Things are getting desperate for both these sides heading into Saturday night’s clash.
Each team will have its own motivation for claiming the two points here and coincidentally they both involve semi-final football. Cronulla are safely in the top eight and will be there come September but the same cannot be said for the Cowboys who are now clinging on to eighth spot.
North Queensland come into the game off the back of three straight losses with the latest of those a 24-16 result against Penrith at Pepper Stadium.
As for Cronulla, they have lost back-to-back matches for the first time this season and will be keen to put in a better display than the one that saw them go down 32-10 at Suncorp Stadium against the Broncos last week.
Paul Green’s men have done a great job to still be in contention for a semi-final spot considering all the injuries they have had.
They come into this game with a few more added to the list with Justin O’Neill added to the casualty list while Michael Morgan was in some doubt but has been named.
One of their biggest problems in recent weeks has been on the field though, mainly in the second 40 minutes. They have scored just six points in the past three matches which is definitely not good enough if you want to sneak into the finals. Whatever Green is saying to his men at the sheds is obviously not working.
Is the weight of expectation and a long season finally taking its toll on the premiers?
For much of the season they have looked the main contender to the Melbourne Storm but in the past fortnight they have suffered consecutive losses by big margins.
Shane Flanagan’s side has the second best defence in the competition but has conceded a whopping 62 points in the past two rounds. Their attack has also appeared to be a bit flat which won’t be helped again with livewire utility Jack Bird still out of action.
Usually when these two play there isn’t a great deal between them.
CRONULLA has had the upperhand in recent times with three straight wins which is their longest streak against the Townsville outfit for 14 years. The average winning margin in those three games has been a little over six points.
When looking at games played at 1300Smiles Stadium the advantage definitely shifts to the home side. North Queensland has won four of the past five contests between the sides with three of those being by six points or less.
The 1-12 Winning Margin for either side is paying pretty decent odds with $3 @ bet365 available for the Sharkies and $3.70 @ Palmerbet for the Cowboys.
We are recommending the Sharkies to bounce back here.
They are in far better physical shape than the depleted Cowboys and if they want to defend their title, must win this game and keep their chances of securing a top four berth alive.
Although beaten at Suncorp last week the Sharks actually have one of the best away records in the competition at 8-2. Only the Melbourne Storm has been better on the road this season.
We are banking on the fact that James Maloney will be better for last week’s return to the side after missing a few weeks with a broken hand. He is a big game player so expect him to get his side over the line.
While the Cowboys will give it their all in front of the Townsville faithful, there has been a concerning trend about their performances of late. Their past three defeats have all been against top eight sides while their four straight wins prior to that were against sides all outside the top eight at the time.
This is the time of year when the cream rises to the top and premiers begin making a big charge towards the finals, however, it seems as though North Queensland have run out of bullets.
CRONULLA 1-12 WINNING MARGIN