Round 24 Key Match-Ups

Can you believe it, the final home game of 2018 is here for the Sharks, and with the finals in sight, they'll be hoping to put on a clinical performance to give themselves the all important double shot come September.

It's a significant clash this afternoon, as they not only put their top four hopes on the line against a determined Newcastle Knights outfit, but also bid farewell to retiring great Luke Lewis and the departing Edrick Lee, Joseph Paulo, Jesse Ramien and Ricky Leutele.

The Sharks have won the past seven straight matches against Newcastle, the equal second most consecutive wins against an opponent in the NRL since 2015.

Although Cronulla trounced Newcastle earlier this year, the Shire men will be on high alert after the Novocastrians convincingly beat Penrith last round.

The Knights will be hoping to notch another win in at least one of their remaining two matches to bring up their 10th win of the season, the most they would have won in a season since 2014.

Sharks star Valentine Holmes will also be out to break the all-time record for most tries in a season by a Shark, needing just one to overtake the great David Peachey for outright honours.

Let's take a look at some of the key match-ups across the park this afternoon.

 

Luke Lewis v Lachlan Fitzgibbon

The final match at Shark Park for legend Luke Lewis.

Fans of any side would have plenty of great memories and moments from Lewy's time in the Shire, most notably his key role in Cronulla's maiden NRL premiership, but now it's time to say goodbye.

Although 2018 has been injury affected for Lewis, he's still made a massive impact in his 12 appearances so far. There's few that run a better line, hit harder in defence, or provide the 'cool head' needed in those tight scrappy affairs.

Back in round 12 during the Sharks demolition of the Knights, Lewy was physical, challenging his opposite number at every turn. This afternoon it's Lachlan Fitzgibbon that's set for the showdown.

It worked a treat that day and he'll be planning on a repeat performance, one last time in front of his home crowd.

 

Chad Townsend vs Mitchell Pearce

Chad Townsend has certainly silenced some of his doubters over the last two weeks, with dominant displays in both of Cronulla's victories over the Storm and Cowboys respectively. 

Chaddy doesn't pay much attention to the outside chatter, instead choosing to focus on the things he can control, and it's proving the difference at the business end of the season.

Two rounds out from the finals, Townsend's game is coming together nicely. Last week he scored a try off a beautiful solo effort, set up another and seemed to have the ball on a string with a few of his kicks.

This afternoon Townsend is pitted against Newcastle Knights halfback Mitchell Pearce in what will be an intriguing encounter.

 

Scott Sorensen vs Chris Heighington

What a season it's been for Scott Sorensen.

Having made his NRL debut for Cronulla back in 2014, during the campaign derailed by the ASADA investigation, Sorensen has always had the desire to claw his way back into playing first grade consistently.

In 2018 he's certainly been rewarded for all of his hard work over the years.

With veteran Luke Lewis retiring at season's end, the Sharks can rest easy knowing they have a guy like Scotty on their books. He runs a strong line, has great speed and footwork for a big fella, and works tirelessly in defence.

With injuries to both Lewis and Graham throughout the season, 'Soro' has really stepped up, grabbing every opportunity with both hands and earning himself what looks to be a permanent spot in the Sharks 17.

This week he's up against an ex-Shark in 'Heighno', who, like Lewis, will be playing his final game on Shark Park this afternoon, a place that no doubt holds plenty of memories.

 

Kick-off between the Sharks and Knights is set for 2pm on Sunday. Gates open at 11:30am, with the Cronulla under-20s to play a curtain-raiser to the main game.