Preview: Cronulla Sharks v Melbourne Storm

It’s the second match these two sides have played together this season, and this time it’s Cronulla’s turn to host. The Sharks and the Storm will battle at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Thursday night to kick off round fourteen of the NRL Telstra Premiership season for 2017.

Last Time Out

The Cronulla Sharks had a bye during round thirteen, however the week prior they had a close call against the Bulldogs at home, winning by a single point. Paul Gallen was in club colours during the Origin period for the first time in a while, and put on an inspiring performance which led the Sharks to victory in the dying minutes of the match. Both sides had lost a few players due to the Origin game being played the Wednesday following, which had a strong effect on the teams, and also challenged their adaptability with key players missing. The Sharks’ fullback Valentine Holmes also had a strong game following his origin snub from Kevin Walters and the QRL. Names that they were missing have a huge impact each week, and were undoubtedly missed, though their replacements were up to the challenge. It was a gutsy win from the Sharks, with plenty of improvement to come if they hope to win against the Storm on Thursday night.

The Melbourne Storm had a field day when they hosted the Newcastle Knights at AAMI Park to open round thirteen on Friday night. It was a quick start for the Storm, with winger Suliasi Vunivalu scoring the first points of the night in just the second minute of the match. The momentum increased significantly, leaving the Knights behind, scoring just two tries in the match. The Storm were dominant in possession due to their higher completion rate, making nine errors. They conceded only four penalties, and were significantly dominant in all aspects of attack, making seven line breaks compared to Newcastle’s one. Billy Slater starred and played a role of paramount importance to the success of the side, scoring two tries, with plenty of tackle breaks and assists which contributed plenty to the victory of the Melbourne Storm.

Key Battle

Fullbacks Billy Slater and Valentine Holmes. Both players have had exceptional matches the last few weeks, being determined to ‘show off’ after they were astonishingly left out of Kevin Walters’ Queensland side for game one of the series. They play pivotal roles in their teams in both attack and defence, and will have a strong influence on Thursday night’s match.

Cameron Munster and James Maloney; the five eighths, and Cooper Cronk and Chad Townsend; the halfbacks will also play an important role in the outcome of the match on Thursday night. These combinations are fantastic and work well together, and will be crucial in how the structured play of both the Sharks and the Storm.

Prediction

Given the circumstances, it is a hard match to pick, and will undoubtedly be a close match; similar to the last two that these sides have played (inclusive of the NRL 2016 Grand Final). The Storm are consistently dominant and will play the same structured form of football that works for them week in, week out. The Sharks have the home ground advantage, and have been better in coming back in their matches they have played over the last few weeks, which will make it an interesting match to watch. Sharks by 2.

Squads

Cronulla 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. Jayson Bukuya 15. Chris Heighington 16. Sam Tagataese 17. Joseph Paulo 18. Jeremy Latimore 19. Kurt Capewell 20. Fa’amanu Brown 21. James Segeyaro

Melbourne Storm

1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Will Chambers 4. Cheyse Blair 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Jordan McLean 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finucane 14. Slade Griffin 15. Tim Glasby 16. Kenny Bromwich 17. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 18. Young Tonumaipea 19. Dean Britt 20. Jeremy Hawkins 21. Ryley Jacks