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Sharks v Bulldogs
Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford
Saturday 7.30pm

The shotgun has been placed back on standby for both of these teams after they proved there is a little bite left in their season following wins last weekend.

The Sharks came back strongly to take down the Cowboys in Townsville, while the Bulldogs muscled up in chilly Canberra to keep the dim flickering light at the end of the tunnel in view.

With 10 games left to play it appears the Sharks will need to find seven more wins and the ’Dogs eight more if they are to have a chance at playing finals, making this game crucial for both clubs.
As one of their ‘easier’ matches in the run home, any sort of miracle streak would almost certainly need to include a win here.

Currently the Sharks sit in 13th while Canterbury sits 14th. A win for either side would see them potentially move as high as 12th, while a loss would keep them third last.

With Origin players missing, the Sharks face a harder task. They lose skipper Trent Barrett and inspirational forwards Paul Gallen and Kade Snowden, while the Bulldogs only lose hooker Michael Ennis.
Scott Porter takes Barrett’s place at five-eighth, while Anthony Tupou will start at lock for Gallen.

In another change, Adam Cuthbertson is out and Josh Cordoba starts at prop. Luke Harlen and Siosaia Vave have been added to the bench, with Luke Douglas handed the captaincy.

Joel Romelo comes in at hooker for the Bulldogs with Ennis away, while the rest of the side that accounted for Canberra remains intact.

This means Jamal Idris will once again play second row for the Bulldogs, after making the switch against the Raiders.

Watch out Sharks:
The man mountain Idris has a game in the forwards under his belt and will now be ready to inflict more damage. Idris played most of his junior football in the forwards so he is no stranger to the tough stuff but his match fitness in the middle has needed a little boosting.

With workhorse defenders like David Stagg around him, Idris is able to stay relatively fresh for attack and word is he wants to take it to the Cronulla pack this week. Watch for him to really push hard on the edges of the ruck, where Cronulla leak plenty of tries.

Watch out Bulldogs: The Sharks’ analysts have drawn focus to a particular stat – that of the Bulldogs leaking more tries directly from turnovers than any other side. With this in mind, look for the Sharks to pounce on errors, but also advance the ball immediately while the Bulldogs’ players momentarily clock off.

Part of this stat is also stalking Brett Kimmorley’s passes. A flat attack specialist, Kimmorley can be good for an intercept and you might find some Sharks lurking for a chance to pinch the ball and streak away.

Where it will be won:
In the engine room. The big boppers need to win this one for their team-mates as, quiet frankly, the backlines haven’t been setting the world on fire.

The Sharks especially will need to rely heavily on their forwards getting field position because Barrett’s absence will be hard felt. With their two main metre men in Snowden and Gallen out also, this puts a lot of pressure on the side. Without field position it is unlikely the side will be able to penetrate too deeply.

The Bulldogs have the luxury of playing Origin-overlooked Ben Hannant and also the rosy form of new recruit Ryan Tandy. Tandy was outstanding against Canberra and is working hard to secure a new deal for his future. If he and his forward team-mates dominate the ruck then Kimmorley and Ben Barba should be able to feed Josh Morris with quality ball. If they are able to do this, then you wouldn’t be surprised to see Morris bag enough tries to join his twin brother on the top try- scorers list (he needs four).

The history: Played 80; Sharks 29, Bulldogs 49, drawn 2. The Bulldogs have won 11 of the past 14 against the Sharks, including a run of three straight matches.

The two sides have never met on the Central Coast. Cronulla’s last ‘home’ win over the Bulldogs was in 2005 – and they haven’t won a Round 17 game since 2004.
Conclusion: They might be below them on the ladder but the Bulldogs should get the chocolates here. The loss of Ennis restricts them a little in attack but Barba and Kimmorley should still be able to create enough chances for the side to capitalise.

The Sharks aren’t dead yet but losing three of their best in a skinny roster makes this potentially a bridge too far. Sharks coach Ricky Stuart will have something up his sleeve to attack the play of Kimmorley, but it remains to be seen if he has the soldiers to carry out the message.

Stick with the ’Dogs.

Match officials: Referees – Jason Robinson & Alan Shortall; Sideline Officials – Steve Carrall & David Munro; Video Ref – Steve Clark.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7.30pm.
Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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