Clinging to seventh but only a win away from the top four, every match in the run home to the finals is an important one for the NSW Cup Sharks, beginning with the game on Saturday against the Knights.
Fresh after the bye, the Sharks make their second trip of the season to Newcastle and facing a solid Knights outfit will need to be on their game if they hope to turn the tables on the hosts.
While the Newcastle team boasts an abundance of NRL experience, so too does the Sharks side, with the Storm sending seven players, six of whom have played in the NRL.
Add to that group the likes of Nathan Gardner, Daniel Holdsworth and PNG international Mark Mexico and the Sharks will like their chances on Saturday.
The match is scheduled for a 3.10pm kick-off at Hunter Stadium, with Fox Sports to show the game live.
NSWRL.com has again provided its weekly match preview and while they have tipped the Knights, Tony Herman and his team are confident of success.
Summary: Possibly the match of the round here as the eighth placed Knights tackle the seventh placed Sharks.
A match that was originally scheduled as a Sharks home game, but transferred to Hunter Stadium for television purposes, will see two sides desperate to keep distance between themselves and the chasing pack.
With the Jets gifted two points thanks to their second bye of the season, barring a draw, one of these two teams will be just one point clear of Newtown in eighth spot at the end of this match.
Cronulla have perhaps the easier run home of these two sides with games against the Roos and Bears over the next few weeks before finishing off with a match against Mounties while the Knights face the Warriors, Manly and the Jets, all in Newcastle.
The Knights showed last week in their win over the Cutters that while they are only in eighth spot, there is not much between the sides sitting anywhere from second to as far down as tenth on the ladder. The Sharks should be rested having had the bye last weekend, and despite the clubs recent injury crisis, they have managed to name a fairly strong side.
History Repeating: As we alluded to above, this will be the second clash between these two sides at Hunter Stadium this year after this match was moved to fall in line with the Fox broadcast schedule.
When these two sides first met back in round four, it was a seven point win to the Knights, and it was capped off with on that occasion by a Matt Hilder field goal… yes, that’s correct, a Matt Hilder field goal.
We reckon that this one might come down to the wire once again, so look for Hilder to remind Matt Minto and Michael Dobson of his earlier season heroics late in this one.
Prediction: The Knights look to have struck form at the right time. Knights by 7 (tip provided by NSWRL.com).
Cronulla Sharks Vs Newcastle Knights
Hunter Stadium, Saturday, August 9
Referee: Daniel Olford
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sport NZ