NYC Sharks to tame the Panthers
It may be a difficult assignment but the task awaiting them is far from an impossible one, with the NYC Sharks looking to take down the competition hot shots when they tackle the Panthers on Sunday.
In a match to be played at Allianz Stadium as a curtain-raiser to the Penrith v Canterbury NRL clash, the Sharks will fancy their chances of an upset despite their opponents finishing the regular season five points clear at the top of the Holden Cup ladder.
The reasons for their optimism will centre around the fact that they managed a 34-all draw at Pepper Stadium in the most recent match between the two teams, with the Sharks a whisker away from pulling off a victory in the dying moments of that round 18 match.
And since that time the Sharks have continued their momentum into the finals, while the Panthers saw their 16-match unbeaten streak come to an end two weeks after the draw with the young Cronulla side, before dropping two more games during the run to the finals.
The Sharks on the other hand head to Allianz with a good deal of confidence following four victories in succession, with their last loss coming back in round 22 against the Canberra Raiders.
Also in the Sharks favour they will go into the match with a settled line up after coach John Morris name the same 17 players who beat the Storm up on the Sunshine Coast last weekend, with the addition of half back Jack Williams who returns after missing the Melbourne match due to injury.
Kyle Flanagan, after kicking six goals from six attempts last week reverts to 18th man pending the fitness of Williams.
In a see-sawing battle against the Storm the Sharks snuck home with a 75th minute Lachlan Stein try to register a 36-30 triumph, one which saw them cement fourth spot on the ladder and provide a double-shot in the finals, while setting up a clash with the table-topping Panthers.
While Stein stole the show with his long range effort, the forwards again laid a solid platform, with more of the same needed on Sunday against a big a physical Panther outfit.
Added to the performance of their big men, hooker Jayden Brailey, named this week in the NYC Team of the Year, was his usual self in leading the way from the front, while his younger brother Blayke provided plenty of impact off the bench, scoring a try and setting one up with a line break and a chip kick.
Outside backs Sione Katoa, Josh Tuilagi and youngster Isaac Lumelume have also been in strong form during the run into the finals.
The Sharks and Panthers NYC will be the second of two under-20’s games to be played on Sunday, with the first match featuring the Wests Tigers and Parramatta Eels in an elimination final.
The Sharks game gets underway at 1.30pm and will be shown live on Fox Sports.