With both sides top eight aspirations hanging by a thread, the New Zealand Warriors make their return to the New Zealand capital hosting a Cronulla Sharks desperate to regain their early season form.
Team Form Guide
New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors started strong against the Brisbane Broncos last week leading 16-6, but a second-half collapse saw the Warriors in Golden point for the second time in three weeks resulting in the first draw since 2016.
The Sharks losing streak went into its fourth week last round when they were soundly defeated by the Melbourne Storm 40-16. The welcome return of key players this week will have Shark fans anticipating a return to the winner’s circle.
New Zealand Warriors
The Warriors have named the same side from last weeks draw.
New Zealand Warriors 21-Man Team List: 1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 2. David Fusitu’a, 3. Peta Hiku, 4. Gerard Beale, 5. Ken Maumalo, 6. Kodi Nikorima, 7. Blake Green, 8. Agnatius Paasi, 9. Issac Luke, 10. Leeson Ah Mau, 11. Adam Blair, 12. Isaiah Papali’i, 13. Jazz Tevaga, 14. Lachlan Burr, 15. Sam Lisone, 16. Bunty Afoa, 17. Chanel Harris-Tavita, 18. Adam Pompey, 20. Ligi Sao, 21. Blake Ayshford, 22. Chris Satae
Matt Moylan and Paul Gallen return from injury while injuries to Josh Morris and Josh Dugan see Aaron Gray move to the wing and Kurt Capewell into the centres. Scott Sorenson takes Capwell’s spot in the back row and Matt Prior moves to the bench.
Cronulla Sharks 21-Man Team List: 1. Matt Moylan, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Bronson Xerri, 4. Kurt Capewell, 5. Aaron Gray, 6. Shaun Johnson, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. Aaron Woods, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Scott Sorensen, 13. Paul Gallen, 14. Blayke Brailey, 15. Jack Williams, 16. Braden Hamlin-Uele, 17. Matt Prior, 18. Billy Magoulias, 19. Kyle Flanagan, 20. William Kennedy, 21. Ronaldo Mulitalo
Head to Head
Played: 34, Sharks 20, Warriors 14
Latest Result: Sharks 18-15, Round 16 2018
My key battle is between the five-eighths Kodi Nikorima and former Warrior Shaun Johnson. Nikorima’s speed and agility have been a welcome addition to the Warriors attack, but he has been predictable the past few weeks always running on the last, added another dimension to his attack could be the key to a Warriors victory here.
All eyes will be on Johnson in his first clash against his former club. He has had his fair share of critics during the Sharks losing streak and will be out to make a statement. He still struggles directed sides around the park but is at his most dangerous when allowed to run freely, his high bombs will be on display regularly in Wellington’s windy conditions and could be vital in disrupting the Warriors daunting back three.
The Important Details
Date: 19 July
Venue: Westpac Stadium
Kick-Off: 6:00 PM (8:00 PM NZ Time)
Who will win?
Both sides come into this match lacking confidence and scoring first could be the key to victory.
For the Warriors to win, they need to start the match strongly and, more importantly, keeping the pressure on Cronulla for 80 minutes. The New Zealand side was finding plenty of scoring opportunities last week via their offload game, and they will need to bring out the second phase once again. The Warriors forward pack had a great night on attack last round, but their defence around the ruck area was weak and will be targeted all night, so improvement is required if they want to walk away victorious.
For the Sharks to win they need to target that ruck area, sniping runs out of dummy half and inside passes against the direction of play will turn the Warriors defence inside out and allow Johnson and Moylan to run rampant. The Sharks will need to reduce Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Ken Maumalo’s impact on the game by either kicking to the sidelines or kicking high into the wind, allowing their defensive line plenty of time to get in Tuivasa-Sheck and Maumalo’s faces.
It is going to be a close encounter, but I think the Sharks will come away with the result here. Cronulla will be desperate to taste victory once again, and Johnson will be out to prove a point against his former club.
Sharks by 10