We are only hours away from two key match-ups in Friday NRL tonight – with the Cronulla Sharks hosting the Manly Sea Eagles and the Gold Coast Titans at home to the Bulldogs in Queensland. Here’s how NRL News sees the key match-ups:
Cronulla Sharks vs Manly Sea Eagles: Many NRL punters have written the Sharks off here; with so many players out who could blame them? However, Ricky Stuart will have spent the week building up the hopes of the young Sharks and a siege mentality would be embedded into the minds of the Shire boys for tonight.
Don’t forget the Sharks are most certainly playing for their lives in terms of the NRL Top 8 finals; they have plenty more to play for than the Sea Eagles. On top of their NRL table woes, the Sharks are also fielding players that were previously unwanted and a few young outsiders who get their chance to flex some muscle – surely they will want to show their wares and will be choc full of passion.
The Manly Sea Eagles report a few niggling injuries and have hinted that they may rest some stars for this game. The Eagles have revved up their form over the past few weeks and even without their stars, realistically should be able to comfortably overpower the Sharks.
While the hoodoo of Shark Park will be spoken about within the Sea Eagles camp, the obvious risk for them is the comfort factor. If the Manly boys take this lightly, it could be a long night.
Summary: Manly Sea Eagles must be tipped to win; however I feel this game will be closer than most people think. Both sides love defence, so depending on the mood of Shane Hayne – this could be a slugfest in the ruck.
Gold Coast Titans vs Bulldogs Another game and plenty of favoritism to the Bulldogs. Both sides hit hard by injury, certainly to some key players also. The loss of Scott Prince is huge for the Titans, who have struggled in attack to rack up points at times.
The suggested move of Preston Campbell from fullback to the halves should prove fruitful and the able Chris Walker coming into the fullback role is a smart one for John Cartwright. The Titans should be up for the challenge; as most NRL sides bounce back hard after a big loss – their Canberra fiasco will have them motivated surely.
The Titans still have plenty of punch in the starting forward pack of:
Luke Bailey, Nathan Friend, Ian Donelly, Gavin Cooper, Mark Minichiello, Luke Swain – its the reserve bench where the Bulldogs may have the edge, with form players ready to be injected by Steve Folkes.
The Bulldogs form is extremely hard to judge. They can literally change their form even during a match, a bad half then a stunning half. Sonny Bill Williams will be expected to perform tonight; as last time Willie Mason and Shrek were out – SBW had the game of his young life. Expect more of that tonight.
Summary: The Bulldogs have the bench power and SBW in a leadership role; which should be enough to get them home tonight. Expect a top forward battle tonight with the likes of Luke Bailey vs Andrew Ryan and expect a good showing from NRL bad boy Chris Walker as he tries to restake his claim as a top outside back for the Titans.