Sharks v Wests Tigers preview
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Wests Tigers preview
The Sharks and Wests Tigers crashed back to earth last week and will be looking to make amends on Saturday afternoon.
While the Tigers were perhaps unlucky not to get the chocolates against fellow cellar-dwellers Newcastle, the Sharks had no answers for Melbourne – who led by Will Chambers and Cooper Cronk dismantled Cronulla by 28 points.
Before Round 23 the Sharks had won seven of their past eight games, while Jason Taylor's men were chasing their third-straight win. Now they're both back to square one.
Sam Tagataese's return from suspension means Matt Prior – who will run out for his 150th NRL game – will take the injured Ben Barba's spot on the bench.
The Tigers will welcome back Chris Lawrence and Marty Taupau as well in what is also James Tedesco's 50th NRL game.
Watch out Sharks: With Aaron Woods (knee) and Dene Halatau (concussion) failing to finish the game against Newcastle, it gave bench players Ava Seumanufagai, Kyle Lovett and Jack Buchanan a chance to shine. Between them they produced 32 per cent of the Tigers' tackles and a further 21.6 per cent of their runs.
Watch out Wests Tigers: With bench utility Barba set to sit in the casualty ward for at least the next fortnight, the Sharks' back three in Michael Gordon, Sosaia Feki and Valentine Holmes should take ownership of the backline and may look to assert themselves in the contest.
Key Match-Up: Michael Ennis v Robbie Farah: Long-term foes on the paddock, Ennis and Farah are sure to add another memorable chapter to their storied rivalry. While Farah worked his way to becoming New South Wales' first-choice hooker a long time ago, it's fair to say that Ennis has been the better player this year. That's not to say Farah's shoulder and hand injuries haven't helped his cause but the stats don't lie either. In 2015 Ennis has produced the equal-seventh most try assists (14) as he's become the focal point of Cronulla's attack.
The History: Played 25; Sharks 7, Tigers 17, Drawn 1. The Tigers have managed to rack up quite a one-sided history when playing Cronulla. Since 2004, the Sharks have beaten their upcoming opponents just three times in 18 meetings. Two of them came in 2013. Before that their last victory was way back in 2008 – where names like Misi Taulapapa, Frasier Anderson and Daine Laurie were still running around in the NRL.
What are the Odds: Not even the big price has been enough to entice punters to back the Tigers against the Sharks. Sportsbet has been inundated by Cronulla 13-plus bets ever since the market opened. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Grant Atkins. Assistant Referee: Matt Noyen. Sideline Officials: Russell Turner and Anthony Eliott. Video Referees: Ashley Klein and Daniel Irvine.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 (Live) – 3:00pm
The Way We See It: With history dictating the Tigers will run away with the game, the Sharks need to prove they are legitimate finals contenders. With a side including Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Wade Graham – and considering the Tigers' inexperience – the Sharks should do their finals quest no harm. Sharks by 8.