Will Manly become Shark bait? Or will the Sharks escape an Eagle swoop?
Neve O’Neill previews the Sunday afternoon blockbuster between the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles and Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Following wins against the Brisbane Broncos (round five) and Canberra Raiders (round six), the Sea Eagles will be looking continue their form to stop their long-standing Cronulla rivals from securing back-to-back wins. If Manly can replicate their impressive attacking flair and defensive pressure on Sunday afternoon, they’ll be well equipped to prevent a Shark attack.
After impressively edging out the Canterbury Bulldogs last week, the Sharks will no doubt be hungry for more. If fowards Aaron Woods and Andrew Fifita are able to execute their defender-sucking decoy runs, halves Chad Townsend and Shaun Johnson will be well placed to help the Sharks on their way to another sweet victory.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Serious injuries to stars Tom Trbojevic and Dylan Walker have forced Manly to reshuffle their line-up. Brendan Elliot will move to fullback, youngster Lachlan Croker to five-eighth, Jorge Taufua to his favoured wing position and enforcer Martin Taupau will lace up the boots and join the front row in his first week back from injury. Half Cade Cust will join the interchange as a utility.
1 Brendan Elliot, 2 Jorge Taufua, 3 Brad Parker, 4 Tevita Funa, 5 Reuben Garrick, 6 Lachlan Croker, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans, 8 Addin Fonua-Blake, 9 Danny Levi, 10 Martin Taupau, 11 Joel Thompson, 12 Curtis Sironen, 13 Jake Trbojevic, 14 Cade Cust, 15 Jack Gosiewski, 16 Sean Keppie, 17 Taniela Paseka, 18 Morgan Boyle, 19 Abbas Miski, 20 Haumole Olakau’atu, 21 Toafofoa Sipley.
In the only change for the Sharks, Andrew Fifita is named to start in the front row with Braden Hamlin-Uele shifting back to the interchange.
1 Matt Moylan, 2 Sione Katoa, 3 Josh Dugan, 4 Jesse Ramien, 5 Bryson Goodwin, 6 Shaun Johnson, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Blayke Brailey, 10 Aaron Woods, 11 Briton Nikora, 12 Wade Graham, 13 Jack Williams, 14 Toby Rudolf, 15 Braden Hamlin-Uele, 16 Siosifa Talakai, 17 Royce Hunt, 18 Scott Sorenson, 19 Connor Tracey, 20 William Kennedy, 21 Jackson Ferris.
Manly have won 11 of their past 12 games against the Sharks. Remarkably, the Sharks’ winning record against the Sea Eagles (26%) is their worst against any opposition
BATTLE TO WATCH
Lachlan Croker and Daly Cherry-Evans v Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend
In what will be his third stint as Manly’s No. 6, Croker is determined to fill the void left by the injured Dylan Walker and combine with half Cherry-Evans to keep Manly’s magic alive. Together, they’ll be looking to combine and use their deft ruck speed to put the Sharks’ forwards on the back foot. For the Sharks, Johnson and Townsend will be motivated to get the better of their Manly counterparts by banking more running metres, kicking metres and try assists. Provided that their forwards lay a strong platform, the two Cronulla playmakers should be given a license to don their dazzling footwork and create space on Manly’s edges. This halves battle is sure to create some (edge-of-seat-type) excitement for loyal fans watching from their lounge rooms!
Prediction: Both teams will be eager to continue their winning ways. Despite being plagued by injury, I expect that Manly will rise to the challenge and edge out the 11th placed Sharks.
Manly by 8 points.
Date: 28 June 2020
Venue: Central Coast Stadium
Kick-off: 4:05pm (AEST)