All eyes have now turned from Wednesday night’s Origin to another weekend of club football and it’s two sides who were relatively unaffected over the origin period that face off on Sunday afternoon.
The Tigers were one of only two clubs not to feature an origin representative and faced up last weekend against an under-strength Roosters outfit. While they very nearly pulled off a stunning last minute-upset in that game, coach Ivan Cleary would have no doubt viewed that loss as a missed opportunity. Similarly, for the Sharks, they faced off against a South Sydney side down on troops and were expected to come away with an easy win based on their recent form. Ultimately, it was Souths who came away with the two points and put a dent in the Sharks’ premiership credentials.
Both sides have a chance to right last week’s wrongs and will not want to drop points in this game. Sitting 7th and 9th, the loser of this matchup will finish the round outside the eight. That’s a precarious position with less than half the season left to play.
2017 – Round 15 – Sharks 24 def. Tigers 22 at Southern Cross Group Stadium
2017 – Round 9 – Sharks 22 def. Tigers 16 at Leichhardt Oval
2016 – Round 5 – Sharks 34 def. Tigers 26 at ANZ Stadium
2015 – Round 24 – Sharks 40 def. Tigers 18 at Southern Cross Group Stadium
If you’re a Tigers fan, then recent results don’t make for pretty reading. It’s the Sharks who have the ascendency over their cross-city rivals with wins in their past four meetings. Promisingly for Wests, three of those defeats have been decided by two tries or fewer and based on their defence this season, this clash promises to be another tight one.
|1||Valentine Holmes||Tuimoala Lolohea|
|2||Sione Katoa||Malakai Watene-Zelezniak|
|3||Jesse Ramien||Esan Marsters|
|4||Ricky Leutele||Mahe Fonua|
|5||Edrick Lee||Corey Thompson|
|6||Matt Moylan||Benji Marshall|
|7||Chad Townsend||Luke Brooks|
|8||Andrew Fifita||Russell Packer|
|9||Jayden Brailey||Elijah Taylor|
|10||Matt Prior||Ben Matulino|
|11||Luke Lewis||Chris Lawrence (C)|
|12||Wade Graham (C)||Michael Chee-Kam|
|13||Paul Gallen (C)||Matthew Eisenhuth|
|14||Joseph Paulo||Alex Twal|
|15||James Segeyaro||Josh Reynolds|
|16||Jack Williams||Josh Aloiai|
|17||Jayson Bukuya||Tim Grant|
|18||Kurt Capewell||Robbie Rochow|
|19||Avagalu Seumanufagai||Tyson Gamble|
|20||Scott Sorensen||Pita Godinet|
|21||Sosaia Feki||Kevin Naiqama|
The facts that matter
Sunday afternoon footy is back in the Shire this week and that’s good news for the Sharks. They have an impressive record playing at home this season, having only dropped points on two occasions. They’ve already defeated the Storm at Shark Park and produced a victory against the table-topping Panthers. It’s fair to say Southern Cross Group Stadium is fast becoming a fortress for Cronulla and they’ll be looking for a parochial crowd to cheer them home against the Tigers.
It’s a big week in the Shire for Matt Moylan. Playing in his 100th NRL game last weekend against the Bunnies, it’s fair to say the Sharks number six didn’t deliver. After setting the equal record for most try assists in Round 12 against the Knight, many believed that Moylan had finally hit his straps. Unfortunately for Sharks fans that joy was short lived with a quiet performance against the Bunnies that was capped off with a sin-binning. The Sharks need more from Moylan and that has to come in the form of creativity. Playing alongside Chad Townsend, there’s no question who the main playmaking duties have to fall to and if Moylan want’s to justify his move from Penrith, his form will have to improve rapidly in the second half of this season.
It’s no secret that the Tigers have struggled to score points this season. They have averaged the third least points of any side in the competition – only in front of the Eels and Bulldogs. Again, their attack let them down against the Roosters last week and despite a late flurry of tries, it was a case of too little too late. This week’s focus should be to throw the ball around and the Tigers should have no trouble with that. Despite their attacking woes, they complete the second most offloads of any side. Against a big Sharks pack, the best tactic will be to tire the Cronulla forwards out early.
It’s also a big week for Tui Lolohea. With the recent announcement that Moses Mbye will head to Leichhardt next year, there’s suddenly a heap of pressure on the fullback spot. While Lolohea started the year in the number one jersey, he soon found himself back in NSW cup and may have thought his opportunity for the rest of 2018 was limited. Since his recall in Round 12, Lolohea has held on to the fullback role but Ivan Cleary will want more from him in this game. If not, there are plenty of great options breathing down Lolohea’s neck.
Sydney has endured a week of rain and that’s not predicted to let up on Sunday. Of the competition sides who can thrive in wet weather football, it’s probably these two. The likes of Gallen, Fifita and Luke Lewis love nothing more than a grinding game of footy and up against the ‘defend at all costs’ mentality of the Tigers, we could be in for a very tight affair. Despite both sides coming off disappointing losses, it’s the Sharks who should bounce back and get the job done here – we’re tipping the Sharks by 2.
With the loser of this match finishing the weekend outside the eight – is it the Sharks or the Tigers who get the points on Sunday? Tell us in the poll below.
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