NRL Preview – Sharks v Titans
With Origin having diverted the attention away from club football, it seems an age ago when the Sharks were able to dismantle a strong Roosters side on the Central Coast back on July 1 at their last start.
In their best performance of the 2017 season, the Sharks ran rampant in putting 44 points on the Roosters in what was a statement as to their intentions for the remainder of the NRL season.
The message was clear both pre-and post-match, with ball control the focus for a Sharks side that had struggled to control possession and therefore find any continuity in their attack.
Having found the formula, heading into a tough match up with the Titans on Saturday, the plan is for more of the same in the weeks to come.
“That’s our blueprint moving forward, we completed our first 22 sets in the game. It’s important for us to play similar to the way we did against the Roosters,” Sharks half back Chad Townsend said earlier in the week.
“Hold the ball,” was the simple solution offered by veteran forward Chris Heighington. “We were 100 per cent up to the 60th minute against the Roosters. That’s our benchmark now, so hopefully we can build off the back of that.”
Sitting second despite having committed the most errors in the competition prior to their round 17 match, the Sharks may have identified blueprints and benchmarks, however they won’t have things all their own way against a Titans team which upset the home side in a match played at Southern Cross Group Stadium earlier this season.
The Titans scored twice late in the second half to register a 16-12 win over the Sharks, with Heighington for one realising the challenge the Gold Coast boys will present.
“The Titans are a good outfit, a big enthusiastic squad and we’ve had a little bit of trouble with them. So we’re going to have to be at our best to do a job on them,” he said.
Adding to the task at hand is the fact the Sharks will have five players backing up from the Origin decider played on Wednesday, while on the other side of the ledger the Titans will have three.
The NSW Sharks in Wade Graham, Jack Bird, James Maloney and Andrew Fifita, as well as three-try Maroons hero Valentine Holmes, have all been declared physically ready to play, with Coach Shane Flanagan not prepared to risk any of the five unless they are 100 per cent fit.
“They’ve had a couple of days to get themselves right, but they’re all healthy,” Flanagan said prior to training on Friday morning. “We’ve got to win football games, but I’ve got to make sure everyone is fit and healthy. I won’t play them unless they’re 100 per cent.”
The Sharks had a Captain’s run at CBUS Stadium earlier today, with Flanagan narrowing his squad list from 23-20, leaving some decisions still to be made on his final 17-man line up.
He will make a call on his team one hour before kick-off tomorrow.
The match is scheduled to get underway at 7.30pm.
See the Sharks 20-player squad list below.
NRL Team List – Round 19
Sharks v Titans
Saturday, July 15
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 - Fa’amanu Brown
10 - Matt Prior
11 - Luke Lewis
12 - Wade Graham
13 - Paul Gallen
14 - Jayson Bukuya
15 - Chris Heighington
16 - Sam Tagataese
17 - Kurt Capewell
18 - Joseph Paulo
19 – James Segeyaro
20 – Jesse Ramien
21 - Jeremy Latimore
22 – Edrick Lee
23 – Billy Magoulias
Tale of the tape
Head to Head
Sharks 8 wins
At CBUS Super Stadium
Sharks 2 wins
Past eight matches
Sharks 4 wins
Biggest head to head margins
Sharks 36 Titans 12, Skilled Park, 2011
Titans 18 Sharks 4, Skilled Park, 2008