Shute Shield Round 8: Five things to watch for

Last week, five of six matches were decided by seven points or less in one of the best rounds of Shute Shield action in recent memory. This week, a number of teams have a point to prove as competition for a spot in the top six heats up.

How will Northern Suburbs react after first loss in more than a year?

The drought has finally been broken. Norths 19 match (20 if you include the Australian Club Championship) unbeaten streak came to an end against Manly last week and it will be interesting to see how the Shoreman bounce back.

With Simon Cron away with the Australian U20s and some of their bigger names still missing, Norths will need a strong showing against Randwick who have only lost twice this year. Will Miller and Nick Palmer are both expected to play though and will add some much needed experience to the new look Norths pack.

Can West Harbour cause another upset?

After a slow start to the year, West Harbour have looked like a different side in the past fortnight, beating Eastwood and coming close against Souths. The Pirates seem to have taken to Todd Louden’s new system and will like their chances against a Sydney Uni side that they’ve beaten a number of times in recent years.

Sydney Uni scored 26 unanswered second half points to steal victory from Warringah last weekend but they’ll need to produce a more consistent performance on Saturday to stop a confident West Harbour side.

Are Warringah able to play for 80 minutes?

For the second straight week Warringah feel asleep after a brilliant first half performance and this time it cost them in a 33-29 loss to the Students. While it’s almost impossible to criticise the Rats recent first half performances, they can’t afford to drift in and out of matches if they are to be a genuine premiership threat this year.

Warringah face Parramatta at Rat Park on Saturday with Two Blues captain Andrew Cox set to lead the Two Blues first XV out as captain for the 152nd time, surpassing Al Minnett who captained the side on 151 occasions.

Can Eastwood or Souths find their best?

While both Eastwood and Souths sit inside the top six after seven rounds, both sides will want to improve this weekend. Eastwood started the year brilliantly, but they’ve struggled without flyhalf Jai Ayoub in recent weeks and are still yet to win in front of their loyal fans at TG Millner.

Souths coach Matt Barr has reshuffled his backline again this weekend with Paul Asquith shifting to fullback and Rohan Saifoloi to wear the No.10 jersey.

Here’s hoping the rain doesn’t spoil what is usually a high scoring, entertaining fixture.

Will Manly continue their unbeaten run?

Manly claimed competition favouritism last weekend after a 23-18 victory over Norths in front of 4,500 fans at Manly Oval. While the occasion won’t be quite as big this week, there will be no room for complacency for the Marlins against Gordon on Saturday. An upset is never out of the question in the Shute Shield.