Sharks v Wests Tigers: Benji out, Reynolds to start as skipper
Brought back to earth with last week's loss to Souths, the Sharks would be crazy to think they're in for an easier ride this week.
Having their six-game winning streak snapped should've provided a timely reality check about staying grounded and coach Shane Flanagan surely reminded his team about the perils of believing your own press.
Cronulla are usually rock solid at home on a Sunday afternoon but will be left to count the cost if they underestimate the Wests Tigers for a moment.
The Tigers probably felt like they let one get away with last week's narrow loss to the Roosters but only had themselves to blame after butchering too many scoring chances. It was a costly result which could come back to haunt them when the dust has settled at the end of the regular season.
Key match-up: It should be a fierce battle up front between big props Andrew Fifita and Russell Packer, but it's hard to see how this game won't be won in the halves. Matt Moylan and Chad Townsend had their first ordinary performances in several weeks against the Bunnies and will be looking to bounce back with big games against Josh Reynolds and Luke Brooks.
For the Sharks to win: The Sharks lost by eight to Souths but it was never that close. They need to re-focus on defence this week and keep close tabs on Reynolds and Brooks. In attack they have to try to keep the Tigers on the back foot with strong running and quick play-the-balls.
For the Tigers to win: They were left to lament a slow start last week and that can't happen on the Sharks' home turf or the game could be out of reach before the visitors know what hits them. The Tigers need to come out with an assertive opening 25 minutes to show they mean business and try to draw the Sharks into a close game and test their nerve.
Sharks stat attack: The Sharks will be praying that Valentine Holmes comes out of Origin unscathed as the 22-year-old has scored 11 tries in his past eight games. The Sharks haven't come up against the Wests Tigers this season but will be looking to get their fifth win over them in front of a home crowd.
Wests Tigers stat attack: The Tigers will be aiming for their 200th top-grade victory in round 14. They missed out on that milestone last week when they down to the Roosters by just two points.
And another thing: Despite having the NRL's third-best defensive record in terms of points conceded, the Tigers have been guilty of more missed tackles (480) than any other side in the competition. Work that one out. On a positive note they lead the NRL in runs, kicks and kick metres.
Match: Sharks vs Wests Tigers
Round 14 -
Venue: Southern Cross Group Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Cronulla Sharks v Wests Tigers, Sunday 2pm at Southern Cross Group Stadium
Sharks: 1 Valentine Holmes, 2 Sione Katoa, 3 Jesse Ramien, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Edrick Lee, 6 Matt Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Wade Graham (c), 13 Paul Gallen (c)
Interchange: 14 Joseph Paulo, 15 James Segeyaro, 16 Jack Williams, 17 Jayson Bukuya
Valentine Holmes will back up from Origin at fullback, pushing Edrick Lee to wing and Sosaia Feki to the reserves. Sione Katoa holds onto a wing spot after a strong performance last week. Jack Williams joins the bench pushing Ava Seumanufagai to the reserves. Scott Sorensen and Sosaia Feki were cut from the reserves 24 hours out from kick-off. Seumanufagai and Kurt Capewell were omitted on game day.
Wests Tigers: 1 Tuimoala Lolohea, 21 Kevin Naiqama, 2 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Mahe Fonua, 5 Corey Thompson, 15 Josh Reynolds, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer, 9 Elijah Taylor, 17 Tim Grant, 11 Chris Lawrence (c), 16 Josh Aloai, 13 Matthew Eisenhuth
Interchange: 14 Alex Twal, 12 Michael Chee-Kam, 10 Ben Matulino, 20 Pita Godinet
The Tigers were unaffected by the Origin clash and have had a smooth build-up. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak has been omitted on game day with Kevin Naiqama promoted from the reserves to the wing. Josh Reynolds will start for the first time as a Wests Tiger and captain the team with Benji Marshall succumbing to a calf injury. Tim Grant and Josh Aloiai have been elevated to the starting side with prop Ben Matulino and second-rower Michael Chee Kam back on the bench. Pita Godinet has been brought up from the reserves to the interchange. Tyson Gamble and Robbie Rochow were cut from the initial squad on Saturday afternoon.
Head-to-head: Played 29; Wests Tigers 17 wins, Sharks 11 wins, 1 draw
Matches at venue: Played 14; Wests Tigers 8 wins, Sharks 5 wins, 1 draw
2017 results: Sharks won 22-16 at Leichhardt Oval in round 9; Sharks won 24-22 at Southern Cross Group Stadium in round 15
Points per game: Sharks 19.5; Wests Tigers 15.5
Points conceded per game: Sharks 17.8; Wests Tigers 14.8
Televised: Live on Fox League
Steve Turner's prediction: The Sharks were flat last weekend and ran into a good team, while the Tigers were unlucky in their two-point loss to the Roosters. Cronulla will be looking to their big guns and senior players to get them back on track this week, while the energy Josh Reynolds brings from the bench has been impressive for the Tigers over the past fortnight.
Tip: Sharks by 6