NRL Round 16: Sharks v Broncos Preview & Betting Tips
Can things get any worse for the Broncos in 2019? Another loss to Cronulla could end their faint finals hopes.
Cronulla Sharks v Brisbane Broncos – PointsBet Stadium – 4:05pm
Cronulla’s 2019 season has been identified by their effort. They’ve arguably punched above their weight to be a top-four contender considering their horror off-season, debilitating injury list and having a rookie coach.
Their 14-12 defeat to Canterbury, therefore, packs an extra punch since the bottom-placed Bulldogs out enthused Cronulla. It’s been a rough fortnight – their similarly painful 22-20 loss to Canberra is still raw and once again Cronulla scored more tries than their opponents but Shaun Johnson’s wayward goalkicking cost them dearly. But compare the effort Cronulla served up against the Dogs to – for example – the wholehearted fight they brought to Melbourne and it’s night and day.
There’s also a worrying trend emerging for the Sharks who are needing to play catch-up footy far too regularly, given the headstarts they’re giving opposition. Canterbury entered the match averaging fewer than 12 points a match this year and yet by being switched on, they raced to a 14-0 lead against the sluggish Sharks.
They got back into the game with three straight tries but constant handling errors and some substandard Chad Townsend attack options thwarted their comeback. Coach John Morris roasted his side post-game, calling the effort “awful” and openly calling out “cockiness” and senior players “not stepping up.” Unlike their opponents this week Cronulla aren’t highly impacted by Origin. If they want to restart their finals attack, they simply need to beat Brisbane.
There have been heavier and higher-profile losses for Brisbane this year but their 26-12 defeat to Newcastle felt like the Broncos’ miserable 2019 sunk to a new low. The most damning statement you can make about one of the pre-season Premiership favourites is they looked a broken team last weekend. They lacked severely in leadership.
Switching Darius Boyd and Anthony Milford’s positions did not spark the attack, instead, new five-eighth Boyd was an easy target in defence while Milford suffered a knee injury which sidelines him indefinitely. Halfback Sean O’Sullivan is a hot prospect but in his third NRL game, it’s a tough ask to expect him to successfully navigate a side low in confidence.
Brisbane’s biggest strength on paper – its forwards – also were dominated by Newcastle. Hooker Andrew McCullough is still finding his feet in making his return from injury while veteran backrower Matt Gillett did not make a single run in the first half when Newcastle looked to have already sealed the result. With Origin meaning further player withdrawals, it means coach Anthony Seibold is forced into selection changes which he may not have wanted to make – primarily the reports Boyd would have been dropped this week were it not for Origin callups. The Broncos are at real risk of the club’s worst table finish in history and the challenge being laid down to the side this week is simply to show some fight.
Key stats: The Sharks have won their last seven second halves. They will need to overcome recent history though, with only one win against Brisbane in the last five years. Brisbane will field a massively revamped backline – only Darius Boyd remains from round one. Cronulla still boasts six former Origin representatives in their squad this week. Josh Dugan has four tries in three games.
Best bet: Sharks second half - $1.45* (Unibet)
Value bet: Josh Dugan anytime try scorer - $2.00* (TAB)