Shute Shield Round 7: Five things to watch

Can the Shoreman be beaten?

Norths haven’t lost now in over a year and the defending premiers can claim their 20th straight Shute Shield victory if they can snag the points against Manly on Saturday.

But that may be easier said than done. Under new coach Brian Melrose, the Marlins have rediscovered the form that took them to the 2015 decider and they’re oozing confidence at the moment.

Both sides have six bonus point wins to their name so far this year and they’ve both scored exactly 241 points each. Manly have a slightly better defensive record, but very little separates the two sides.

While Irae Simone and Angus Taavao return for Norths, they’re still missing Will Miller and Hugh Sinclair, which may give Manly a slight edge.

Could easily be the match of the season.

Battle of the bush

If you’re not at Manly Oval and fancy a drive, why not head over the Blue Mountains to watch Easts take on Gordon in Orange.

It’s quite an intriguing matchup. Gordon have been the big improvers this year and have been brilliant at times against quality opponents but consistency and defence has let them down. Easts have also showed glimpses of what they can do and came within a conversion of knocking off Norths last weekend but their best rugby is also in front of them.

Both sides would consider this match one they need to win if they are to challenge for a spot in the finals later this year.

If that’s not enough to get you in the car, Orange Emus take on Orange City in a local derby straight after the Shute Shield clash. Quite the double header.

Western Sydney derby

After plenty of preseason hype, Parramatta have failed to meet expectations so far this year and are still without a win.

Gun No.8 Tyrone Viiga returns for the Two Blues this week and will need to get his side on the front foot to give Parra’s speedy backs a chance to attack.

While Penrith are also without a win, they’ve shown significant signs of improvement and were impressive in a 52-21 loss to Sydney Uni last week.

Julian Huxley said he wanted his side to get better each week this year and so far they appear to be doing so.

A win would be a huge confidence booster for both sides.

Seven days is a long time

Seven days is a long time, particularly in the rugby world and both Randwick and Eastwood will be keen to put their last performances behind them after disappointing losses to Manly and West Harbour respectively.

Both the Wick’s and the Woodies had strong starts to the year and while they’re both comfortably sitting in the top six, a win on Saturday will secure their position at the pointy end of the ladder.

With Jai Ayoub still away with the Croatian national side, Stu Woodhouse has handed Jackson Bird the No.10 jersey again this weekend. Randwick are also missing troops with Patrick Phibbs named at halfback again after playing the opening five rounds this year in fourth grade.

The Giant Killers

West Harbour did what they do best last Saturday and shocked the rest of the competition with an impressive bonus point win over Eastwood.

While you never know what you are going to get with the Pirates, new coach Todd Louden did say it would take his team a few weeks to find their feet in the competition this year and they did so last weekend.

They get another opportunity this weekend when they travel to Forshaw to play Southern Districts.

Souths can’t seem to find any consistency so far this year and leaked 24 first half points against Warringah before fighting back after the break to make a game of it.

Matt Barr has shifted Rohan Saifoloi to flyhalf for the first time this season and handed former QLD U20s halfback Eli Pilz his first start in the top grade.

It’s a game Souths should win, but they’ll need to be at their best.