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NRL Rd 20: Cronulla Sharks vs Penrith Panthers

Source: Sharks website

Source: Sharks website

After suffering heavy losses last weekend, both Cronulla and Penrith will be looking for redemption in their clash at Remondis Stadium this Sunday in what could be a finals-like game with a lot on the line.

The Sharks being scoreless last Saturday night was contributed to the Sydney Roosters first twenty minutes where they scored four tries in racking up forty points in victory.  Also the fact the Roosters are one of the best defensive sides in the game doesn’t make for good reading.  You could argue that missing the likes of Wade Graham, Luke Lewis, Beau Ryan and captain Paul Gallen isn’t helping the Sharks cause, who are placed seventh on the NRL ladder.  With the exception of Graham and Ryan, all players are expected back next week when they travel to Auckland and face the dangerous New Zealand Warriors.  The Sharks will feel they head into this game as favourites with only one loss at home in season 2013 being against St George-Illawarra.

It’s been another disrupted week off field for the Sharks with the ASADA enquiry continuing to make news headlines.  Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen has pleaded for more support to the dozens of NRL players preparing for interviews with ASADA investigators, warning livelihoods and well-being are at stake.  In good news Bryce Gibbs has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the agency.

Heavy responsibility lays with Todd Carney to get the team moving in the right direction.  Panther fans are very aware of how safe Mick Gordon is at the back and how he can get involved in attacking raids.  That too goes for Wade Graham who has to be respected for the aggression and determination he takes into each game he plays.  If the Sharks are to go on and win this game you’d expect it would be a hard fought victory.  In recent years the back end of the season has been unkind with the Sharks form declining with around eight regular season matches to play.

As for the Panthers they suffered a more than disappointing home loss to Newcastle Knights last Sunday.  They never looked in control of the game and the old heads in Gower, Buderus and Mason guided the Knights to a comfortable victory.  Like the Sharks, injuries at Penrith have been well documented.  In form Nigel Plum’s absence hurt last weekend with the forwards unable to wear out their opposition.  In a hopeful attempt to keep their finals hopes alive, Ivan Cleary has selected Sika Manu returning from injury and Adam Docker has been named despite a fractured cheekbone following the controversial incident with Kade Snowden’s lifting knees.

Manu, Clint Newton and Kevin Kingston need to stand up this week and guide around the Panthers.  Penrith certainly have the attacking weapons to win this game with James Roberts, Dean Whare, Dave Simmons and Matt Moylan potential match winners.  But for the backs to get the chance to post points it will come down to the Panthers domination in the forwards that will determine whether they keep in touch with the eight.  The Panthers have won three of their last five at Cronulla with two of those wins ending up with a lone point separating the two teams.

With both teams desperate for victory this game is far from decided.  But you get the feeling that the Sharks have the wobbles and could drop this game at home.  Paul Gallen is a big part of the Sharks and his leadership along with big game experience will be missed against a Panthers team with Sika Manu and Clint Newton used to playing season-defining games.


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