Here’s a look at the predictions for week 2 of the National Rugby League finals series.
Cronulla Sharks vs Penrith Panthers (Fri 7:40pm AEST, Allianz)
Last Five: Sharks 5 wins, Panthers 0 wins
This clash is looking to be all a reflection of who got more in the Maloney v Moylan trade last season. The winner will go on to take on Melbourne in a preliminary final.
Maloney has produced some stellar performances for the both the Panthers and NSW during 2018, taking control of a team that has gone through plenty of highs and lows. This is despite him being the worst defensive player in the entire league – he will have to go far to fix this before this game. Having him in this squad has allowed the young halfback Nathan Cleary the opportunity to focus on his own game and get out to open space.
The Sharks will be without talented forward Wade Graham after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in his side’s loss to the Roosters. Val Holmes continues to be the form player of the competition and will be looking to kick it up a gear.
Key match-up: Reagan Campbell-Gillard v Andrew Fifita. Whoever wins the battle between the representative stars will go a long way towards earning their side a trip to week three of the finals.
For the Sharks to win: Turning opportunities into points and eliminating the mistakes that they made in their game with the Roosters.
For the Panthers to win: The Panthers find a way to come back from deficits in great finishers but they cannot get away with that this weekend. They must make the first punch here to have any chance of taking the win.
Sharks Stat Attack: Fullback Valentine Holmes is in career-best form, with 21 tries and 25 line breaks for the season. Teammate Andrew Fifita has the most offloads (72).
Panthers Stat Attack: This squad has missed a massive 942 tackles this season and must fix this – Maloney himself has missed 154 tackles.
PREDICTION: Panthers to win here by 1-2pts