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Round 21 Key Match-Ups

It all starts now for the Sharks, having put themselves in a position that could see them finish the regular season in anywhere from third to eighth position.

A loss against the Sea Eagles on Sunday afternoon will basically shut the door on the Sharks top-four aspirations though, so if they want a shot at the title in 2018 the need to start playing their best footy now and consistently over the last five matches.

Cronulla has it's worst win percentage against Manly, winning just 24 of 89 matches played against them (27%), but they'll be near full strength when they take to the field and they know the boys from the Northern Beaches are not to be taken lightly.

Let's take a look at some of the key match-ups in this one.

 

Valentine Holmes v Tom Trbojevic

Two genuine match-winners set to battle it out from the back in Sunday's clash in the Shire.

Valentine Holmes may have returned from Origin on the wrong side of the result, but he came back to the Sharks brimming with confidence that has seen him explode over the last month to be the NRL's leading try scorer (equal with South's Robert Jennings) and also the joint leader in line breaks too.

Any suggestions that Val wasn't a Fullback have been brushed aside after a string of red-hot performances and a try-scoring run that has seen him cross the stripe 12 times in his last 9 games.

Val only needs three more tries this season to break the Sharks record for most tries in a season.

Could he bag himself a hat-trick on Sunday?

His opposite number, Tom Trbojevic, has had a bit of an up and down season so far.

He's struggled to find any consistency, but still manages to look like one of Manly's best each week.

Having already gone head-to-head during the 2018 Origin series with 'Tommy Turbo' coming out on top, Sunday afternoon will see Val take his chances to help his side claim the victory.

 

Matt Prior vs Martin Taupau

The middle of the pitch will be no place for the faint hearted on Sunday afternoon, with the likes of Matt Prior and Martin Taupau set to go hell for leather against one another up front.

Prior's been somewhat of a quiet achiever for the Sharks over the last few years, consistently stringing together solid performances, rewarded for his efforts with a call up into the starting line up for the NSW Blues in Game Two of the 2018 Origin Series.

He faces a formidable challenge this week with big-bopper Taupau ready to fire after being relegated to the bench last week but returning to the starting side against the Sharks.

Throw in the likes of Fifita and Fonua-Blake and the battle in the middle third of the park is going to be a big one!

 

Paul Gallen vs Jake Trbojevic

Paul Gallen will be out to show Jake Trbojevic he's still got it when the two face off on Sunday.

The former NSW lock vs the current, but from the stats alone you'd be forgiven for thinking Gal was still playing rep footy.

Gal's showing Sharks and NRL fans alike that age is no barrier, knocking out metres, tackles, busts and offloads consistently week-in week-out for his side.

He'll be up against it this week though with Jake Trbojevic providing plenty of strike power for the Sea Eagles, especially when linking with brother Tom.

 

Back to nearly full strength this week the Sharks will be out to prove their credentials, and should have enough to get home against the Sea Eagles, but sides wanting to prove a point in their last games of the season are hard to beat.

This one should be a cracker.

Kick-off between Cronulla and Manly in the NRL is scheduled for 2pm, with a Jersey Flegg under-20s curtain-raiser between the junior Sharks and Sea Eagles starting at 11.35am. You can stream the Jersey Flegg match live on the Sharks Facebook page.