Newcastle Knights v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks preview
With the Roosters playing Cronulla into form once again, the Knights have a huge challenge on their hands to sink the Sharks especially considering they were hammered by them back in Round 6.
The Sharks have won three of their past five games and are coming up against a Newcastle team desperate for a win having lost eight of their past nine.
The Knights will be buoyed by the returns of Robbie Rochow and halfback Tyrone Roberts. Roberts' inclusion aligns with Joey Leilua's departure from the club while Rochow comes in for Jack Stockwell, who suffered a season-ending bicep rupture in Round 13.
Joe Tapine and Paterika Vaivai come in for David Fa'alogo (hamstring) and Sam Mataora, while Ricky Leutele comes into the centres for the Sharks in place of Blake Ayshford (back).
Watch out Knights: A future full-time Sharks captain, back-rower Wade Graham is showing that life after Paul Gallen won't be too difficult a transition considering he has been producing 'Gal-esque' numbers of late. In the Sharks 10-4 win over the Roosters in Round 13, Graham produced 228 metres, five tackle breaks and 30 tackles. This, despite having Gallen beside him knocking up similar numbers.
Watch out Sharks: The Knights have had some dramas of late on their right-edge defensively but with Leilua leaving the club, Dane Gagai's return to the centres (with Sione Mata'utia sure to shift to the vacated left spot) will help reduce points. Another factor to take into account is that Cronulla are the least successful try-scorers on the left edge competition-wide (six tries).
Key Match-Up: Robbie Rochow v Jayson Bukuya – With Gallen and Beau Scott playing for NSW on Wednesday night, the importance of their benched teammates Jayson Bukuya and Robbie Rochow will be understated. Rochow, a usual starter, will play his first game since Round 3 from the interchange and will at some point cross paths with the equally important Jayson Bukuya who has been a solid contributor of late.
The History: Played 45; Knights 27, Sharks 17. Draw 1. The Sharks are definitely in better form but history is undoubtedly on Newcastle's side this weekend. The Knights have won seven of their past nine games against the Sharks. However Cronulla's 22-6 victory in Round 6 is sure to do wonders for their confidence.
What are the Odds: Sportsbet punters aren’t willing to go 13-plus on either of these teams while money is running 50/50 in the head to head market. The battle for favouritism could go either way by the time we reach kick-off. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Gavin Badger. Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall. Touch Judges: David Ryan and Peter Gough. Video Referees: Shayne Hayne and Luke Phillips.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 (Live) – 2pm
The Way We See It: A match between two teams entrenched in the bottom-third of the competition ladder isn't quite appealing but desperate times usually lead to fun games so expect a tough encounter. Gallen's fitness following Origin is hugely important but if he's right then the Sharks – for the second time this year – will have enough to beat the Knights. Sharks by 4.