This is a very important game for both sides as Friday night footy heads across the ditch.
For New Zealand the equation is simple – keep winning. They are sitting three wins outside the top eight but are an outside chance of making the semis if they win their final six games of the season.
Cronulla, on the other hand, are comfortably in the eight at the moment but need to keep winning if they have designs on finishing in the top four. Currently they are equal third on 28 points but have Manly and the Eels just a win behind them.
The Warriors come into this game off the back of three straight losses which has all but cruelled their chance of making the finals with the latest of those a 24-12 loss to the Cowboys in Townsville.
Cronulla’s six-game sequence of wins and losses continued with a solid win over the Rabbitohs 26-12.
DEFENCE WINS GAMES
NEW ZEALAND’s defence has let them down in recent games which explains why they are on a three-game skid.
Stephen Kearney’s side has conceded an average 28 points per game during their slide which indicates that they are playing well enough and may well have given up on season 2017.
In their past five wins, New Zealand has conceded more than 14 points which is a big stat and tells us that when their defence is on song they can handle most teams in the competition.
From what we have seen in recent weeks though that is definitely not the case.
Losing James Maloney is a big blow to the CRONULLA SHARKS.
One of the best players in the game, Maloney’s influence was a big reason why they were able to break through for their first premiership last season.
The five-eighth has a broken hand and will be missing for a few weeks with Fa’amanu Brown slotting in to replace Maloney in the halves alongside Chad Townsend.
Brown’s move from the hooking role means James Segeyaro gets the nod at number nine for the visitors.
This doesn’t make good reading if you are a NEW ZEALAND supporter.
Cronulla has won seven of the past nine encounters against the Kiwis, however, there hasn’t been much between them in recent games despite their dominance.
Margin punters may be keen to take the 1-12 either side as the past four games and five of the past have been decided by four points or less.
CRONULLA is the way to go here.
We are concerned that they will be without James Maloney but Shane Flanagan’s men should have too many class across the park for the Warriors who don’t have a great deal left to play for.
While it is still possible for New Zealand to make the finals they need to win six straight and have things go their way – they haven’t registered more than back-to-back wins on two occasions all season.
The Sharkies have eyes on consecutive premierships and won’t let the Warriors get in their way here.
SOSAIA FEKI FIRST TRYSCORER