After their premiership winning run in 2013 and their two victories to start the 2014 season a loss by the NSW Cup Sharks to the Illawarra Cutters was somewhat expected last week.
The Sharks were out-enthused by their opponents in going down by 30-22 in a match where they certainly had their chances but were unable to capitalize.
This week the Sharks will again have their hands full when they face a Knights team riding high on confidence after a 50-22 thrashing of the North Sydney Bears at their last start.
The Sharks however have a quality contingent of Storm players included in their ranks which will no doubt complement their home-grown talent as they hope to get back into the winners circle.
Brad Preston from NSWRL.com has provided his weekly match preview, with his predicted result an interesting one. Such is the closeness of the two teams Preston cant split them and has remained very much on the fence in tipping a draw. His preview follows.
Summary: The Knights recovered from a slow start against the Bears last Saturday to pile on the points and claim a runaway 50-22 win while the Sharks were always chasing the Cutters in their 34-22 loss at Remondis Stadium.
Both of these sides continue to miss a number of troops due to a significant injury toll at their respective clubs, but still manage to field very classy outfits nonetheless.
The Knights pack in particular looks a beauty with players such as Houston, Hilder, Waddell and Tetevano while the Sharks will field at least 10 players with first grade experience.
Chanel Mata’utia continues to find the line for the home side after he scored his fourth try of the season against the Bears while his brother Pat also bagged a double to take his tally to three.
The Sharks will be looking for some more fluidity in their play this week after appearing to be disjointed at times against a solid Cutters defence.
Look for the Knights to be aggressive in defence and take time and space away from the likes of Manumalealii, Politoni and Mann.
Mann in particular is a dangerous commodity and having spent his junior years at Newcastle, including helping the club to a SG Ball title in 2011, the club should be all too aware of what he is capable of.
The BBF: Also known as the ‘Bounce Back Factor’… The Knights certainly showed that the BBF is still well and truly alive after they bounced back from a sluggish performance against Mounties in round two to put 50 points on the Bears last weekend.
Unfortunately for the Knights, the Sharks will be looking for their own BBF this weekend after they suffered a rare loss to the Cutters at Remondis Stadium last Saturday.
Shapes as a really intriguing clash and one that’s not to be missed.
Prediction: Impossible to predict a winner here. A side that rarely loses at home against a side that rarely loses period. Draw.
Newcastle Knights Vs Cronulla Sharks
Hunter Stadium, Sunday, March 30
Referee: Liam Nicholls
Broadcast: NSWRL Match Centre coverage available via NSWRL.com.au