possession to build pressure this weekend against Souths, rather then just defend the whole time,” he added.

Nick Palmer and Will Weeks return to Cron’s starting XV.

Sydney University v West Harbour

University bounced back from a disappointing loss to Randwick with a strong win over Manly last weekend and will be eager to continue to build momentum when they host West Harbour this weekend.

“Last weeks performance was a step in the right direction and I was really pleased with how the team responded after losing to Randwick the previous week. There is still plenty to work on but the efforts of the players to play out the 80 minutes will help with the teams confidence,” Uni coach Tim Davidson told Rugby News.

“We will need to improve our handling and our work at the breakdown as we are still making a number of errors when we are under pressure,” he added.

Paddy Ryan and Will Skelton have both been ruled out and have been replaced by Chris Talakai and Lachlan Swindon respectively.

West Harbour upset the Students in the corresponding match last year and will be quietly confident of repeating that effort when the travel to University Oval on Saturday in search of a third straight win.