Cowboys v Sharks: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview: North Queensland Cowboys v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
1300SMILES Stadium
Saturday, 7.30pm 

Both teams will be striving to return to the winner's circle after going down to top four sides as well as teams desperate to make the top eight in recent weeks.

The Cowboys have had it tougher over the last few weeks, with several injuries forcing them to dip even deeper into their pool of reserves while the Sharks are missing Jack Bird, a potent attacking option in their centres. 

While the Cowboys can't really be faulted for their losses to the Storm and Panthers, losing several players in both games to injury, commendable effort and desperation doesn't win games, tries do and they've had very few of those in the last three weeks. 

The Sharks will be eager to turn their lacklustre performances around before they notch up their third loss in a row, and with finals fast approaching and their top four spot on the line with the Cowboys, Parramatta Eels and Penrith Panthers breathing down their necks they don’t have time to waste. 

Why the Cowboys can win: The effort in the Cowboys' last three games has been practically faultless, what could have been tight contests have been blown open by injuries to players such as Gavin Cooper and Michael Morgan, which has disrupted their attack. Lack of execution is what cost them against the Storm, while against the Panthers it was defence. They couldn't keep Penrith out despite completing at above 80 per cent, which had them in a good position to wrestle it out with the more ad-lib Panthers. All the Cowboys need to do is execute both offensively and defensively, and their effort in the face of adversity will carry them well over the line, especially if the Sharks only complete at 60 per cent, as they did against the Brisbane Broncos last week. The Cowboys can't rely on a poor performance from their opposition if they want to make the finals, so every player will need to be at 100 per cent if they want to get the win over a desperate Cronulla. 

Why the Sharks can win: They have a massive forward pack, top-notch halves, danger men on the bench and a sense of desperation to right their premiership defence after two losses in a row. It's all there, the Sharks just need to step up to the plate and compete. They've conceded a season average of fewer than three tries per game, but let in five against the Broncos last week. Similarly their completion rate has been up around 80 percent but dropped to 60 in Round 23, the lowest of every team last week. If the Sharks can hold the ball, their world-class players will have ample opportunity to score points, and against the injury-riddled Cowboys they should be able to get over the line. That is if their forwards can once again step up and match it with the Cowboys' Jason Taumalolo, Scott Bolton and John Asiata in the same manner they did in the second-half of their Round 11 clash. 

 


The history: Cowboys v Sharks: Played 42; Cowboys 16; Sharks 26. The Sharks definitely have the edge on this match up, especially in recent times having won their last three games against the Cowboys. 

What are the odds: There are basically the same number of individual bets on the two sides, but Sportsbet reports 75 per cent more money has been wagered on the Sharks in the head-to-head market. Both teams have been well backed to win 1-12 so punters haven't quite made up their minds on this one. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.

Match officials: Referee: Gerard Sutton. Assistant referee: Dave Munro. Touch Judges: Michael Wise and Clayton Sharpe. Review officials: Ben Galea and Bernard Sutton.  

Televised: Channel Nine and Fox League – Live coverage from 7.30pm.

NRL.com predicts: It's a difficult game to predict given the Sharks' previous two performances and the Cowboys' injury toll in their defeats to the Storm and Panthers. If the Cowboys can get on top and keep the likes of Andrew Fifita or Paul Gallen from igniting a Sharks comeback they'll take victory, but if the Sharks can right their errors they'll be tough to beat. Cowboys by 8.