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Sharks v Wests Tigers preview

Sharks v Wests Tigers
Remondis Stadium
Saturday 5:30pm

This week the Wests Tigers will take on the Wests Tig... hold on a second, we mean the Sharks.

You can understand our confusion, with the likes of Bryce Gibbs, John Morris, Chris Heighington, Beau Ryan, Isaac De Gois, Blake Ayshford and David Fifita lining up against their former club in a Cronulla jumper this Saturday afternoon. It could have been more, too, if it wasn't for the ankle injury suffered by Andrew Fifita last round.

While the final scores in their last games didn't really reflect how things went down, both sides were victims of large deficits in Round 9. The Wests Tigers failed to take advantage of their opportunities in a 30-6 loss to reigning premiers the Roosters, while Cronulla lost 42-24 to a rampant Eels side.

In team changes, the Tigers welcome back skipper Robbie Farah, Sauaso Sue and Braith Anasta from injury, and Tim Simona from suspension. Anasta's replacement Blake Austin drops back to the bench, while Joel Luani, Sitaleki Akauola and Keith Lulia drop out of the 17. Cory Paterson will start in the back row.

For the Sharks, they have produced a brand new front row this weekend, with Sam Tagataese and Bryce Gibbs returning. They replace the injured Andrew Fifita and the benched Siosaia Vave. David Fifita drops back to an extended bench, which also contains hooker Michael Lichaa and outside back Jonathan Wright.

This game should be a lot closer than their ladder positions suggest. With the 16th placed Sharks taking on the Tigers (who only last week were in the top four) the end result of this game is sure to shake the competition in one way or another – especially with the Sharks looking to make something of their season.

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Watch out Sharks: Robbie Farah's impact for the Tigers is enormous. Four tries, four line-breaks, six try-assists, seven line-break assists, 20 tackle-breaks and 41.7 tackles per match in 2014 makes you think it’s no wonder the Tigers are so high on the ladder. It reads pretty great and it's even better to watch on the field. A massive game should be expected from Farah, especially with NSW Origin duties looming. The Sharks won't know what hit them if Farah returns in full force.

While the Sharks did go down by 18 to Parramatta last Monday night, when you look back on the stats you would think the boys from the Shire had snuck a win. With one extra line-break, 18 more offloads and nine fewer missed tackles then their more fancied opposition, the Sharks didn't play all that bad. With 47 minutes spent in the Eels’ half though, Cronulla will undoubtedly have to pick up their attack against the Tigers.

Watch out Wests Tigers: The Tigers simply made the Roosters look good last weekend. Two errors led to long distance tries and the score did not reflect a scrappy game of football. A 62 per cent completion rate will never win you a game of footy and despite being in possession of the ball for more than half the game against the Roosters, the Tigers only scored one try. A big lesson in cohesion will be drilled into the Tigers before facing the Sharks.

With State of Origin on the horizon, Sharks captain Paul Gallen has returned from his syndesmosis injury in a big way and it showed against Parramatta last round. Recovering from an earlier head knock, Gallen produced five offloads, 26 tackles, a try assist, 20 runs for 145 metres, six tackle-breaks and a line break assist.  The Tigers will have to be on their game when it comes to Gal on Saturday afternoon.

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Plays to Watch: The Sharks proved on Monday night that they have some quality when it comes to the second-phase plays. Paul Gallen's cheeky offload after beating several men to set up Isaac De Gois's try was just one example of the Sharks’ ability to turn nothing into something.

When it comes to sneaky plays, the Tigers are quite exceptional at them. While halfback Luke Brooks is usually the producer, delivering their one and only try against the Roosters to Chris Lawrence, the returning Robbie Farah is always good for a grubber himself and will surely try and pull one off at some stage on Saturday.

Where It Will Be Won: The Sharks and the Tigers both spent 47 minutes of their respective games in their opponent's halves in Round 9. While the Sharks managed four tries they still lost by 18, while the Tigers only produced a paltry one try.  Both teams will go a long way to winning the game by capitalising on their opportunities when in possession – and in the Sharks’ case, backing it up in defence.

The History: Played 25; Sharks 7, Tigers 15, Draw 3. While the Sharks managed bragging rights over the Tigers in 2013, winning their last meeting 36-22 in Round 1, the Sharkies have struggled to beat the Tigers in recent times. Since 2003, the Tigers have only lost three times to the Sharks, including five 13-plus wins.

Match Officials: Referees – Gavin Morris & Henry Perenara; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Adam Reid; Video Referees – Steve Chiddy & Steve Folkes.

Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live 5.30pm.

The Way We See It: With both teams coming off miserable losses they will be up for a big showing when push comes to shove on Saturday afternoon. With history on their side, a forward pack that should turn up fired up and their captain Robbie Farah returning, the Tigers should do enough to sneak away with the competition points. Tigers by two. 

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