Sunday afternoon footy kicks off at 2pm with one of the NRL’s fiercest rivalries, when the Cronulla Sharks play host to the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at Southern Cross Group Stadium in Cronulla.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Sharks are coming off the back of a close 12-10 loss to the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, which was only their third loss in the past 3 months of footy. The Broncos have beaten the Sharks twice in the past month, and apart from that the only other team that has beaten the Sharks in the past 3 months is the Rabbitohs, which goes to show the sort of form the Sharks have been in. The Sharks had plenty of opportunities to win the game against the Broncos, but their attack just couldn’t crack the Broncos defense in the final 10 minutes. Valentine Holmes was one of the shining lights for the Sharks in an otherwise disappointing night, and got over for a double to take equal lead in try scoring this year with 17 in total.
Manly have been nothing short of disappointing since their bye in round 17. They lost a close game to the league leading Storm to a controversial penalty late in the game, then they were embarrassed by the Roosters 56-24 in front of their home fans. They had the opportunity to redeem themselves last week when they were leading the Panthers 24-6 with 13 minutes remaining. Despite the win looking almost a certainty, Manly capitulated in devastating fashion and conceded 4 tries in the final 10 minutes to crash to a 28-24 loss. The loss is Manly’s seventh in their past eight games, and their confidence surely has to be shot leading into this clash with the Sharks.
Wade Graham has been named to return in the back row, but is in some doubt. Scott Sorensen drops to the bench and Joseph Paulo drops to the reserves. Josh Dugan has been named in the reserves as he eyes a return from injury.
This game will be the mark the first meeting between the two sides this year. Their last meeting was in round 16 last year when the Sea Eagles were able to defeat the Sharks convincingly 35 points to 18. The two squads looks very different now though more than a year on, and both have different factors motivating them at this point of the season. The Sharks are fighting to stay in touch with the top four, and the Sea Eagles are fighting to avoid the wooden spoon.
If Manly are going to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon, they are going to have to defend much better than the have the past two weeks, which is a lot easier said than done, especially coming up against a red-hot Valentine Holmes, who is leading the Sharks and the NRL in tries scored and line-breaks made this year. This game is going to be played on a clear Sunday afternoon on a dry track at Cronulla, so expect to see plenty of points scored from both sides.
The key battle in this one has got to be the battle of the fullbacks. Valentine Holmes vs Tom Trbojevic. These two are superstars for their respective clubs, and went head-to-head in the State of Origin series this year.
Valentine Holmes has been a revelation since moving to fullback for the Sharks earlier this year. There was initially some teething issues in the first few games where it looked like he struggled for consistency, but has since won this position over the likes of recognised fullbacks in Matt Moylan and Josh Dugan. He has played with so much freedom and it’s no surprise the Sharks have risen up the ladder with him at the back. Josh Dugan is due back from injury soon, but coach Shane Flanagan would be mad to remove Holmes from the fullback role considering he is in career best form. Holmes is coming fresh off the back of two tries against a stingy Broncos defense at Suncorp Stadium last week, where the rest of the attack looked clunky at best. Manly’s defense has been poor recently, and have been prone to leaking tries in big bunches. Holmes could be in for a very big game if that form continues on Sunday.
On the flip side, Tom Trbojevic has been shining light in an otherwise dismal season for Manly. He made his debut for NSW in this year’s Origin series and was one of the best players in the series playing out of position on the wing. If Manly are going to cause an upset over Cronulla, it’s going to be off the back of Trbojevic. His combination with his brother Jake has led Manly to some big wins already this year, but the consistency just hasn’t been there as the whole team has struggled to string wins together all season. The Sharks will most likely need to have a plan in place to limit the amount of ball Trbojevic gets throughout this game, as he has proven in the past that no matter how good the defense is, he will still leave his mark on the game with a crucial line break or try right when his teams needs it. He’ll need to turn out one of his best games of the year if Manly are going to win this one.
Despite the fact the Sharks have won seven more games this year, Manly have actually scored more points. This is not the case with the points conceded however, as Manly have given up 142 more points than the Sharks. Only the Knights have conceded more points this year.
SQUADS (optional paragraph)
Sharks: 1 Valentine Holmes, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Jesse Ramien, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Sione Katoa, 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
Reserves: 18 Josh Dugan, 19 Ava Seumanufagai, 20 Joseph Paulo, 21 Kyle Flanagan
Sea Eagles: 1 Tom Trbojevic, 2 Jorge Taufua, 3 Moses Suli, 4 Brian Kelly, 5 Bradley Parker, 6 Dylan Walker, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans (c), 8 Addin Fonua-Blake, 9 Manase Fainu, 10 Martin Taupau, 11 Joel Thompson, 12 Shaun Lane, 13 Jake Trbojevic
Interchange: 14 Trent Hodkinson, 15 Kelepi Tanginoa, 16 Frank Winterstein, 17 Taniela Paseka
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday August 5th
Venue: Southern Cross Group Stadium, Cronulla
Kick-off: 2pm AEST
WHO WILL WIN?
Manly will need to overcome the last three weeks of disappointment and turn in one of their best games of the year to get the upset. They will be down on confidence which makes the job that much harder. The Sharks will be very hard to beat at home on a Sunday afternoon in great conditions for attacking football, and should be a handful for Manly all afternoon.
Sharks by 12.