The premiers of the last two years stand-off in this Good Friday match, a replay of the 2016 Grand Final in which the Sharks were victorious. Southern Cross Group Stadium has been somewhat of a fortress for the Sharks however in recent times their home form has tailed off and this is a massive opportunity to resurrect that.
Southern Cross Group Stadium should be packed with Friday being a public holiday this tight and tense affair, however, is a gift to every Rugby League fan with some tense finishes of late and plenty of feeling on the field between the two.
Sharks finally got off the board last weekend against the Parramatta Eels with Townsend finally rediscovering some of the 2016 form that catapulted him into Origin contention.
Melbourne is again without Felise Kaufusi who ended up with two tries the last time these two faced off, however, Kenneath Bromwich starts after being a late scratching from last weeks fixture against the Cowboys. After a defensive toe to toe loss at the hands of the Tigers, the Storm resumed normal proceedings by accounting for the Cowboys with relative ease.
2017 - Round 14 - Melbourne Storm 18 def. Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 13 at Southern Cross Group Stadium
2017 - Round 6 - Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 11 def. Melbourne Storm 2 at AAMI Park
2016 - Grand Final - Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 14 def. Melbourne Storm 12 at ANZ Stadium
2016 - Round 26 - Melbourne Storm 26 def. Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 6 at AAMI Park
2016 - Round 4 - Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 14 def. Melbourne Storm 6 at Southern Cross Group Stadium
Cronulla are one of the few clubs in the NRL to hold a positive record against the Storm from the past five clashes, with three wins from five. The clashes have been remembered for resolute defence mixed with moments of game-breaking brilliance from some of the NRL's elite.
Cronulla has frustrated the Storm with their grinding football and closing the spaces allowing little room for their men out wide. It this defence on Friday night that will need to stand up once more to come away with the two points.
|Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks||Melbourne Storm|
|1||Josh Dugan||Billy Slater|
|2||Sosaia Feki||Suliasi Vunivalu|
|3||Jesse Ramien||Will Chambers|
|4||Ricky Leutele||Curtis Scott|
|5||Valentine Holmes||Josh Addo-Carr|
|6||Matt Moylan||Cameron Munster|
|7||Chad Townsend||Brodie Croft|
|8||Andrew Fifita||Jesse Bromwich|
|9||Jayden Brailey||Cameron Smith|
|10||Matt Prior||Nelson Asofa-Solomona|
|11||Luke Lewis||Joe Stimson|
|12||Wade Graham||Ryan Hoffman|
|13||Paul Gallen||Dale Finucane|
|14||Kurt Capewell||Tim Glasby|
|15||James Segeyaro||Kenneath Bromwich|
|16||Ava Seumanufagai||Christian Welch|
|17||Joseph Paulo||Sam Kasiano|
|18||Kurt Dillon||Young Tonumaipea|
|19||Trent Hodkinson||Patrick Kaufusi|
|20||Edrick Lee||Ryley Jacks|
|21||Braden Uele||Brandon Smith|
The facts that matter
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Paul Gallen was in doubt to play against the Eels yet took his place and crafted the first try of the night with a big dummy, beautifully executed from the burly forward who is arguably as consistent as Cameron Smith or Johnathan Thurston. His performance will go a long way to inspiring his teammates to another win against the NRL benchmark.
Will be itching to get back out in front of their home crowd to atone for that inexplicable loss to the Dragons. With some momentum from their last start win and restriction of their opposition to just 4 points it is in attack where the Sharks must truly click to ensure a successful Friday night.
Boasting players such as Wade Graham, Matt Moylan and Josh Dugan it's enough to leave Bellamy telling his players to expect the unexpected however all have had slow starts to the season. The NSW trio have now had a month to find form and will be primed for big games competing against players capable of snaring their Origin jerseys or keeping them out of one.
Suffered a minor hiccup to the Tigers in Round 2 last week and then had some shaky moments to recover and commandingly dispatch of a competition favourite. The Melbourne Storm still possess the greatest captain in the game and with that a driver of the highest standards on and off the pitch. So with that Round 2 loss, it will likely see Melbourne primed for this one and little if any clocking off for the rest of the season.
In full form have possibly the most exciting backline in the world and are yet to show their full array of skills this season. With combinations getting slicker and Brodie Croft growing into his new role in the team look for the wingers to cash in this Friday night.
Melbourne are the greatest example of momentum winning games when they have it, no one stands much of a chance of winning. At the moment despite their round 2 loss there is that air of confidence in that their ability cannot be matched for me and to carry that into such a tough fixture will prove vital on Friday night.
Despite Gus dubbing Southern Cross Group Stadium as the Bermuda Triangle, I do not see the Storm going missing on Good Friday. I expect a highly entertaining clash especially with both backlines under-performing by their standards for the opening few rounds of the competition. Storm to win by 10 and Slater to have a big night either man of the match or thereabouts.
Who do you think will win this Good Friday blockbuster? Let us know in the comments below.