Warriors v Sharks: Schick Preview
Wed 26 Jul, 2017, 12:00pm
By Corey Rosser, New Zealand Correspondent, NRL.com
Schick Hydro Preview: Warriors v Sharks
Mount Smart Stadium
Friday, 8pm NZT, 6pm AEDT
As the Sharks circle the NRL Telstra Premiership top four, D-Day looms for the Warriors ahead of Friday night's clash in Auckland.
Sitting in 12th position, now six points outside of the top eight, the Warriors will run out at Mount Smart Stadium with three-straight losses behind them, while their opponents this week come off a 26-12 victory over the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Coach Stephen Kearney has maintained the same 17 who went down 24-12 to the Cowboys in Townsville last week, and given they have won only once on the road all year, this home match shapes as a must win if they are to stay in contention for an improbable finals appearance.
The Sharkies have a forced change, with Blues five-eighth James Maloney out due to a hand injury and Fa'amanu Brown to wear the No.6 in his place.
James Segeyaro starts at hooker, while coach Shane Flanagan welcomes Jack Bird back in the centres.
Why the Warriors can win: They are a different beast at home in 2017, and currently possess the NRL's second-best home record with six wins from nine matches on New Zealand soil, while at Mount Smart Stadium they have lost just twice this season. At home the Warriors average 20.5 points scored, compared to 18.4 on the road, and leak 20.1 on average at home, 4.3 less than their away average.
Why the Sharks can win: The Cronulla forwards have been dominating all year, and will be coming up against a Warriors' pack who have struggled all season and this week are without one of their best performers in James Gavet (broken arm). The Sharks sit third in the competition in terms of metres gained this year, averaging 1644 per match, and last week they had big men Andrew Fifita, Matt Prior, Wade Graham, Paul Gallen and Jason Bukuya all run for over 95 metres individually.
The History: Played 36; Warriors 16; Sharks 20. Cronulla have tasted victory in seven of their last nine meetings with the Warriors, including the two most recent examples. But these have been very close encounters of late, with five of the last six decided by four points or less. The Sharkies have won in three of their last four visits to Mount Smart Stadium.
What are the odds: The Warriors have been the least supported team of the round with Sportsbet. An incredible 98 per cent of the money is with the Sharks at relatively backable odds. Around three-quarters of the bets at the line have been on Cronulla as well, where they're conceding the points start.
Match officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin. Assistant referee: Gavin Reynolds. Sideline officials: Chris McMillan and Russell Turner. Review official: Bryan Norrie. Senior review official: Jared Maxwell.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live coverage from 6pm. Sky Sports - Live coverage from 8pm.
NRL.com predicts: The Sharks have put themselves right in the mix as the home stretch approaches, while the Warriors conversely look set for another slow and painful exit from finals contention. With their superior presence through the middle of the park, and the fact that the Warriors are missing some key talent, Cronulla will have too much on Friday night. Sharks by 14.