Sharks v Wests Tigers Preview
NRL.comTue, 11 Aug 2009 16:
Sunday, 2pm AEST
The Wests Tigers need to win three more games to be assured of a finals spot, and this game should merely be a hump for one of the game’s most electric attacking outfits.
However, the Sharks will be doing everything they can to upset the September-bound team when they meet at Toyota Stadium on Sunday. Decimated by injury and badly behaving players this season, Cronulla are barely hanging on.
But they are not a team without passion and pride, and the Tigers need to be aware of complacency heading into this game.
They will be upsetting their entire structure with the introduction of a brand new halfback in 19-year-old Robert Lui. Shannon Gallant’s injury has forced Tim Moltzen back to fullback and instead of slotting John Morris into the no.7 jersey, coach Tim Sheens has elected to debut the youngster.
At least Lui will recognize the players opposite him – the Sharks have a couple of their own Toyota Cup players running out, and may be able to provide Ricky Stuart with some background on the unknown no.7.
Watch out Sharks: Even the determined Cronulla defence will not be able to curtail the Wests Tigers’ potent attack. The Tigers are currently averaging five line breaks per game, the third best in the NRL.
Most of those are coming through barnstorming winger Taniela Tuiaki, who has reached another level in his game this year. He has made 22 line breaks and scored 18 tries. Down his left side the Tigers are punishing – with 36 tries for the season.
In defence the Sharks have conceded 31 tries down Tuiaki’s edge, so defence must muscle up – literally! Tuiaki’s 105-kilogram frame has proved near-impossible to take down by any opposition this year. Benji Marshall loves sending the ball out to his behemoth back, and Lui will no doubt be directed to do the same. As the Tigers march on towards the finals, Tuiaki is becoming more devastating.
Watch out Wests Tigers: At this point of the season, introducing a new halfback has the potential to disrupt their momentum and the Sharks will be doing everything they can to intimidate and unsettle the debutant.
Despite injuries, Cronulla still have many enforcers, like Paul Gallen, Kade Snowden and Grant Millington. If the Sharks are to spring an upset it is these players who will be leading it.
While the Tigers are finally shedding the image of having a light and undermanned forward pack – thanks largely to English back-rower Gareth Ellis – the Sharks are still packing some punch.
While their players may not be known for having more athleticism or ball-playing skill, Snowden in particular has been a standout while the Sharks stumble to more losses.
The Sharks are eighth in the NRL for metres conceded, showing some signs of holding on to the brutal defence that typified their 2008 season. They will need it against the Tigers, as they cannot rely on out-scoring the seventh-placed side.
Where it will be won: This game hinges on the Wests Tigers’ attack and Cronulla’s defence. The Sharks average just 15 points a game – the lowest in the NRL – so their defence is the only way they can cause an upset.
If it is not up to scratch the only question about this match is how many the Tigers can win by.
The Tigers showed against Manly two weeks ago how damaging they can be in broken play, with two tries coming from plays started deep within their own half following poor options by Manly. Their ability to switch from defence to attacking play is unmatched, and Cronulla’s scramble defence must be on target.
The history: The Wests Tigers have an excellent record over the Sharks – even at Toyota Stadium. They have won 11 of 15, Cronulla five and drawn one. At Toyota the Tigers have won five of eight, Sharks two and drawn one.
Conclusion: Toyota Stadium holds great memories for the Tigers, including a memorable day in 2005 when Marshall announced his arrival as a superstar of the game on the way to a premiership.
Is this history repeating? The Tigers are similarly making the most of their attacking prowess but with a new halfback coming in, must be at their best to get past a team they are expected to beat with ease.
Match Officials: Referees – Steve Lyons & Alan Shortall; Sideline Officials – Russell Turner & Ricky McFarlane; Video Ref – Phil Cooley.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm Sunday, AEST
Preview: Sharks v Wests Tigers
Scott Brooks, Sportal
VENUE & TIME: Toyota Stadium, Sunday August 16, 2:00pm (AEST).
COVERAGE: Fox Sports 2
LAST TIME: Sharks 32 - Tigers 6 at Leichhardt Oval, Round 25, 2008.
Trent Barrett (cheekbone/eye socket), Anthony Tupou (hamstring), Brett Kearney (foot) and new Souths recruit Ben Ross (neck) all remain on the absentee list at the Sharks.
The Tigers have lost speedy full-back Shannon Gallant until the second week of the finals with a fractured leg suffered against the Roosters on Sunday. This forces current No. 7 Tim Moltzen back to the custodian’s role and gives young Robert Lui his first taste of first-grade feeding the scrum. In some good news for the club, gun centre Chris Lawrence returns from a quad injury while utility Dean Halatau (knee) is due back next week.
FORM: The Sharks slumped to their sixth successive loss on Monday, offering little resistance to the equally downtrodden Broncos. Effort wasn’t a problem, but genuine skill is sadly lacking in this current Cronulla line-up. Coach Ricky Stuart let all his frustrations out in the post-match presser, blaming players that have been forced out of the joint through various indiscretions. The Shire boys are looking good things for the wooden spoon now that cellar pals the Roosters have lifted their game a notch over recent weeks.
The Tigers would have a fair idea of the improvement in the Roosters following a hard-fought 17-10 victory against their cross-town rivals last Sunday. The Roosters skipped out to an early 8-0 lead, but ran out of gas late to allow their more enterprising opponents to sneak home for a fifth-successive win. The Tigers were rated no hope of making the finals after their Round 16 loss to the Dragons, but now find themselves sitting in seventh position with four rounds still remaining. It’s incredible how quickly things can change.
WHO’S HOT: The Gareth Ellis v Adrian Morley comparisons have been going on all year and from what we’ve seen so far in 2009, the all-round game of Ellis would put him slightly in front of ‘Moz’ in terms of the better English import. Ellis hits just as hard as Morley, but can keep those legs pumping for an entire 80 minutes and possesses a more frequent and effective offload. Ellis was the main reason the Tigers were able to run over the top of the Roosters in the second-half last Sunday. A masterstroke signing by the club.
WE THINK: The Tigers have lost just one of their past 10 games against the Sharks and that came in round 25 last year when the Sharks were on a high and the Tigers were contemplating a third successive absence from finals footy. This year the shoe is on the other foot. The Tigers have it all to play for and with a near full-strength side on deck should have little trouble disposing of the…let’s be kind here…‘wholehearted’ Sharks. Complacency is the only enemy for Wests in this one. Tigers by 16.
westTAHger last edited by
The Tigers have it all to play for and with a near full-strength side on deck should have little trouble disposing of the…let’s be kind here…‘wholehearted’ Sharks. Complacency is the only enemy for Wests in this one. Tigers by 16…
I do hope wests-tigers come out and play very strong in first half and give sharks no chance at all.
need a good solid perfomance .
Cronulla v Wests Tigers
Greg Prichard | August 14, 2009
Toyota Park, Sunday 2pm
Referees: Steve Lyons, Alan Shortall
Head to head: Tigers 11, Sharks 5, draw 1
Last clash: Sharks 32-6 at Leichhardt Oval (rd 25, 2008)
TAB Sportsbet: Tigers $1.22, Sharks $4
FootyTAB: Sharks +9.5 points
Five wins in a row have taken the Tigers into the top eight, so now a new battle begins for them - the one to stay there. The key indicators are mostly good. They are playing a team that is running low on gas four rounds out from the end of the end of the regular season - the Sharks have lost six games in a row and have scored at an average just 6.66 points per game in their last three. That is the number of a pretty ordinary beast. Plus, the Tigers have a tremendous recent record against the Sharks, losing only one of the last 10 clashes between the two. It’s a Sharks home game, but the Tigers have proved their ability to win at Toyota Stadium in recent years. The Tigers have a win-loss record of only 4-7 on the road this season, but in keeping with their recent revival they have won their last three away games. The Sharks are 3-7 at home.
The sizeable negative for the Tigers going into this game is that they have lost in-form fullback Shannon Gallant to injury. He won’t play again this season unless the Tigers make it a couple of weeks into the finals. Coach Tim Sheens came up with a shock when he named the club’s Toyota Cup five-eighth, Robert Lui, at halfback for this game, moving Tim Moltzen from halfback to fullback. Moltzen was playing fullback before taking over at halfback midway through the season, and the Tigers have had a settled lineup in the key positions of fullback, five-eighth, halfback and hooker during their winning run. Sheens wouldn’t like having to move Moltzen. Five-eighth Benji Marshall will obviously be expected to take plenty of the heat off young Lui in the playmaking department.
Bookmakers have put the Tigers up as short-priced favourites, and if they remain focus they should be able to justify that. The Sharks, again with so many key players missing, don’t look to have many points in them…