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Preview: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks vs New Zealand Warriors

One team’s winning streak will come to an end on Saturday as the Cronulla Sharks look to maintain top spot on the ladder and record their 11th consecutive victory while the Warriors will look to continue their good form and win their 4th game in a row.

Last Time Out

Before their 2nd bye of the year, the Sharks took on the Cowboys in Round 14 in an intense, low-scoring affair which saw them prevail 13-10 winners and notch up their 10th consecutive win. It was a contest that reflected their positions at the top of the ladder with only one try apiece scored and penalty goals with a field goal to James Maloney and a late penalty goal being the difference. The Sharks only scored one try and it was against the run of play at that courtesy of a Valentine Holmes intercept but like the Warriors it was the only try they needed.

The Warriors faced an energized, resilient Roosters side but after an injury to Thomas Leuluai forced a drastic backline change the Warriors dug in and defended their way to victory. In what was an unusually conservative approach from the most unpredictable team in the NRL, penalty goals and ball control seemed to be the name of the Warriors game. It was a shift in game plan that worked to great success as despite scoring less tries than their opposition, they grinded their way to a narrow 12-10 victory. They’ll need all of their famous attacking flair but also more of the effort they showed in defence against the Roosters if they want to put an end to Cronulla’s winning streak.

Key Battle

The ability of the Sharks to shut down Shaun Johnson. Despite scoring the Warriors only try against the Roosters, Johnson actually had one of his poorer games of the year. Hampered by a quad injury he rarely took on the line and was unable to kick goals. However in saying that, the phrase ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ was realized as the one time he did run the ball he scored and the Sharks need to be wary of what that man can produce out of nowhere. They need only look to their game against the Warriors last year at Shark Park to know what man is capable of, where a last minute try from Johnson won his team the game after stepping past half the Sharks team on his way to the tryline.

If the Sharks forwards get over the top of the Warriors forwards and Maloney/Townsend apply the pressure and stop the Warriors from gaining possession then they can stop Johnson from producing any magic.

Prediction

If the good Warriors side shows up then this has high potential to be the match of the week. Both teams play an exciting brand of attacking footy and I’d expect to see a lot of points scored in this game. The Sharks are in absolute dynamite form and while I expect the Warriors to show up and make it a close contest I think the Sharks have a stronger defensive resolve and will force the Warriors into making a few errors which will cost them. Sharks by 6+

Squads

Cronulla Sharks
1 Ben Barba
2 Sosaia Feki
3 Jack Bird
4 Gerard Beale
5 Valentine Holmes
6 James Maloney
7 Chad Townsend
8 Andrew Fifita
9 Michael Ennis
10 Sam Tagataese
11 Luke Lewis
12 Wade Graham
13 Paul Gallen ©
Interchange:
14 Ricky Leutele
15 Chris Heighington
16 Matt Prior
17 Jayson Bukuya
18 Joseph Paulo

New Zealand Warriors
1 Tuimoala Lolohea
2 David Fusitu’a
3 Blake Ayshford
4 Solomone Kata
5 Ken Maumalo
6 Thomas Leuluai
7 Shaun Johnson
8 Jacob Lillyman
9 Issac Luke
10 Albert Vete
11 Bodene Thompson
12 Ryan Hoffman ©
13 Simon Mannering
Interchange:
14 Nathaniel Roache
15 Sam Lisone
16 Ben Matulino
17 Charlie Gubb
18 Ata Hingano
20 Toafofoa Sipley

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