Sharks v Wests Tigers: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Wests Tigers
Southern Cross Group Stadium
Saturday 7:30pm

Twelve points separate the Sharks and Wests Tigers on the Telstra Premiership ladder but the impact of State of Origin has ensured Saturday night's contest in the Shire is a toss of the coin affair. 

Cronulla went down in a thriller to the Storm in the second instalment of the grand final rematch last week while the Tigers were blown off the park in spite of the Roosters' high error count. 

The defending premiers are yet to lose back-to-back games this season but their depth will be tested with several key players unavailable. 

The Sharks have been decimated by Origin with Andrew Fifita, Jack Bird, James Maloney, Valentine Holmes and Wade Graham all on representative duty, with Shane Flanagan forced to make a stack of changes to his side. 

Gerard Beale moves to fullback, Kurt Capewell starts at right centre, Edrick Lee comes onto the wing, Fa'amanu Brown joins the halves, Sam Tagataese earns a starting spot in the front row while Daniel Mortimer and Jeremy Latimore are included on the bench. 

The Tigers aren't immune to the representative player drain with stars James Tedesco and Aaron Woods both in camp with the Blues. As a result, Kevin Naiqama moves to fullback, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak starts on the wing, Tim Grant moves to the front row, Luke Brooks returns at halfback while Matt Eisenhuth comes onto the bench. 

Why the Sharks can win: While they've lost a chunk of their attacking weaponry, there's nothing to suggest the Sharks will be affected when it comes to defence. The defending premiers boast the most frugal defence in the NRL and showed in their Origin-affected win over the Bulldogs that no matter the personnel, they always take pride in protecting their line. 

Why the Wests Tigers can win: They might have gone down by six points back in Round 9 but the Tigers will take plenty of positives out of their performance at Leichhardt Oval against Cronulla. Ivan Cleary's men led at the break and could have easily won had things gone their way. Tedesco and Woods both failed to finish the match and were involved in a controversial no-try ruling that denied the fullback what appeared to be a crucial four-pointer. While their two most important players won't be there this time around, the Tigers will fancy their chances against a depleted Cronulla line-up. 

 


The history: Played 27; Sharks 9; Wests Tigers 17; Drawn 1. The Sharks have a miserable record against the Tigers but can take solace from the fact they've won three on the trot against the men in black and gold including their 22-16 win at Leichhardt Oval back in Round 9. 

What are the odds: Sportsbet has hardly taken a meaningful bet on Wests Tigers, with 92 per cent of money going the way of the Sharks. Cronulla 13-plus is holding more money than all of the other winning margin options combined. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.

Match officials: Referee: Henry Perenara. Assistant referee: Dave Munro. Sideline officials: Michael Wise and Jarrod Cole. 

Televised: Fox Sports 2 – Live coverage from 7:30pm.

NRL.com predicts: This would be a no-brainer if both sides were at full strength, but the loss of several key stars has levelled the playing field for us battling tipsters. We're slightly leaning towards the home side, but those looking to make some ground in their tipping comps should back the upset. Sharks by 4.