The Sharkies are looking the goods heading into Thursday night’s clash with the Cowboys.
Cronulla’s premiership defence looks as though it will be going deep this season after getting the better of local rivals Stgeorge Illawarra last night, albeit in dubious circumstances, 18-14.
North Queensland surprised more than a few punters by blowing the dogs off the park early at ANZ Stadium before eventually running out 30-14 winners.
Both last start winners and also positioned in the top eight this shapes a classic ‘four pointer’ when it comes to premiership standings.
GETTING THE JOB DONE
They aren’t the champs for no reason and CRONULLA are proving why they are the ones to beat again in 2017 by winning six of their past seven matches.
Last week they weren’t entitled to win if you look at the stats. They were completing sets at less than 60 percent, ran for less metres than the Dragons and conceded more penalties and yet they escaped with a four point win.
Yes they were the beneficiaries of some favourable calls, however, their defence held firm when tested by the Dragons and it’s that attitude that has put them second on the ladder.
The iron-clad defence of the Sharks has conceded just 132 points at an average of 13.2 points per game.
COWBOYS ON THE RISE?
Paul Green welcomed back several players to the side last week and their influence paid dividends straight away.
North Queensland’s away record in NSW since the start of 2016 has been shocking but they somehow came to ANZ Stadium and jumped the Bulldogs before their opponents knew what was happening.
Johnathan Thurston has been named on an extended bench for the Cowboys this week, however, punters should wait until closer to game time to seeing whether the champion half takes his place or not.
While it didn’t matter last week, there’s no doubt that North Queensland’s record with Thurston in the side is far better than when he is not there.
Cronulla have the wood on the Cowboys in recent times.
The Sharks beat North Queensland on the way to their maiden premiership last season and that was the club’s fourth win in the past six clashes
The boys from the Shire will be aiming to win three in a row against the Cowboys for the first time since 2003.
Of interest to Margin bettors is the fact their last three contests is that six of the previous games between the sides have been decided 1-12. A Sharkies win by that margin is returning $3.20 with bet365.
The Sharkes are definitely the ones to beat here.
Coach Shane Flanagan will be without Matt Prior who is suspended but does welcome back a few players so filling in for the under-rated forward shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.
What could turn out to be an issue is their poor handling which has dipped below 60 percent in seven of their first 10 games. While you can ride your luck for a while, at some point, it will run out and costly turnovers are going to catch up on the Sharks if they keep doing it.
North Queensland put somewhat of a mini hoodoo behind them by winning in Sydney last week but that was just their second win in the area in eight matches. Coincidentally, both of those have been against Canterbury.
The reality of it is they are hamstrung in a way without Thurston and going up against a quality side like the Sharks, who can win despite making mistakes, is a different story altogether. Their defence is also a concern as they have conceded 20.4ppg through the opening 10 rounds and are the only side currently in the top eight to have leaked over 200 points.
Go for the Sharks in this one with the boys at bet365 offering up $1.53 which is pretty good in our books.