Key Match-ups – Sharks v Warriors
The Sharks and Warriors both sit at three wins, five losses after eight matches in 2015.
Ahead of what looms as an important fixture in the context of each side’s season, we pick out the key match-ups that could prove decisive at the end of the 80 minutes.
The Centres – Beale v Kata
Warriors’ rookie Solomone Kata has been a revelation since he debuted in Round one of this season, scoring six tries from his eight matches to date.
The 20-year-old bullocking centre has proved a tough task to contain – his size, speed and strength having proved a difficult prospect for his opposite numbers.
Kata ranks inside the Warriors’ top three players for tries (6, 1st), line breaks (6, 3rd) and tackle busts (24, 3rd), and Sharks centre Gerard Beale looks set for a tough challenge tonight.
Meanwhile Beale’s right-edge combinations with Valentine Holmes and Michael Gordon have proved a hit this season, as he leads the Sharks squad for line break assists (5).
While providing opportunities for his outside men, Beale is yet to cross the stripe for a try of his own in 2015.
The Halves – Robson v Johnson
Sharks’ half Jeff Robson will have to be on his A-game this week as he squares off against the electrifying Shaun Johnson.
Robson’s structured style will this week be challenged by the razzle-dazzle football that the 2014 Golden Boot winner loves to play.
And although he is yet to replicate that vein of form thus far in 2015, Johnson has shown glimpses of the magic that we all know he is very capable of.
The Kiwi’s half starred last Sunday against the Kangaroos and he will be looking to follow up on that showing against the Sharks tonight.
Robson meanwhile was a part of a beaten side against the Panthers last time out, and he and the rest of the squad will be out to atone for the 8-point loss.
The Props – Fifita v Matulino
Andrew Fifita capped a stunning return to representative football last weekend in City’s defeat to Country in Wagga.
The 2013 NSW Origin rep again staked his claims for a Blues jersey in 2015 in running for 163 metres and completing 29 tackles.
While Fifita was doing his best against his fellow State of Origin hopefuls, his opposite number this week – Warriors prop Ben Matulino – was plying his trade on the international stage for the Kiwis.
Matulino has run for 134 hit ups for the Warriors in 2015, and leads the NRL with 20 offloads.
The 193cm, 107kg front rower looms as a huge threat to the Sharks’ middle-third, and Fifita will no doubt look to prevent the Kiwi prop from outmuscling the Cronulla forwards.