Cronulla Sharks Vs North Queensland Cowboys
18 May 2017, 7:50pm (AEST)
Southern Cross Group Stadium
The minor premiers are 6 wins from their last 7 starts, in stark contrast to the 2015 champions who are stumbling and bumbling their way with 4 wins from 7 games. A great origin test for some hopefuls is the cheery on top for this clash.
Cronulla Sharks, 2nd, 7-0-3
It must be said that the Sharks error rate almost cost them against the spirited Dragons outfit last round. If G. Widdop was fit and playing the result could have been a flogging with the Dragons scoring 30+ points. But the Sharks keep demonstrating their pride for their mates and defend with their lives in their 20m zone. They continue to stop teams from scoring points, since round 1 (Brisbane 26 points) they have not conceded more than 18 points (Knights round 5) for the rest of the year to date. Their points total scored against them currently is 132, the next best team is the Roosters at 152 (3 converted tries and a penalty goal) an absolutely crazy statistic.
S. Feki scored two tries in the last round and seems to be finding the ball more, which is a positive sign. Many people have forgotten about his skills that he has and we expect him to keep producing the goods for his club. With Holmes turning out 173m, Fifita 162m, Gallen 154m, Bird 149m and Leutele 120m the go forward was very impressive, they will need to be wary of their handling this round, as the Cowboys clicked well last week.
For us the Sharks can start getting their attack in order, this team has the potential to go deep this year once again.
North Queensland Cowboys, 6th, 6-0-4
The Cowboys shook off the haters last week and put the Bulldogs to the sword. M. Morgan keeps reminding the Qld faithful that he is ready, with some magnificent kicking that lead to ties and sustained pressure. They also had an outstanding completion rate of 83% and had 4 less errors than the Bulldogs, which helped their dominating win. 5 tries, 2 to second rower sensation C. Hess, Feldt, Spina and Morgan caped off his brilliant performance with a try also. Morgan had his best game to date and was in full control for the whole 80 minutes, a promising sign for this club to move forward into the future post J. Thurston’s career.
With M. Scott out for the season many people were wondering who would help J. Taumalolo, enter S. Bolton. Massive stats for this game with 162m from 16 runs and a lazy 35 tackles, thank you very much, to lead both those statistics for his game in round 10. Former half back J. Asiata, proved that his motor is still large after his games in the backs. A 144m, tied in with 24 tackles, is a great sign for his coach that they can function without him calling the shots and allowing him just to run hard and straight. R. Thompson had his moments in the match, some good and some poor, however he will get better as this year progresses. He will need to run more than 9m this week, as the sharks will be hunting Morgan extremely hard.
For us, this game is a reminder that the Cowboys can score points if you are not focused for the entire 80 minutes.
Stats that matter from Round 10
Completion rate: Sharks 68%, NQ 83%
Offloads: Sharks 13, NQ 4
Missed Tackles: Sharks 33, NQ 16
Penalties conceded: Sharks 7, NQ 11 (1 sin bin)
Team news: (Final team lists released an hour before the game)
M. Prior accepted the option to accept a 1 week ban, this promotes C. Heighington to starting prop. J. Paulo drops off the bench making way for J. Bukuya, with no other changes expected.
North Queensland Cowboys
It’s a mystery to see if J. Thurston will play tomorrow or he will be withdrawn. The general consensus is that he won’t play, due to origin being around the corner, however he is mentally tough and may convince his coach otherwise if he can prove his fitness. If he does get the green light, expect R. Thompson to drop from the 17, with Hampton acting as “cover” for the worst case scenario. Interestingly K. Ponga is named as number 21, so like last week we expect him to drop off the list barring injury, which is unfortunate as this kid should be playing at the top level.
Their last 5 game report card:
Cronulla Sharks, 3 wins with 2 being at home and one at Allianz stadium
North Queensland Cowboys, 2 wins both at 1300 SMILES stadium
2016 – Round 29 – Sharks won by 12 at Allianz Stadium
2016 – Round 14 – Sharks won by 3 at Southern Cross Group Stadium
2016 – Round 1 – Cowboys won by 6 points at 1300 SMILES Stadium
2015 – Round 28, Cowboys won by 39 points at 1300 SMILES Stadium
2015 – Round 22, Sharks won by 12 at Southern Cross Group Stadium
What we take from this?
It’s going to be a great teaser for the upcoming origin series, with Maloney and Morgan on show and possibly the halves that will meet in game 1. If either half really takes control of the game it will go a long way into them getting chosen to represent their state, we are leaning towards Maloney due to his larger forward pack. With that in mind, other origin hopefuls will be on display, W. Graham, A. Fifita, C. Hess, G. Cooper will be also treating this as a trial, adding more fuel to this already mouth-watering game.
We believe that the offloading from the Sharks players is going to worry the Cowboys. The Sharks average 11.4 (6th highest) a game compared to 5 (last) for the Cowboys, highlighting this is the All Run Meter comparison which leans towards the Sharks with 1,628 average meters to the Cowboys 1,565m. For the Cowboys to combat this, they will need to beat their average of 52% (1st) possession rate and also top their tackle bust average of 32 (1st). If the Sharks error rate is high (12 or more, worst in the competition) and concede their average penalties (8 a game, once again worst in the NRL) it will be a lot closer than people give credit for.
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