A Grand Final rematch will be the perfect way to commence Round 14 of the NRL.
The top two sides on the ladder this season were the final teams standing last year so will the result be different this time around?
They’ve already met once this season with the Sharks winning a nailbiter at AAMI Park but can the Storm prevent what would be a historic third straight defeat to the Sharks? The match has been robbed of a superstar clash in the halves with Cooper Cronk not named by Craig Bellamy who is choosing to rest his chief playmaker.
Cronulla go into this off the back of a bye and will be fresh while Melbourne put the cleaners through Newcastle in an impressive 40-12 romp at home.
HOLDING THEIR NERVE
Cronulla are the masters at winning the close contest in 2017.
The Sharks have won nine of their 12 games with seven of those by nine points or less while six of them have been by a converted try or less. Currently riding a four-game winning streak, Cronulla has won those matches by an average of 3.75 points.
One of the big reasons for their impressive run in defending their title so far has been their league-leading defence, which is conceded just 12.83 points per game.
MELBOURNE’s road performances make them one of just three sides in the competition yet to taste defeat when traveling.
Craig Bellamy’s men are 6-0 as the designated ‘home’ team and are averaging 23 points per game at away venues. That gives this fixture some added spice as their attack will be fully tested against the best defence in the competition.
Importantly for the Storm they were able to bet the lowly Knights without skipper Cameron Smith last week. Their win percentage drops dramatically when Smith isn’t available but the future immortal is back for this weekend’s clash.
CRONULLA are aiming for three straight wins over Melbourne for the first time this century.
They have managed to beat the Storm in consecutive matches just twice in the past 17 years and will go into this game fully of confidence having won three of the past four encounters.
Prior to this mini run of outs against the Sharks, Melbourne had won five straight by an average margin of 32.5 points!
Their clash back in Round 6 this season at AAMI Park saw the game delicately poised at 3-2 to the visitors with 10 minutes remaining. Cronulla went on to win 11-2 and it was the first time in 2017 that Melbourne had failed to score a try.
Wow, this was seriously a toss of the coin job until Cronk wasn’t named for the Storm.
Cronulla’s iron-clad defence has stifled many opponents this season and an attack without Cronk dictating may be a bridge too far for the visitors especially at Shark Park.
While the venue hasn’t exactly been a fortress this season the team has been ultra impressive for the most part and have made their opponents work for their wins at the venue.
It seems as though Shane Flanagan’s men are doing enough just to get the points in their matches and leaving something in the tank for a game like this. One area we are concerned with though is their errors, missed tackles and ill discipline which puts them in the bottom third in the NRL in those stats.
Melbourne has the second-best defence in the NRL and is conceding 14.75ppg so points could be at a premium for both sides. The Storm are a team that regularly punish errors or penalties so the opportunities will be there to test the Sharks defence.
Remember, the Grand Final went 14-12 in Cronulla’s favour and earlier this season just 13 points were scored in their contest. Going off that then the Total Points of 28.5 looks the goods to go Under. Get as much as $2.61 @ Sportsbet about it happening.
In Head-to-Head betting though we are favouring the Sharks who you can secure as much as $2.04 @ Betfair.
ANDREW FIFITA TO SCORE A TRY – the barnstorming forward has been in beast mode for most of the season