Welcome to the Shute Shield Round 18 predictions, the final round for 2019.
With the finals starting next week, 5 of the 6 qualifiers have been determined. Warringah, Eastwood, Sydney University, Northern Suburbs and Manly have all secured a top 6 position, although the order in which they will finish won’t be known until the conclusion of this weekend’s games. The 6th team to play finals footy will be either Eastern Suburbs or Gordon. Randwick, Southern Districts, West Harbour and the Western Sydney Two Blues cannot make the finals in 2019. With uncertainty still surrounding the final makeup of the top 6, including which team will take out the minor premiership, it’s bound to be another great round of Shute Shield rugby.
For those readers able to view 7 Two or access 7 Plus (https://7plus.com.au/shute-shield), the televised game this week is between Eastern Suburbs and Eastwood.
Eastern Suburbs v Eastwood at Woollahra Oval
Easts’ season remains alive after their dramatic 4 point win over Gordon at Chatswood last week, despite conceding a red card and being down 25-12 at one stage. The equation for the Beasties this week is simple – win this week and they will qualify for the finals. Standing in the way is Eastwood, who could still snatch the minor premiership from Warringah after disposing of Southern Districts last week. Easts have everything to play for and they will relish being back at Woollahra but I just can’t see them knocking off the Woodies.
Hugh’s Prediction: Eastwood by 7
DrivingMaul Prediction: Eastwood by 12
Northern Suburbs v Randwick at North Sydney Oval
Northern Suburbs came crashing back down last week when they were humbled by Sydney University 66-17. The Shoremen will be looking to ensure that they finish the regular season on a positive note heading into the finals next week. Meanwhile, Randwick had the bye last week so will be fresh and ready to finish their season on a high. This is an intriguing matchup but I’m predicting a win for the home side.
Hugh’s Prediction: Northern Suburbs by 10
DrivingMaul Prediction: Northern Suburbs by 10
Southern Districts v Warringah at Forshaw Rugby Park
Southern Districts gave an improved performance last week against Eastwood, despite losing by 11 points. They have another tough test this week when they host Warringah under the power lines at Forshaw. Warringah were too good for the tenacious Two Blues last week and can secure the minor premiership with a win over the Rebels. Southos would love to finish the season with a home win and the trip down to Forshaw is never easy, but I think the Rats are just too good.
Hugh’s Prediction: Warringah by 15
DrivingMaul Prediction: Warringah by 20
West Harbour v Sydney University at Concord Oval
This Saturday will be the end of an era as West Harbour play their last game at Concord Oval in its current form. The much maligned and sometimes ridiculed ground was redeveloped in the mid-1980s in effort to make it the centrepiece of rugby in NSW. Indeed, the 20,000 seat Concord Oval (later renamed Waratah Rugby Park before reverting to Concord Oval in the professional era) went on to host a number of test matches, including the famous 1987 RWC Semi Final between Australia and France, as well as many NSW Waratahs games and Shute Shield Grand Finals. Former Wallaby captain Simon Poidevin once famously criticised the lack of atmosphere at Concord, stating that a backdrop of the hopelessly congested Parramatta Road and the Burwood Bus Depot could never compare with the multitude of historical pubs surrounding what was for many years the spiritual home of NSW rugby at the Sydney Cricket Ground and then the Sydney Football Stadium. Many people will remember Concord for having what were once the tallest goalposts in the Southern Hemisphere and although it’s clear in hindsight that the Concord experiment was unsuccessful, I personally have many fond memories of watching Sunday afternoon representative matches between NSW and touring teams and other provincial teams, as well as a number of Shute Shield Grand Finals including the 1993 GF between Gordon and Warringah in front of a packed house. At the conclusion of this season, Concord Oval will undergo an $18m facelift, turning the ground into a “centre of excellence” for NRL club Wests Tigers, who use the ground as a training base. The West Harbour Pirates will return to Concord once the redevelopment has been completed and will likely play across the road at St Luke’s Park in the interim. The Pirates are throwing the gates open on Saturday and are offering free entry to all spectators so get down to Concord and enjoy a great day of rugby.
The Pirates shocked Manly last week, snatching a last second 42 all draw in what was a controversial finish while the Students demolished fellow top 6 side Northern Suburbs 66-17. Wests will be full of confidence and passion but Uni looks to be in top form and should get the win.
Hugh’s Prediction: Sydney University by 24
DrivingMaul Prediction: Sydney University by 30
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Western Sydney v Gordon at Lidcombe Oval
The Two Blues were competitive against Warringah last week and will see themselves as a genuine chance against Gordon on Saturday. They will also be relishing the chance to knock the Highlanders out of finals contention as several players have made the move from Parramatta to Chatswood in recent years. Gordon will be bitterly disappointed that they didn’t secure a finals berth last week against Easts but they can rectify that with a win against the Two Blues. With their season on the line I’m expecting Gordon to be firing on all cylinders.
Hugh’s Prediction: Gordon by 22
DrivingMaul Prediction: Gordon by 15
Hugh: 54 from 85
DrivingMaul: 54 from 85
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