Cronulla Sharks head north to clash with the Brisbane Broncos in an all-important top 8 match at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Brisbane bounced back against the Panthers at home after losing to the Warriors heavily the round before. The Broncos jumped out of the gates with two quick tries in the opening 6 minutes, the trend continued with the home side smashing the visitors 32-0 before the half. After the break, the Penrith side gained more possession and found points but that first half blitz was all too much to come back from with Broncos cruising to 50-18.
Cronulla in controversial circumstances was able to hold out a Raiders team still with finals hopes in sight. The Sharks looked in red-hot form for the opening half leading Canberra 22-6 with little chance of coming back. Raiders found tries through Joey Leiliua and Jordan Rapana to come within four points with minutes left, but painful penalties to the visitors had Sharks win 28-24.
The home side has named the same team as last week but Matthew Lodge starts in the run-on 13, with Joe Ofahengaue returning to the bench. Jamayne Isaako also keeps the fullback role with Darius Boyd in the centres.
A long awaited return for retiring Luke Lewis in the second row, having Scott Sorensen move to the bench and Joseph Paulo into the reserves.
This mouth-watering battle in Brisbane has the Cronulla Sharks venture to a tough ground for them over the years to play against the Broncos, they were the last side to beat them before their current three-game winning streak. Sharks have only ever won four games out of twelve at Suncorp. Looking strong to finish the year for the Cronulla side and top-four aspirations this will have great importance to their placings come to the end of the regular season. Broncos have a big task stopping the momentum of the visitors and getting the win at all costs will be paramount for the Brisbane side who currently sit 7th with an array of away games coming in the next month.
A key matchup to look forward to in this game is through the five-eighths, Matt Moylan in his first season at Cronulla started slow but is now one of the best this season potentially helping his team reach a top-four finish, while newly re-signed million dollar man Anthony Milford is under pressure to keep the Broncos side from slipping out of the top 8 with just a few weeks left.
Sharks five-eighth Matt Moylan began his time at Cronulla switching from fullback to his current role in the team, since the stability in the lineup they have been able to forge 10 wins after losing their first four rounds. Moylan becoming more at home with his role in a new side has flourished in the past rounds becoming a huge part of their attack and structure with the ball. Coming up against a Broncos side wanting to stitch wins together to stay alive in the top 8, Moylan will need to be on his game, feeding the ball at the right moment to his edges and getting plays right in tandem with his halfback Chad Townsend. Under the radar, Matt has produced 14 try assists and line break assists while averaging 80 run metres. Not only has he picked his moments when to give the pass but knowing when to run while supporting his forwards through the middle all these skills will need to be perfect come Thursday night against Brisbane.
Anthony Milford is down on form this season so far with the chief playmaker not recording the same quality of the past few seasons at the club. The winning record has followed the same trend since Milford has become a Bronco but the improvement this year by the 24 year-old has been his kicking game, he’s credited Alfie Langer for helping him to target all forms of kicking within the match to be that dominant half Brisbane desperately need. The stats show a massive increase of emphasis on kicking by the playmaker who has averaged 341 kick metres, forced 13 line dropouts with the addition to 85 average run metres. Milford to post back-to-back wins for his side at home needs to bring this precision kicking both long and short to take over the match for Broncos, capitalising on their possession with the ball so that the Sharks don’t have the chances they’ve had in many meetings this year coming away with a victory.
Sharks prop forward Matt Prior will play his 100th game for the club.
Broncos: 1 Jamayne Isaako, 2 Corey Oates, 3 James Roberts, 4 Darius Boyd (c), 5 Jordan Kahu, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Matthew Lodge, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Sam Thaiday, 11 Alex Glenn, 12 Tevita Pangai jnr,13 Josh McGuire
Interchange: 14 Kotoni Stags, 15 Joe Ofahengaue, 16 Korbin Sims, 17 David Fifita
Sharks: 1 Valentine Holmes, 2 Sione Katoa, 3 Jesse Ramien, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Edrick Lee, 6 Matt Moylan, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Wade Graham (c), 13 Paul Gallen (c)
Interchange: 14 Scott Sorensen, 15 James Segeyaro, 16 Aaron Woods, 17 Jayson Bukuya
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday 26th July
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Kick-off: 7:50 pm
Referee: Grant Atkins
WHO WILL WIN?
This match has all the makings of a classic game of rugby league, Sharks are looking for another win to potentially place them in the top 4 while the Broncos are out to notch another home victory to stay well amongst teams running into finals. Having such a poor record at Suncorp Stadium the Cronulla team have a great side to get that fifth win ever at the ground. Broncos have been hot and cold in 2018 and if it’s going to be their year to win the competition their run leading up to finals needs to start now or they will potentially fall out altogether. Both outfits forward packs are something to marvel at, with arguably the most experienced against the youthful explosiveness of the Brisbane teams forwards they will no doubt have a comprehensive battle in the middle to lead their sides. Expect fireworks in the forwards but eventually cancel each other out leaving it to the halves to make or break their chances, the Sharks are on a great three-game winning streak and have the experience to upset however coming off such a high the Broncos will be wanting to go on a streak themselves doing so at home. Prediction: Broncos by 6