Ivan Cleary and his Wests Tigers will be hosting the defending premiers, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks on Saturday night at Leichhardt Oval for what will be a fantastic match, and a must-win for both sides.

Last Time Out

The Wests Tigers had a close call last Sunday afternoon when they took on the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, winning by only six points at ANZ Stadium. The Tigers ultimately out-played their opposition, proving Ivan Cleary’s successful beginning as head coach of the team. They started strong, and finished just as strong. David Nofoaluma scored the opening try, followed by a Mitchell Moses conversion. The Bulldogs retaliated soon after, and it was then that we had a football game on our hands. While the Tigers only scored two tries, the Bulldogs conceded too many penalties, and Moses took three shots at goal which added to their total of 18 points. The team overall had a solid performance, having a 78% completion rate, making only nine errors and conceding a mere five penalties. Despite all of the off field drama with player movements and new coaching staff, the Tigers have put together a few solid performances, and this was one of them. Cleary and his Tigers side will be looking to start/continue a winning run when they take on the Sharks on Saturday.

The Cronulla Sharks are struggling to make their home ground, Southern Cross Group Stadium a fortress, winning only one from four games played in front of their home crowd. They hosted the Titans on Saturday night, who had Jarryd Hayne back for the match. While they only lost the match in the last few minutes after a lost ball from the home side, the Sharks were disappointed in their efforts early on, calling it an “ordinary loss” in front of their fans. Shane Flanagan and Paul Gallen said that it was as a result of not having any respect for the football, turning it over too many times, too early in the match. Defensively they weren’t themselves, and while their attack wasn’t awful, it has been better, given how effective their spine is. The Titans built pressure on them, which left them scrambling and was a factor in the end result of the match. They lost Jayson Bukuya during the match, which will be a big loss for them. Flanagan is demanding an attitude change from his side, as opposed to a change in any game plans or the way they play.

Key Battle

Fullbacks Valentine Holmes and James Tedesco have been instrumental for their teams this season, and will undoubtedly be one of the best match ups of this match. Both have had good starts to the season, and surely will be an important part to the success of their side in this match and during the rest of the season. Five-eighths James Maloney and Mitchell Moses will also be strong influencers in the match, with reliance on their kicking game for conversions and fifth-tackle options. Both Maloney and Moses have also had strong openings to the season, and despite the controversy around Moses, he has been instrumental for his Tigers’ side. Maloney has also been important to the Sharks this season as far as kicking and his on-field communication.

Prediction

It will be one of the best matches of the rounds, and the result could ultimately go either way. The match ups between the sides will be interesting. Ivan Cleary has been successful so far as coach of the Tigers, and a win at Leichhardt will be important to the side. However, the Sharks have also been successful this season, with an undefeated run away from home so far this season. Sharks by 8.

Squads

Wests Tigers

1. James Tedesco 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Michael Chee-Kam 4. Moses Suli 5. Kevin Naiqama 6. Mitchell Moses 7. Luke Brooks 8. Aaron Woods 9. Matt McIlwrick 10. Ava Seumanufagai 11. Joel Edwards 12. Chris Lawrence 13. Elijah Taylor 14. Tim Grant 15. Sauaso Sue 16. Josh Aloiai 17. Jacob Liddle 18. JJ Felise 19. Kyle Lovett 20. Justin Hunt 21. Jack Littlejohn

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

1. Valentine Holmes 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Jack Bird 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Gerard Beale 6. James Maloney 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen 14. Kurt Capewell 15. Chris Heighington 16. Jeremy Latimore 17. Joseph Paulo 18. Tony Williams 19. Sam Tagataese 20. Edrick Lee 21. Fa’amanu Brown