Cronulla Sharks will host the North Queensland Cowboys at Allianz Stadium, on Friday night in the first Prelim Final of the season.
LAST TIME OUT
The Cronulla Sharks have had a week off after defeating the Canberra Raiders in the first week of finals by two points for the first time since 2008. A penalty goal to the Sharks in the 75th minute secured the Sharks the win, to have a week off and successfully gain a spot in prelim final.
With less completion rates than the Raiders and a 50/50 possession rate, the Sharks were able to pull off the win after Elliot Whitehead put a dangerous tackle on Sharks fullback Ben Barba.
The North Queensland Cowboys defeated the Broncos in Townsville in a 2015 grand final rematch. The fast pace and intense match could’ve easily gone either way but Cowboys have Johnathan Thurston (JT) to thank defeating the Broncos by 6 points after JT set up Michael Morgan for a try in extra time, in the 84th minute.
The determination shown by Cowboys youngsters Coen Hess and Kayln Ponga also assisted in the win as they gave it 110%. The youngsters to come and play finals as well as they did with the pressure applied, they did an exceptional job. Coen Hess scored a try in the 18th minute to assist his side with Kalyn Ponga making a linebreak early on to set the team up. Ponga will be replaced by Linnett in the centres for this prelim game.
After Lachlan Coote had a shocking game after making a couple of errors, the Cowboys definitely looked to be in trouble. He will be looking to improve for next week as he can not afford to make any errors in this prelim final.
Justin O’Neill was one of the best on the field for the Cowboys and had a terrific game after making two line-breaks in the 56th minute and 61st minute and rewarded both times by scoring both tries, adding on 8 points in the space of 5 minutes.
KEY MATCH UPS
There will be two key match up in this game will be between centres Jack Bird (Sharks) and Justin O’Neill (Cowboys). And between the lock’s Paul Gallen (Sharks) and Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys).
Both centres usually have a huge impact within the game and when they perform their side lift to their standards.
Jack Bird will have his captain back to assist him but Bird will be looking to make a couple of line-breaks and set his team up for the tries. Justin O’Neill will be looking to assist his side by scoring two tries again for his team and helping out by making line-breaks to help his team cross the line and advance to the 2016 grand final.
Another key match up is between the lock’s Paul Gallen (Sharks) and Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys). Paul Gallen returns from a back injury and will hope to lead from the front but however Jason Taumalolo played a full 90 minutes in Townsville and went in to beast mode against the Broncos. Taumalolo had a huge influence on the Cowboys and will be looking to continue his terrific form in this prelim.
With Sharks Captain Paul Gallen returning to the field after a back injury, the Sharks will be determined to get the job done in front of a home crowd. The Sharks will have a full strength team and will have faith to make their first super league grand final since 1997.
With North Queensland Cowboy’s form at the moment with playmaker, Johnathan Thurston can produce any piece of play he puts his mind to, the Cowboys always manage to get the job done. 90 minutes in Townsville’s’ humidity is a lot to ask and Cowboys will probably find the cooler conditions a little bit easier.
Cowboys by 10.
Cronulla 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. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen Interchange: 14. Gerard Beale 15. Chris Heighington 16. Kurt Capewell 17. Jayson Bukuya 18. Sam Tagataese
North Queensland Cowboys: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Javid Bowen 6. Michael Morgan 7. Johnathan Thurston 8. Matthew Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. James Tamou 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo Interchange: 14. Rory Kostjasyn 15. John Asiata 16. Scott Bolton 17. Ben Hannant
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