Preview: Cronulla Sharks v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Both the Sharks and the Bulldogs will be down in numbers when they battle it out at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Saturday night, just days before the opening match of the State of Origin Series for the 2017 season.

Last Time Out

The Sharks opened the round last week when they hosted the Cowboys at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Thursday night. After a painful first half, the Sharks came back out from the tunnels and scored eighteen unanswered points in the space of seventeen minutes, leaving the opposition baffled, and at a loss. Andrew Fifita was the stand out for the side during the match, making three offloads, one line break and one try assist. He was brilliant in both attack and defence, and ran 175 metres. The poor start let them down, and could have won by more if they had begun the match with as much enthusiasm as they had when they played the second half. Nevertheless, despite it being an ugly win, it was a gutsy effort from the defending Premiers that will also be a wake up call for when they face the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs also scored eighteen points last weekend, however this wasn’t enough when they played the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium last Sunday afternoon. Similar to the Sharks, the Bulldogs had a poor opening half, allowing the Roosters to score twenty points. Though they came back and gave their opposition a scare, the Bulldogs didn’t have the start they needed to get the result that they wanted. This loss pushed them out of the top eight, with the Raiders replacing them based on for and against points. They had a solid completion rate that wasn’t far off of that of the Roosters, and had a strong finish despite falling just short. Their attack and defence was commendable, more so in the second half, however still have a lot to work on in preparation to take on the Sharks on Saturday night.

Key Battle

Both sides as a collective will need to step up for Saturday night’s clash, especially considering the players that both the Bulldogs and the Sharks are missing. The performance of the stand ins for the Origin stars will need to prove themselves worthy of that spot, working with the team dynamic in their fight to win and get the two competition points over their opposition. It should be an interesting match that will provide insight into whether or not the Origin stars from the sides will be missed, and will test the Sharks’ and the Bulldogs’ adaptability.

Prediction

Considering both sides have important players out, it will be a test of strength, and will most likely be won through the forwards. It will be a close game, but due to it being a Sharks’ home game, it’s hard to go past them; despite having a poor start to the competition at home, they have played well throughout the last few weeks. Similarly, the exclusion of Valentine Holmes from the Maroons side will be a strong boost for the Cronulla side. Sharks by 4.

Squads

Cronulla Sharks

1. Valentine Holmes 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Gerard Beale 4. Ricky Leutele 5. Edrick Lee 6. Fa’amanu Brown 7. Chad Townsend 8. Chris Heighington 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Luke Lewis 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Paul Gallen 14. Jayson Bukuya 15. Sam Tagataese 16. Jeremy Latimore 17. Joseph Paulo 18. Kurt Dillon 19. Daniel Mortimer 20. Jesse Ramien 21. Briton Nikora

Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs

1. William Hopoate 2. Marcelo Montoya 3. Josh Morris 4. Brenko Lee 5. Kerrod Holland 6. Matt Frawley 7. Moses Mbye 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. James Graham 11. Greg Eastwood 12. Adam Elliot 13. Danny Fualalo 14. Sam Kasiano 15. Asipeli Fine 16. Francis Tualau 17. Craig Garvey 19. Andy Saunders 20. Reimis Smith 21. Renouf Toomaga 23. Brad Abbey.