NRL Preview - Sharks v Tigers
After four wins in succession a loss to the Titans last weekend came as a major disappointment to the Sharks, their fans and especially to their coach Shane Flanagan.
With the Sharks seemingly in control for most of the match the Titans showed plenty of character to hang in, with their 76th minute game-sealing try silencing the Sharks crowd and leaving the Sharks looking for some answers.
Although obviously disappointing, the loss has had the effect of lifting the intensity at training this week as the Sharks aim to bounce back in what shapes as a tricky game against an under-siege Tigers team.
“Tomorrow is a real important game for us,” Flanagan said. “We’ve been inconsistent, we put four wins together, two were ugly wins, but we’ve been inconsistent at best.
Flanagan was less than impressed by the performance and while he has since calmed down, he realises the game tomorrow is a crucial one, something he has stressed to his players this week.
“It’s an important time of the season to start stringing wins together, coming into the Origin period. We need to get back to our standards and to pick them up against the Tigers tomorrow.”
While plenty of publicity has surrounded the Tigers and their recent off-field turmoil, on the paddock new coach Ivan Cleary has simplified the game plan and has his team playing some enterprising football.
In a closely-fought match last week the Tigers scored late to beat the Bulldogs and at Leichhardt Oval, traditionally a tough place for Cronulla teams to play, will arrive confident of springing an upset over the defending NRL premiers.
In the Sharks favour is the fact they will be able to trot out a team missing just two players from what may be considered their strongest 17, Jayson Bukuya, missing with an ankle problem and Luke Lewis out due to a minor hamstring strain.
The loss of Bukuya has forced a reshuffle, with Gerard Beale returning on the wing, Kurt Capewell switching to the interchange bench and Tony Williams, in what would be his first NRL game in Sharks colours if called upon, potentially coming into the side it the back row.
Capewell, Williams, Joseph Paulo and Sam Tagataese, all having been named and retained in the 19-player squad, come into contention for game time with Lewis and Bukuya unavailable.
As for their opponents the Tigers, the likes of James Tedesco, Aaron Woods, Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses, four players under intense media pressure in recent weeks, will be keen to leave the off-field drama on the sidelines and turn in strong games for their team tomorrow.
Matt McIlwrick, a member of the Sharks 2016 Premiership winning squad, also suits up for the Tigers tomorrow at hooker in a match against his former teammates.
The Sharks v Tigers clash is scheduled for a 7.30pm kick off at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday night.
NRL Team List – Round 9
Sharks v Tigers
Saturday, April 29
Kick-off – 7.30pm
1- Valentine Holmes
2- Sosaia Feki
3- Jack Bird
4- Ricky Leutele
5- Gerard Beale
6- James Maloney
7- Chad Townsend
8- Andrew Fifita
9- Jayden Brailey
10- Matt Prior
18- Tony Williams
12- Wade Graham
13- Paul Gallen
14- Kurt Capewell
15- Chris Heighington
16- Jeremy Latimore
17- Joseph Paulo
19- Sam Tagataese
20- Edrick Lee
Tale of the tape
Sharks v Tigers
Head to head
Wests Tigers 17 wins
At Leichhardt Oval
Past eight matches
Wests Tigers 4
Biggest head to head margins
Sharks 32 beat Wests Tigers 6, Leichhardt Oval, 2008
Wests Tigers 56 beat Sharks 10, Toyota Stadium, 2009