With only 10 points separating the top 8 teams both the Marlins and the Rats need a win to stay in contention for a top 6 finals finish.
It is unusual for it to be so tight and to see last year’s Grand Final winners, Eastwood lying 8th. The Woodies should dispose of Penrith but there are some huge games including Uni vs Easts and Souths vs Randwick (top of the table clash).
After four wins from four, the MMMs are on the up but the Rats will also take confidence from a 41 all draw with Uni last weekend.
“They have good backs that can attack from anywhere and so we must shut down everything they throw at us,” said MMMs 5/8th Sam Lane. The Rats came back to win in the same fixture last year when the MMMs were over 20 points ahead.
Sam will be up against Rodney Iona, an ex Brumbies player, with Hamish Angus, captain and playmaker, out through injury. Former Brumbies player, Julian Huxley, will also be on the Rats bench.
The MMMs have only let three tries in over the last four games with BIG D improving dramatically. Holding out Souths for a 16-15 (no tries to Souths) was a monumental example.
“We are really proud of our defence. We know that we can all tackle well across team individually but we probably didn’t have our structures right,” explained Sam. “Over the last month or so we have gone back to basics. Who should be where, when? And how we work together.
“Basically out attack has been pretty good and we have shown that we can score from anywhere.”
James Graham has been playing open side for the last few games whilst Kotoni Ale has been easing back in after his year out with injury. Kotoni will be a fresh reserve. James “Cecil” Hilterbrand will also be a fresh reserve after returning from a successful trip with the US Eagles. He will supplement a fearsome front row of Hayden Stringer, Vance Elliot and Mitch Lewis.
Cecil was in the run on Eagles team with Greg Peterson that narrowly lost to Italy 20-24. He also made the run on team against Russia winning 25-0 (Greg was injured and did not play).
Other news is that Shuan Treweek, fresh from a stint playing in Scotland, will come in at no 12.
So we are getting the strength and depth back at this important time of the season.
Penrith no pushovers
“It certainly wasn’t a training run,” said Sam Lane. “They have some big players and speedy backs.
“Their defence was difficult to read with some players rushing up unexpectedly,” he continued. “It makes it tricky when you are playing against such an unstructured approach.
However, the MMMs went on for a big 65-0 win. “We scored some well worked tries.”
Reserve back Shaun Treweek got a hat trick and hooker, Vance Elliot, two meat pies!