Sharks v Warriors
Oh dear. The Sharks' heads and team morale are down and their ladder position is at an all-time low. They sit alone as the only team yet to win a game in 2014. Even their coach Peter Sharp reckons they are miles away from a win and stand-in captain Wade Graham is disappointed with his own and several other senior players’ performances. Injuries aren’t an excuse according to these two men and the obvious influence of emotion involved in Newcastle last Sunday afternoon wasn’t either.
But hey, the only way is up for the Sharks, right? Never has their slogan ‘Up, Up, Cronulla’ been as relevant as they look to secure their first win of the season.
Whether going up against the Warriors in this week’s Men of League Heritage Round will be an easy or tough task will only be determined on the day. Taking on the Tigers last Saturday afternoon, the Warriors were down 12-0 and only truly kicked into gear once influential Tigers fullback James Tedesco copped a concussion and was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
They ended up winning 42-18 in what looked very, very unlikely after 30 minutes of play. Getting their third win from five games is important for the Warriors at this stage of the season with a logjam of other teams heading into this game with four points.
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Cronulla have named an unchanged line-up, with Andrew Fifita to play his 50th game for the side. The New Zealand Warriors have promoted Konrad Hurrell from the bench following the broken jaw sustained by Jerome Ropati while Feleti Mateo also returns on the bench.
Watch Out Sharks: Who knows what the Warriors are going to cook up this week? They are more hot-and-cold than the Katy Perry song. Somehow, someway they ended up leading at halftime last weekend after looking disinterested and out-enthused by the Tigers. They ended up winning 42-18 so clearly they are a threat. The Sharks will have to be wary of the Warriors' Jekyll-and-Hyde playing personality.
The Sharks need be wary of a fish this week. Not just any fish though, they’re going to have to deal with 'The Fish' – Glen Fisiiahi. The 23 year-old ran rings around his opponents last weekend scoring four tries, making a line break and running 133 metres from 12 runs. Expect The Fish and his partner-in-crime Konrad Hurrell to be on song this weekend.
Watch Out Warriors: Desperate times lead to desperate measures and when we say that Sharks are desperate for a win, we aren’t kidding. The likes of Fifita and Carney will be better after another run in a clearly depleted side. If the likes of Daniel Holdsworth and Issac De Gois lift as a foil for Carney then the Sharks will be better off this weekend.
Blake Ayshford will be wary of his form so far in 2014 after Knights centre Joey Leulia taught him a lesson last Sunday afternoon. With the likes of Beau Ryan, Eric Grothe Jr. and Sosaia Feki returning from injury in the coming weeks, Ayshford will need to harness some good form. Ayshford will be well aware that the early expectations haven’t been there this year, off the back of just 52.3 metres per game. Look for the former Tiger to improve on Saturday.
Plays To Watch: While the Sharks failed to post a point last weekend there was a promising passage of play that involved lock Chris Heighington at first receiver. Off the back of Heighington, Holdsworth would receive the ball and hand it off to five-eighth Carney who then presented several options to his centre and winger on an overlap. They tried it several times last weekend and almost came up with points.
Sam Tomkins showed a glimpse of his brilliance last weekend. Over in the English Super League, he scored 144 tries from 151 games for the Wigan Warriors but on the weekend it was for the other Warriors that he showed his class. Running sideways from the left-hand side, Tomkins broke free of one defender’s attempts before slicing straight between Keith Galloway and Luke Brooks on his way towards the tryline on the other side of the field.
Where It’ll Be Won: For the Warriors to go three from five to kick off 2014 they’ll need to be 100 per cent committed. It won’t be often that a team allows them back into a game of NRL footy after starting off as miserably as they did last weekend. Enthusiasm is the key from the get-go.
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The Sharkies are a whole different story. They truly just need to improve in every facet of the game. Daniel Holdsworth needs to take more responsibility in the side – Todd Carney can’t do everything and it showed last weekend. A much-improved performance across the board for the Sharks is essential.
The History: Played 31; Sharks 17, Warriors 14. Things are looking pretty good for a Cronulla victory this week if past history is anything to go by. The Sharks haven’t lost to the New Zealand side in the past two years (four past meetings). The Sharks last accounted for the Warriors 18-14 in Round 21 last year.
What Are The Odds: Money with Sportsbet.com.au flowing four to one1 for the Warriors here, who’ve firmed from $1.77 into $1.60. The Sharks are on the drift - $2.10 out to $2.40. Warriors 13+ is the favourite in margin betting at $3.00 and has attracted 79 per cent of all money staked on margin betting.
Match Officials: Referees – Gavin Morris & Gavin Reynolds; Touch Judges – Dave Ryan & Dan Eastwood; Video Referees – Ashley Klein & Steve Folkes.
Televised: Live – Fox Sports 1, 3pm.
The Way We See It: It’s a tough one. The Warriors were brilliant for half of their game and very flat for the other half, although Cronulla played like a disaster throughout their last 80 minutes of game-time. In saying that, the Cronulla team named will want redemption after last week’s shellacking and should put in a better performance against the travelling Warriors side. Cronulla... by the skin of their teeth.
*Statistics: Champion Data.