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5 days ago
Sharks look to keep in touch with top four as Manly desperately try to avoid the club's first ever wooden spoon
A dogged defensive effort wasn't enough for Cronulla last week as they went down to Brisbane 12-10. The result saw the Sharks' top four hopes take a significant hit, although they still sit just two points behind the fourth-placed Dragons.
A position in the top half of the eight is crucial in a side's premiership chances, as highlighted by the fact that no team in the modern NRL era has won a grand final after finishing outside the top four.
With the fourth-best defence in the competition, Cronulla should be able to frustrate an already dejected Manly side into defeat on Sunday afternoon. It would be a rare win for Shane Flanagan's men though, given that they have only won two of their past 16 against the boys from the Northern Beaches.
The Sea Eagles are in serious trouble. A crowd of just over 6,000 watched them capitulate last weekend against Penrith and confidence is at an all-time low. Desperation shouldn't be too hard to come by for Trent Barrett's men though.
Three-straight defeats means that they sit precariously close to last position on the ladder. Furthermore, given the embarrassing crowd figure from last week's home game, the Sea Eagles will be looking to restore pride and positivity within their supporter base.
Having won just one of their past eight games and now ranking the second-worst defensive side in the competition, there isn't much for Manly fans to be excited about.
Even the Trbojevic brothers have been struggling recently, with Tom admitting he has taken personal responsibility for their recent form.
While completely unfair given that the talented youngster has been one of their best, it speaks volumes to the lack of confidence and self-belief currently at the club.
Manly look down and out. Often, what happens next is that they rise above adversity and prove their critics wrong. It appears a bridge too far for the proud club this week.
Last meeting: Round 16 2017 - Sharks 18 Sea Eagles 35
Who to watch: Cronulla have struggled for consistency in attack this season. While they are certainly strong in defence, unlike the true premiership contenders like the Storm, Rabbitohs and Roosters, the Sharks are finding it hard to score points. Five-eighth Matt Moylan is the creator for Cronulla in attack and failed to crack Brisbane's brick wall defence last Friday night. The former Panther certainly has the potential to be one of the competition's best playmakers. You only have to look at his six try-assists and five line-break assists against Newcastle earlier in the year to know this. Maybe, against the lowly Sea Eagles, Moylan will find his feet again and kickstart Cronulla's push towards September.
Against one of the best packs in the competition, Manly will need to win the battle up front to stand any chance on Sunday afternoon. And recently, front rower Martin Taupau has stepped up and reasserted himself as one of the league's most damaging ball runners. In last week's loss to Penrith, Taupau ran 159 metres and busted nine tackles in just 53 minutes of play. The former Tiger has been one of Manly's strongest performers in recent weeks and will prove a handful in the middle of the park if he is trailed by the likes of Tom Trbojevic.
The favourite: The Sharks are backed to respond against the struggling Sea Eagles.
Tip: Manly are due for a breakthrough win soon but they won't have any joy against a determined Cronulla outfit. Sharks by 14.
1. Valentine Holmes 18. Josh Dugan 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 13. Paul Gallen 14. Scott Sorensen 15. James Segeyaro 16. Aaron Woods 17. Jayson Bukuya
1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Moses Suli 4. Brian Kelly 5. Brad Parker 6. Dylan Walker 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-blake 9. Manase Fainu 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Shaun Lane 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Trent Hodkinson 15. Kelepi Tanginoa 17. Taniela Paseka 20. Jack Gosiewski
Referees: Henry Perenara, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski; Sideline Officials: Rohan Best, Matt Noyen; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;