Round 7 continues with a strong double-header on Saturday before the big three games for ANZAC Day on Sunday. Sharks will host the struggling Bulldogs from 5.30pm while the Cowboys take on the Raiders up in Townsville shortly after.
Jubilee Stadium, 5:30pm AEST
The Sharks will be desperate to avoid a third straight loss after going down narrowly to the Roosters and Knights in their last two matches. They take on the bottom of the table Bulldogs who still remain winless after being comfortably beaten by the Cowboys last week. The Dogs have finally got some rythm with the ball in hand but continue to leak plenty of points in defence. They will need to sort their defensive woes out before they are any chance of winning a match this season.
The Sharks will be boosted by the return of star playmaker Shaun Johnson who has overcome an Achilles injury. It’s the first time Johnson will suit up this season and has been named on the bench. New recruit Will Chambers has been named in the reserves as he nears his debut for Cronulla. The Bulldogs will have a new look front row with Dylan Napa and Luke Thompson starting while their backline remains relatively unchanged as they search for much needed points.
It’s just about impossible to tip the Bulldogs at the moment with their struggling defence leaking 34 points per game on average this season. History is on the Sharks side as well here, having won six of the past seven games between these two sides.
The Sharks forwards should be too strong for the visitors here and I expect their backline to benefit off the back off this. The Bulldogs look suspect in defence on both sides of the field and I think Cronulla will be too clinical in this match. Fuelled by the heartbreak of two close losses, the Sharks will be desperate to make amends and force themselves back into the top 8 with a win here tonight.
Queensland Country Bank Stadium, 7:35pm AEST
These two sides meet each other tonight with differing form as the Cowboys ride a two match winning streak while the Raiders have hit a flat spot, losing three of their last four matches. It won’t get any easier as they travel to Townsville to face a Cowboys side who looks to finally have found some confidence and are playing well. Ricky Stuart has wielded the axe as he searches desperately for a win to get his team back on track.
The Cowboys will again be without Jason Taumololo but they seem to be doing okay without him for now. The form of Valentine Holmes has been outstanding as he looks to slowly be returning to some of the form which saw him rated one of our game’s best before his code switch.
It’s hard to be confident in this match here as I just can’t see the Raiders losing again, but the Cowboys have finally found some form. I think up in Townsville and playing with the confidence, the home side should be right in this. They’ve piled on plenty of points recently, scoring 64 across their last two matches. As mentioned, Valentine Holmes will be a key to their chances here today and I’m expecting another big game from him.
The Raiders were too bad to be true last week and some changes to the starting lineup might wake up a few of their players and be the motivation they need. Tom Starling will start at hooker and he brings a new dimension to their attack. You’d expect Ricky Stuart to have his men fired up as things are starting to get desperate as they look to avoid a third straight loss.
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