Sharks v Dragons: Schick Preview
Schick Hydro Preview: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v St George Illawarra Dragons
Southern Cross Group Stadium
The defending premiers take on last year's strugglers on Sunday night, but past form counts for little when the Sharks and Dragons do battle for southern Sydney supremacy.
Cronulla rebounded from their season-opening loss with a convincing win over the much-fancied Raiders down in Canberra. After an even first half, the Sharks ran away with it with new No.9 Jayden Brailey touching down for his first try in the NRL.
It was a different story for the Dragons who came crashing back down to earth after their Round 1 win over Penrith, humbled at home by the Eels on Sunday night. The signs weren't good when Russell Packer made an error from the first play of the game, and things didn't get much better as they eventually fell 34-16.
The Sharks have named the same 17 that took care of Canberra and could be boosted by the return of Valentine Holmes and Gerard Beale who are part of the extended bench.
Paul McGregor has stuck solid with the same side went down to the Eels, although excitement machine Jai Field has been included in their 21-man squad.
Why the Sharks can win: Written off after their Round 1 loss to the Broncos, Cronulla answered their critics in style with an attacking masterclass against the Raiders in the nation's capital. Wade Graham was the focal point in attack with a hat-trick, but a lot of that came down to five-eighth James Maloney's ability to straighten up and attract the third-in defender. Halfback Chad Townsend has also taken on the line a few times this year, with his show-and-go against the Broncos leading to a Maloney try. If they can square up nervous edge defenders then expect plenty of points to flow on the fringes.
Why the Dragons can win: No team has missed fewer tackles than the Dragons (31) in 2017 despite the Red V having had to contend with attacking powerhouses Penrith and Parramatta in the first two rounds. Their opponents, Cronulla, average 33 missed tackles per game in 2017, and missed a whopping 41 attempts when these sides met in Round 23 last season. The Dragons will be disappointed with their performance against the Eels on Sunday and will be keen to produce another dogged defensive display this time around.
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Tackles, All Run Metres, Offloads, Tackle Breaks.
The history: Played 38; Sharks 18; Dragons 19; Drawn 1. Honours were even in 2016 with both teams notching victories on home turf. The Sharks were clinical in Round 2 on their way to a 30-2 victory, while the Dragons showed they can be equally adept with ball in hand en route to a shock 32-18 win later in the season. The Red V have won four of the past six meetings but have lost two on the trot at Shark Park.
What are the odds: The market with Sportsbet is fairly one-sided in favour of the Sharks, but punters have nibbled away at the big price on offer for the Dragons. The Sharks have been backed to win 1-12 rather than 13+ so we could be in for another tight local derby according to the flow of money. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Ben Cummins. Assistant referee: Adam Gee. Sideline officials: Rickey McFarlane and Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski.
Televised: Fox Sports 2 – Live coverage from 6:30pm.
NRL.com predicts: Two of the best forward packs in the competition going toe-to-toe in front of what should be a sold-out Southern Cross Group Stadium ensures we're in for a thrilling contest. There is nothing better than a local derby, and a 2-1 start is on offer for these traditional rivals. It'll be interesting to see where Valentine Holmes plays if he is cleared in time. Whether he plays fullback or on the wing, expect him to be the difference on the night with a long-range try in the second half. Sharks by 7.