Sharks look to turn off the porch light in do or die clash against reigning Premiers
Then there were 4. The deadwood has been cast aside and now we have the top 4 teams from the regular season fighting it out for a grand final spot. Cronulla will fancy their chances at “home” against the Cowboys who were battered and bruised from their encounter with Brisbane. The week out will have no doubt benefited the Sharks who have recalled captain Paul Gallen who missed the first final against Canberra a fortnight ago. he adds starch to their pack and sures up the middle of the field, a section where Cronulla have been exposed in recent times.
The Cowboys have continued to show their class and will to win as evident by last week’s victory over Brisbane. they fight for each other and the experience and guile in their squad has certainly helped them in this finals series. They are full of confidence and will be hoping the likes of Thurston, Morgan and Coote can again fire and move them in to their 2nd successive grand final. The only downside is fatigue and travel. Will it affect the Cowboys?
Last Meeting: Cronulla Sharks 13 defeated North Queenland Cowboys 10 at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Round 13, 2016. The games are locked at 1-1 in 2016 after the Cowboys won the opening match of the season against the Sharks 20-14. They have already played one finals game against each other which was in 2013 which ended in a Sharks win 20-18, albeit under cloudy circumstances. That was their only clash against each other at Allianz. The Sharks have won 3 of the past 5 against the Cowboys.
Who To watch: Paul Gallen will be like a man possessed on Friday Night having not played in a few weeks. He will aim to hold down that middle third of the field and try and stop Jake Granville amongst others dominating the ruck. Also look for him to create second phase play with his offloading game as well as bending back the defensive line of the Cowboys which creates plays for the outside backs to work off. Gallen has big game experience and will lead from the front, could be the man to come up with some big plays to push Cronulla into a Grand Final.
For the Cowboys look for a big involvement from Jason Taumalolo. he was immense last week and rightfully was awarded man of the match. His powerful runs attract multiple defenders which can create overlaps on the outside. His offloading game is superb and he has silky ball skills that many other forwards don’t have. His battle with Gallen is one to get excited about. The Cowboys would look to isolate him with some smaller defenders (E.g. Chad Townsend) and play him on the edges of the ruck to create damage.
The Favourite: The Sharks are slight outsiders due to the form of the Cowboys and their big game experience.
My Tip: Going against the grain here and believe the Sharks will reach their first Grand Final since 1997. They have the experience and talent in their backline to get it done and are more rested than the Cowboys. Expecting Gallen and Fifita to monster through the middle and Maloney and Ennis to create havoc on the back of that. I believe the Cowboys game against Brisbane has taken heaps out of them and will hurt them in the final 20 minutes when this game is on the line.
Sharks by 8.