Jack Harbidge previews the Easter Sunday clash as the Melbourne Storm host the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at AAMI Park in Melbourne.
Melbourne Storm Vs Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Date: Saturday 16th April 2022, 7:30pm
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Related: NRL Team List TuesdayEmbed from Getty Images
Storm: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen 2. Nick Meaney 3. Reimis Smith 4. Justin Olam 5. Xavier Coates 6. Cameron Munster 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Harry Grant 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenny Bromwich 13. Josh King 14. Brandon Smith 15. Tyran Wishart 16. Trent Loiero 17. Tepai Moeroa 18. Chris Lewis 19. Alec MacDonald 20. Marion Seve 21. Jordan Grant 22. Jayden Nikorima 23. William Warbrick 24. Sualauvi Faalogo.
Alec Macdonald drops out of the 18 to make way for Tyran Wishart as the Storm make just one change to host the Sharks. Tom Eisenhuth, Tui Kamikamica, George Jennings, Dean Ieremia and Christian Welch are all unavailable for Craig Bellamy.Embed from Getty Images
Sharks: 1. Will Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Siosifa Talakai 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Matt Moylan 7. Nicho Hynes 8. Toby Rudolf 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Braden Hamlin-Uele 11. Briton Nikora 12. Teig Wilton 13. Dale Finucane 14. Aiden Tolman 15. Cameron McInnes 16. Jack Williams 17. Andrew Fifita 18. Braydon Trindall 19. Mawene Hiroti 20. Lachlan Miller 21. Royce Hunt 22. Kade Dykes 23. Jonaiah Lualua 24. Franklin Pele.
Aiden Tolman returns after a bout of COVID, having last featured when scoring against the Knigjts on his 300th career appearance. Royce Hunt makes way for the NRL veteran in what is the visiting teams only change. Dale Finucane returns to his old club as Captain, while Wade Graham remains sidelined alongside Matt Ikuvalu and Connor Tracey.
Referee: Grant Atkins
Meetings between the two sides have been box office with famous clashes including the 2016 NRL grand final and two-point thrillers in 2019 and 2020; all of which were hard fought, low scoring affairs.
We are unlikely to see anything different this year with 10 of the last 14 meetings totalling less than 38 points and both teams coming into the game with stellar defensive records in their last few games; the Storm have conceded 16 points in two, while Cronulla have leaked the same amount in their previous three fixtures.
It shapes up as the clash of the round with both teams in cracking form. Cronulla have put together four impressive performances – beating the high-flying Parramatta Eels and holding St. George, Wests, and the Knights to 16 between them – following an opening round loss to the Canberra Raiders, while Melbourne have also notched a 4-1 record having which includes keeping the Bulldogs scoreless and beating Souths in a dramatic golden point saga.
The fixture pits old friends against each other with Dale Finicane and Nicho Hynes re-visiting their old club. There is no doubt the pair will be readied for it, as will their ex-teammates from the Storm. The Cronulla pair should, however, be able to impart let knowledge to help negate aspects of the game plans they played out under a year ago.
The match up in the halves and, more importantly, how they fare against the good defences that face them is of paramount importance in this one; Matt Moylan partners Nicho Hynes in the halves for Cronulla, while Cam Munster and Jahrome Hughes line up in the playmaking positions for the Storm. Interestingly all four started their careers as fullbacks and as a result are excellent playing off the cuff, but they may struggle for points in this clash with both defences excelling in recent weeks.
Of the past 10 fixtures, Melbourne lead 5-4 with four of their victories coming back-to-back in the past four meetings of the teams. The reading doesn’t get any better for the Sharks visiting AAMI park either; of the last 10 meetings with the Storm having home advantage – at AAMI or another designated home venue – they have won eight.
The trends undoubtedly lean towards Melbourne maintaining their recent winning record over Cronulla, however, the Sharks appeared to have galvanised under the guidance of their new coach and look to be playing some of their best footy since winning the comp in 2016.
That said, they face a Melbourne machine that – while they may have shown some chinks in their armour against the Eels in Round 2 – are in formidable form in both attack and defence. Couple that with a great home advantage and we should see the Melbourne Storm frank favouritism in a low scoring affair this weekend.Embed from Getty Images
Finishers on fire; Sione Katoa has scored a try in seven of his last eight games, while Ryan Papenhuyzen has scored at least one try in his last four games.
Melbourne Storm by 8.
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