Written by Joel Moss
WIN Stadium, Saturday 2 April
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Crunch time awaits in a pivotal contest between the Illawarra Cutters and Mounties – whom both carry a valuable 3-1 record to start their season campaigns.
There’s plenty of excitement about the Cutters and their dynamic halves duo Shaun Nona and Drew Hutchison, with Cutters coach Jason Demetriou giving his damaging forward pack plenty of credit for their early success.
“Obviously they’re playing some good footy,” Demetriou told NSWRL.com.au. “They’ve connected really well and started to form a good (halves) partnership but I put a lot of it down to our middle as well. Sebastine Ikahihifo and Shannon Wakeman particularly, in all four games, have been really good. Jacob Host and Chris Lewis are playing some good footy as well. A few boys contributed to that and give the halves some freedom.
Fan favourite Wakeman has been instrumental once again this season for the Cutters, relishing his role as impact player off the bench.
CLICK HERE to see the Cutters team.
“It’s a big luxury,” Demetriou said. “I’ve got a lot of time for Shannon and Chris Lewis. They’re two players with a lot of potential as well to go on and play at a high level. It’s about those guys preparing well and making sure they can play consistent footy.”
Following their 42-18 dismantling of the Penrith Panthers – in which Lewis bagged two tries, set up another and broke the line twice – Illawarra take on a Mounties side coming off a hard-earned 18-16 win in a high-quality affair with the North Sydney Bears.
CLICK HERE to see the Mounties team.
For Mounties, Luke Bateman was sensational with a Man-of-the-Match performance last week, running the ball 16 times for 183 metres, along with 27 tackles, two line-breaks and a four-pointer while Mitchell Barnett was at his usual best this season with 19 carries for 215 metres, six tackle-breaks and his own try.
Demetriou knows his side will need to improve and lift to match the powerful Mounties forward pack featuring Bateman and Barnett.
“It’s about replicating what we have been doing and taking it to another level,” Demetrious said. “Each week it’s about being a little bit better than we were last week, trying to build your season. Our first two rounds we did that but took a step back in Round 3 and went forward again in Round 4, so it’s about going forward again this week.”
This article first appeared on NSWRL.com.au