The West Tigers will look to get themselves back in the winners circle on Saturday evening when they host the Cronulla Sharks at Campbelltown Stadium.
Both teams have a two from four record so far in season 2016 and sit just outside the eight. For extra motivation, the winner of the round five clash is likely to find themselves in the top half of the ladder at the conclusion of the round.
LAST TIME OUT
The Tigers attack based style of play allowed Wests to bag themselves two wins to start the season, however they have followed that up with two losses, most recently a scoreless defeat to the Parramatta Eels on Easter Monday. Coach Jason Taylor said he wasn’t impressed with their attacking nature, and wanted to add some steel in their defence. It seems to have switched their gear completely, only letting the Eels score 8 points, but not being able to create a point for themselves.
The Sharks have found themselves on a bit of a roller-coaster this season, wining two of four in a LWLW pattern. Both victories have come at home, so they will be keen to get the travelling monkey off their back and claim their first points on the road this week.
The last time the two teams met was at Shark Park in round 24 of the 2015 season, where the Cronulla side claimed a convincing 40-18 victory over Wests.
Both sides have electric fullbacks. For the Tigers, James Tedesco has been in outstanding touch, lighting up the field on a number of occasions, including a try to claim the cookies over the Warriors in round 1. His form has already sparked debate on whether he should be thrown in to the custodian role for NSW come Origin time.
For the Cronulla outfit, Ben Barba is just about back to his best, highlighted by his try last week against the Storm in which he backed himself to beat Cameron Munster’s diving tackle attempt to plant the ball down for a sizzling four pointer. Barba has also shown his ability in defence, saving a couple of sure tries for Melbourne by holding up bigger men over the try line.
Both sides will be looking for more of the same this week from their respective number ones.
Paul Gallen is set to return for Cronulla this week, although coach Shane Flanagan joked the side doesn’t need him. Gallen’s presence in the team provides a lift, and he will help Fifita in making good metres up the middle of the field. What Gallen needs to be cautious of is overplaying his hand. While he is able to tuck the ball under his arm and lead the team forward, he has a habit of trying to play make as well, and he will need to smother this instinct and leave that to the likes of Maloney, Ennis and Townsend, who have been developing their combinations effectively.
The man to halt Gallen’s charge is Tiger’s lock Sauaso Sue. Sue made an impressive 151m against the Eels last start, as well as 31 tackles, a work rate he will look to further improve on to compete with Gallen’s regular stats. Facing up against the Blue’s captain is a surely a daunting task for the young lock, however, playing the best often brings out the best, and if he maintains fire against Gallen, Sue could prove a tough customer to deal with.
This game features to vastly different playing styles, with the attack oriented Tigers facing off against the defensive Sharks. Cronulla have looked to correct their offensive bow this year, but are yet to click in to gear, while the opposite is the case for the Tigers, who look to sure up their defence.
Cronulla look the stronger side, and although they are still struggling to put on points, should be able to outscore their opponents based around their defence. The Sharks are statistically the second best defensive side in the competition and that should be key figure that gets them their first away win of 2016.
Cronulla by 12
Tigers: 1 James Tedesco 2 David Nofoaluma 3 Tim Simona 4 Kevin Naiqama 5 Jordan Rankin 6 Mitchell Moses 7 Luke Brooks 8 Aaron Woods 9 Robbie Farah 10 Tim Grant 11 Christopher Lawrence 12 Dene Halatau 13 Jesse Sue Interchange: 14 Avagalu Seumanufagai 15 Kyle Lovett 16 Joshua Aloiai 17 Manaia Cherrington 18 Jack Buchanan
Sharks: 1 Ben Barba 2 Sosaia Feki 3 Jack Bird 4 Ricky Leutele 5 Valentine Holmes 6 James Maloney 7 Chad Townsend 8 Andrew Fifita 9 Michael Ennis 10 Sam Tagataese 11 Luke Lewis 12 Wade Graham 13 Paul Gallen Interchange: 14 Jayson Bukuya 15 Chris Heighington 16 Matt Prior 17 Joseph Paulo
Referees: Adam Devcich, Chris James