Holden Cup Preview: Cronulla Sharks v Sydney Roosters
The red-hot Roosters will travel to the nation's capital for the second week in a row to take on the Sharks for a spot in the preliminary final.
The Tricolours were in irresistible form in the first week of the Holden Cup finals series as they downed the Raiders 48-0 in Canberra.
Cronulla started their game against the Panthers with plenty of purpose, and after opening the scoring were well in the contest until Penrith's stars ran away with it after the break.
Sharks coach John Morris has stuck solid, naming the same 17 that pushed the minor premiers in the first half.
The Roosters have made a couple of minor changes with Paul Momirowski starting at five-eighth and Victor Radley switching to the back row. Utility back Lachlan returns on an extended bench with Ryan King dropping out of the side.
Watch out Sharks: Second-phase footy is one of the best attacking assets an NYC team can have, but sadly for the Sharks it's an area that they are severely lacking in. The men in black, white and blue are ranked 16th in the Holden Cup with just 76 offloads this season (including the finals) while the Tricolours are fourth with 202. Roosters forwards Nat Butcher (34) and Reuben Porter (32) are both ranked inside the top 10.
Watch out Roosters: It's hard enough finishing the season at the top of one key statistic, let alone one in both attack and defence, but that's exactly what Sharks skipper Jayden Brailey managed in 2016. In a competition choc-full of talented dummy-halves, Brailey trumped them all with an NYC-high 31 try assists and 921 tackles (he made another 57 last week against the Panthers and scored a try).
Key match-up: Jaimin Jolliffe v Nat Butcher. For a young man who has never played more than 60 minutes, Jolliffe has been able to punch out some impressive numbers in 2016. He has run for over 100 metres in 10 of his 19 matches and averages just over 20 tackles per game. While those numbers are more than solid, they are dwarfed by what Nat Butcher – the recently crowned Rugby League Players Association Holden Cup Player of the Year – has managed this season. Butcher is first in the NYC with 386 runs, second with 3,928 metres and third with 891 tackles. In the two matches against the Sharks this year, he has run for 474 metres and come up with 99 tackles.
The history: Played 17; Sharks 5, Roosters 11, Drawn 1. The Roosters have enjoyed plenty of success over the Sharks since the Holden Cup started in 2008. The ledger is locked at one win apiece this season with an average of 64 points scored in both games. The Sharks won the only other meeting in the finals 14-4 back in 2011, but haven't won another playoffs match since.
Match officials: Referee: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski. Assistant referee: Drew Oultram. Sideline officials: Dave Ryan and Josh McGowan.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live coverage from 4:45pm.
The way we see it: Anyone who watched the Tricolours last weekend would find it impossible to predict anything but another big win. Roosters by 14.