Mitch Dransfield previews the last match of round 10 with Cronulla Sharks taking on the Manly Sea Eagles at PointsBet Stadium on Sunday.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Cronulla in their last outing was able to withstand a Titans side desperate for a win. The Sharks with many players out of their lineup were able to draw back an 18-10 lead by Gold Coast at half time to win 26-18 in the opening match for the Magic round.
Manly Sea Eagles
Manly was tasked with taking on the actual home side at the Magic round at Suncorp in the Brisbane Broncos. The sides were both evenly matched with multiple outs for each team however the quality of players injured for Sea Eagles showed its head having the Broncos come away with a late flurry of tries to win 26-10.
The home side will be looking to play Andrew Fifita despite being injured early in their last match against the Titans. He will be given until Saturday to be fit to play while Matt Prior is expected to play with a light neck injury.
This fixture will be Andrew Fifita’s 200th NRL match and 160th for the Cronulla side.
Cronulla Sharks squad: 1. Josh Dugan 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Bronson Xerri 4. Josh Morris 5. Aaron Gray 6. Kyle Flanagan 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Briton Nikora 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Paul Gallen 14. Blayke Brailey 15. Jayson Bukuya 16. Jack Williams 17. Braden Uele 18. Scott Sorensen 19. Sione Katoa 20. Billy Magoulias 21. Will Kennedy
Manly Sea Eagles
For the visitor’s prop, Addin Fonua-Blake and half Lachlan Croker will need to get through training this week if they are able to play this Sunday at Cronulla.
Dylan Walker returns to play for the Manly side after not having played since September last year.
Manly Sea Eagles squad:1. Brendan Elliott 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker 4. Brad Parker 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Lachlan Croker 7. Kane Elgey 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Manase Fainu 15. Jack Gosiewski 16. Corey Waddell 17. Morgan Boyle 18. Kelepi Tanginoa 19. Cade Cust 20. Taniela Paseka 21. Lloyd Perrett
HEAD TO HEAD
These two sides head to head are notorious for exciting and tough matches with a lot of heavy contact between forwards but also high scoring tallies across the years, the last time they met at the end of 2018 the Manly team was able to upset at Cronulla with 1 point victory with scores 33-32. The Sharks are looking for their third win in a row for the first time this season with an injury toll increasing they will do well to scrape a win. The Sea Eagles have been a surprise packet this season with defence being their point of difference from recent seasons they will no doubt frustrate a Sharks side struggling to hold combinations in their side with changes week in week out, but same goes for the Manly outfit also.
The Cronulla side has won just 24 of 90 games against the Sea Eagles (26.7%), their worst record against any opponent which they will be hoping to better this Sunday. Manly has won the past two and 15 of 18 games going back to Rd 18, 2008.
This fixture will be a fitting match-up for both injury-riddled sides, having the great depth that Sharks and Sea Eagles boast it will still be down to one key battle in the match which is between arguably the best props in the competition in Andrew Fifita and Martin Taupau. These two have boosted their discipline on and off the ball this season becoming stronger leaders with their team play but also individual performances that have inspired their young players who have featured this season.
Fifita has upped his involvement and minutes this year with more carries for Cronulla has helped them through their tough matchups. The Sharks prop has tallied already 26 offloads this season while making more tackles than ever before with past veterans not there in 2019 its been up to him to stiffen the middle, even more, to stop sides from rolling over his team getting on the front foot.
Taupau in the Sea Eagles side has been a focal point in dominating sides, his combination with his other forwards and backs has split him from the other prop forwards showing why he is a class act in the front row. Martin being a leader at Manly has driven his side well into the top 8 with 27 tackle breaks and over 13 hit-ups a match for an average of 455 post contact metres which has bent the line of all of his opposing defences. The Sea Eagles enforcer will need another classic performance to inspire his side to an upset win in this battle alongside with Api Koroisau and Fonua-Blake to batter a big Cronulla side away.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 19th May
Venue: PointsBet Stadium
Referee: Ashley Klein
WHO WILL WIN?
An emphasis on completions and giving their opposition not an inch of possession will be the focus of both teams heading into this Sunday. The Battle of the Beaches is well known to fans for fierce clashes in the middle of the park with the big men dictating the outcome more often than not, the idea for Manly to ambush the Cronulla side with enthusiasm and their defence on the goal line to frustrate their young backs will no doubt be tested. The Sharks in front of another packed PointsBet Stadium will help them when struggling but with their team bruised from past encounters and calling upon players with new combinations to do the job it could be too much to ask after already winning past fixtures with their back against the wall. Prediction: Sea Eagles by 4