Preview: Newcastle Knights v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

In the first game of the final Sunday in the regular season, the Knights will play their final match before 2018 at home against the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, who are now no longer in contention for a top four position on the NRL ladder.

Last Time Out

The Newcastle Knights were hosted by the Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium last Friday night, where they were beaten by eighteen points, which had kept the Raiders alive, however they have now missed the top eight all together. Both sides put up a fight, however in the end it was the Raiders who ran away with it, and made the margin between the sides quite significant. The Knights have improved over the last month and a half of the season, and their effort at GIO Stadium was no different. They completed at 73% and scored five tries, keeping themselves in the contest for the match, not giving Canberra many chances to completely run away with the match and win by more than eighteen. The penalty count broke the momentum at some stages, with twenty-three being conceded by both teams combined. The Knights have proven their capabilities as a team, however just a little too late in the season. Can they farewell their fans in style on Sunday afternoon before returning in 2018?

The Cronulla Sharks haven’t had the best of seasons, considering what they managed to do last year; win their first ever premiership. They played their final home game for the 2017 season at Southern Cross Group Stadium in front of over 17,000 fans, only for them to lose to the Sydney Roosters after a penalty was given away in the final seconds. The penalty was awarded in prime position for the visiting Roosters to take a shot at two points to win the match, which they did. While the Sharks were the far superior side, completing at 80% compared to the Roosters’ 65%, their execution was poor and they were unable to score many tries that would have allowed them to gain total control of the match and win in front of a home crowd. It was a disappointing effort from the Sharks side, who could have won themselves a place in the top four if they had have won the match. When given an opportunity to score a try or gain momentum, they didn’t take it, which led to a tight game, and a disappointing end to it. The game against the Knights is a must for them to win, can they pull it off?

Key Battle

The battle of the fullbacks; Ross versus Holmes. Both these players have had solid seasons, and will be looking to finish their seasons well, particularly the Knights who are playing their final game in 2017. Fullback is one of the most important positions on the field, and both Nathan Ross and Valentine Holmes are capable players who can make or break their side, and could be an impacting factor on the outcome of the match on Sunday afternoon. They way in which these two play will be influential on the way in which their teams perform; hopefully well.

Prediction

It should be a tight game, with both sides wanting to win, despite it being for different reasons. The Knights will want to finish on a high note, while the Sharks will want confidence heading into the finals next weekend. The Knights have been improving significantly and proving their strengths as a side, while the Sharks have been fantastic on the road this season, which will enhance the entertainment factor in the match. Sharks by 8.

SQUADS

Newcastle Knights

1. Nathan Ross 2. Ken Sio 3. Dane Gagai 4. Peter Mata’utia 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Jack Cogger 7. Trent Hodkinson 8. Jacob Saifiti 9. Danny Levi 10. Josh King 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Jamie Buhrer 13. Mitchell Barnett 14. Joe Wardle 15. Tyrone Amey 16. Sam Stone 17. Mickey Paea 18. Brendan Elliot 19. Pasami Saulo

Cronulla Sharks

1. Valentine Holmes 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Kurt Capewell 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. Jeremy Latimore 17. James Segeyaro 18. Josephy Paulo 19. Jesse Ramien