Sharks v Sea Eagles: Dugan and Graham return; Taupau back
This match can't come quick enough for the Sea Eagles. After a humiliating loss to the Roosters in round 19, the way Manly lost to Penrith last weekend may have been even harder to take.
The week leading up to their away trip to Cronulla will have seemed like a year. How they perform in their final five matches of 2018 will tell us a lot about the club.
The Sharks, on the other hand, have the finals to prepare for. They came close to beating Brisbane in their last start, and need two points to stay in the race for the top four.
If they want to make a run at the title they need to find their best and stick to it. The Sharks could realistically finish anywhere between third and eighth. A loss against Manly would just about end their top-four aspirations.
Match: Sharks vs Sea Eagles
Round 21 -
Venue: Southern Cross Group Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Key match-up: Valentine Holmes v Tom Trbojevic. For as long as this pair are gracing the fields of the NRL, the future of the No.1 jersey is in good hands. While Trbojevic has struggled for consistency at times, his best days are a treat to watch. Both are genuine match-winners.
For the Sharks to win: Opportunities need to be turned into points. Refereeing issues aside, the Sharks had some great chances to score a match-winning try against Brisbane last weekend but fell short. If they can turn field position into points against Manly, they'll be feeling better about themselves when the stakes are raised in the finals.
For the Sea Eagles to win: Manly players are learning the hard way that once you drop your bundle in the NRL you are finished. If Trent Barrett is able to get his team to focus and execute for the full 80 minutes, anything is possible.
Sharks stat attack: Valentine Holmes' season is progressing superbly. Not only is he tied with South Sydney's Robert Jennings as the NRL's leading try scorer (with 17) he is also joint leader in line breaks category.
Sea Eagles stat attack: Manly have seven fewer wins than Cronulla but have scored more points (379 to 374) than Shane Flanagan's men. The problem lies in the fact they have conceded 142 more. Only Newcastle have conceded more points than the Sea Eagles.
And another thing: In Andrew Fifita and Martin Taupau, this game contains two of toughest players in the NRL. When you add the likes of Paul Gallen, Jake Trbojevic and Matt Prior into the mix, the middle third of the field will be no place for the faint-hearted.
Fullback for Sharks is number 1 Valentine HolmesFullback for Sea Eagles is number 1 Tom Trbojevic
Winger for Sharks is number 18 Josh DuganWinger for Sea Eagles is number 2 Jorge Taufua
Centre for Sharks is number 3 Jesse RamienCentre for Sea Eagles is number 3 Moses Suli
Centre for Sharks is number 4 Ricky LeuteleCentre for Sea Eagles is number 4 Brian Kelly
Winger for Sharks is number 5 Sione KatoaWinger for Sea Eagles is number 5 Brad Parker
Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Matt MoylanFive-Eighth for Sea Eagles is number 6 Dylan Walker
Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Sea Eagles is number 7 Daly Cherry-Evans
Prop for Sharks is number 8 Andrew FifitaProp for Sea Eagles is number 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Jayden BraileyHooker for Sea Eagles is number 9 Manase Fainu
Prop for Sharks is number 10 Matt PriorProp for Sea Eagles is number 10 Martin Taupau
2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Luke Lewis2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 11 Joel Thompson
2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 12 Shaun Lane
Lock for Sharks is number 13 Paul GallenLock for Sea Eagles is number 13 Jake Trbojevic
Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Scott SorensenInterchange for Sea Eagles is number 14 Trent Hodkinson
Interchange for Sharks is number 15 James SegeyaroInterchange for Sea Eagles is number 15 Kelepi Tanginoa
Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Aaron WoodsInterchange for Sea Eagles is number 17 Taniela Paseka
Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Jayson BukuyaInterchange for Sea Eagles is number 20 Jack Gosiewski
Sharks: The Sharks are virtually at full strength, with Wade Graham (groin) returning in the back row and Josh Dugan elevated from the reserves to a starting wing spot in his return from a long injury layoff. Sosaia Feki was the unlucky man to be replaced, while Scott Sorensen drops to the bench. Reserve Joseph Paulo was cut an hour before kick-off.
Sea Eagles: Manly coach Trent Barrett has made one late change, moving Jack Gosiewski from the reserves to the bench in place of Frank Winterstein. Prop Martin Taupau returns to the starting side with Taniela Paseka back to the bench. Matt Wright was dropped an hour out from kick-off.
Head-to-head: Played 89; Sea Eagles 63 wins, Sharks 24 wins, 2 draws
Previous result: Sea Eagles won 35-18 at Southern Cross Group Stadium in round 16, 2017
Points per game: Sharks 19.7; Sea Eagles 19.9
Points conceded per game: Sharks 17.4; Sea Eagles 24.8
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Petero Civoniceva's prediction: I can't go past the Sharks. They've still got a lot of class in that team and have plenty to play for with a top four spot still within reach. They've got so much experience and I rate them as a good chance of making some noise in the finals. The Sea Eagles have been mostly disappointing over the last few weeks and lost a game they really shouldn't have against Penrith.
Tip: Sharks by 14