NRL Round 19: Sharks v Cowboys Preview & Betting Tips
Finals hopes are on the line with the struggling Sharks hosting the Cowboys to start round 19 from the Shire.
Cronulla Sharks v North Queensland Cowboys – Pointsbet Stadium – 7:50pm
Does Cronulla actually want to play finals? They’re doing a hell of a job self-sabotaging their chances, their 19-18 loss to the Warriors their fifth in a row and now sees them a win outside the eight.
After coach John Morris called out his senior players to step up, Andrew Fifita’s brain explosion to charge Lachlan Burr was the turning point in the tight game. Fifita always walks a fine line with mongrel but there was nothing to defend his ill-discipline, his sin bin gifting the Warriors a score-levelling penalty goal and all the momentum in the final ten minutes, where Blake Green potted a field goal to compound Cronulla’s misery.
Fifita wasn’t alone in having a shocking night controlling his actions, Cronulla gave away three penalty goals to once again score more tries than their opponents yet still lose. Morris once again unloaded post-game, saying the Sharks “got our pants pulled down” and with the battle for the top eight remaining congested, Cronulla bear little resemblance to the all-heart side who’d compete for 80 minutes to kickoff 2019.
Shaun Johnson was quiet in his first match against his former side and with young half Kyle Flanagan officially a Rooster from next year, the criticism of the Kiwi’s form is growing louder. The talent remains for the Sharks to turn their season around and with them level on points with the Cowboys, this match looms as a four-pointer in the chase for September and it’s truly now or never for the Sharkies to start fighting. Should Cronulla not find a way to rediscover their grit, they’ll get their pants pulled down twice in a week.
The Cowboys came agonisingly close to defeating Souths and the Roosters two weeks running – going down 30-18 to the Bunnies despite having a six-point lead with nine minutes left. It was a stirring effort from North Queensland, who remain a finals chance and now have the added motivation of farewelling the club’s greatest prop Matt Scott at season’s end.
Yet near enough wasn’t good enough and a string of unfinished chances left the Cowboys vulnerable for a late Souths surge to concede three late tries. Jake Clifford continues to develop nicely in the halves despite Michael Morgan’s concussion-related absence and the young playmaker would have appreciated hooker Jake Granville’s brilliant ball to Kyle Feldt to set up Tom Opacic’s try early on.
Scott Drinkwater has also been a revelation at fullback since his mid-season recruitment from Melbourne and he pounced on a Bunnies mistake for his second try in three Cowboys starts. The Cowboys remain a chance for the finals and despite the loss, Paul Green would take huge confidence from his side’s last fortnight against teams second and third.
Cameron Murray’s outstanding performance proved crucial and it’s a rare sight to see Jason Taumalolo walk off a match as the second-best lock on ground – though much like his side, it wasn’t through a lack of effort. Provided North Queensland continue their recent spirit performances, the Cowboys will still be dreaming of a late surge into the finals – after all, if 2017 showed anything it’s to never write off the Cowboys while there’s still a chance.
Key stats: In four of their last five losses Cronulla has scored more tries than their opposition. These sides met in round 3 with the Sharks dishing out a 42-16 thrashing. The Cowboys haven’t won in Cronulla since 2014, while the Sharks have a 6-2 head-to-head record in recent times. Chad Townsend is a try-scoring machine against the Cowboys – in nine games as a Shark, he has eight tries.
Best bet: Race to 10 points – Sharks - $1.64* (Sportsbet)
Value bet: Chad Townsend anytime try scorer - $6* (Topbetta)