Sharks v Warriors Preview

Sharks v Warriors
Toyota Stadium
Saturday 7.30pm

Nostradamus is pointing the finger squarely at this game in Round 22 action, with his bold statement affecting the Warriors – win here or your season is over.

The Warriors might be eighth right now and could, with some luck, qualify for finals with two wins from the last five but they will more likely need three from five. We here at nrl.com are prepared to say if this match isn’t one of those three, they are done and dusted.

They do have a good chance against the Knights at home in Round 23 but finish the season against the Sea Eagles, Broncos and Eels and if they need to win the majority of those games, the feeling is 2010 will be one of regret.

On the other hand, if they can win this match and back it up with a win over Newcastle, then trying to jag one from three over the final three weeks is something they can potentially make happen. Also, with their nearest chasers both underdogs this weekend, this is the chance to put a gap on the pack.

The Sharks are playing for pride now and have in fact been pretty competitive in the past two weeks against Canberra and the Wests Tigers since Shane Flanagan took over as coach – you could even say they were robbed in both cases, with controversial moments affecting the results.

They will not lie down for the Kiwi-based side, you can be sure of that, and this probably represents their best chance for a win before the season is out.

They have retained the side beaten by the Tigers, although Tim Smith has once again been added as an 18th man.

The Warriors face the prospect of potentially falling to 10th if they lose here, but can get as high as fifth with a win and other results favouring them.

Joel Moon comes into the side at centre, pushing Lewis Brown to the second row and Jacob Lillyman to the bench.

Watch out Sharks:
Former sacked Shark Brett Seymour returns to Toyota Stadium with a point to prove. While Seymour hasn’t played in the league of the gun halfbacks in the competition and injuries have restricted him to just seven games this year, he is averaging the least number of touches by a half for every try created. He touches the ball 38.1 times before creating a four-pointer – the best of the number sevens – and he’d love nothing more than to tighten that average even more against his old mates.

Watch out Warriors:
The Sharks have nothing to lose and as such are likely to continue throwing the ball around, particularly post-contact to create second-phase play.

The Sharks have pumped out 269 offloads this season to be up with the best, while the Warriors, once known as offload kings, have dished out just 227 for the year.

Paul Gallen is the second-most prolific offloader in the league (with 46) and if recent seasons are anything to go by he chances his arm more and more when the result is inconsequential to the finals picture.

Anthony Tupou ranks fifth in the NRL for offloads (40), making him another to watch. Meanwhile, there isn’t a single Warrior in the top 20 for offloads…

Where it will be won: Containing ‘The Beast’. This match could very easily boil down to the contribution of giant Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei.

‘The Beast’ as they call him comes up against the much smaller and slower Luke Covell and even if the wingers swap, Blake Ferguson has already played his hand when it comes to desire for Cronulla.

Vatuvei is the linchpin of the Warriors’ attack; he has 14 tries and 12 line-breaks in just 13 games. His size and strength make him a real “animal” to contain and he also brings pace to the Warriors’ backs.

If the Sharks allow the ball to get out to the left sideline often, they will get rolled. They have had a massive issue all season in reading simple shifts and with Vatuvei on the end of the Warriors’ line they won’t be able to recover from a misread.

But if they can stunt the big unit’s involvement, the Warriors will be forced to look elsewhere for points – which may put a heavy burden on the halves and fullback Lance Hohaia. On occasions these guys have been great but on others, not so.

Cage ‘The Beast’ – win the match; let him loose – get mauled.
 
The history: Played 25; Sharks 13, Warriors 12. These two teams have shared results over the past eight games, going win-loss in the process. With the Warriors having won in New Zealand earlier this year, the current trend points towards a Cronulla victory.

The head-to-head record at the venue also points this way, with the Warriors having won just three of 11 matches against the Sharks at Toyota Park.

Conclusion: With the Titans versus Eels match having already been decided on the Friday night, the Warriors will have plenty of motivation going into this match. If the Eels win, they could potentially have already pushed the Warriors out of the top eight, making the match even more vital. Should the Titans win, the Warriors have a great chance to put a gap on the Eels (and potentially Souths, who play at the same time) and create a small buffer inside the top eight.

With so much on the line the Warriors should win, but if you do need an upset and you’re not sure where to take it, this could be the match.

The Sharks have toiled hard in recent weeks and they really want at least one win for the new coach. This is probably their best chance.

Match officials: Referees – Steve Lyons & Chris James; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Luke Potter; Video Ref – Chris Ward.

Televised: Fox Sports – Delayed 9.30pm.