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The Cronulla Sharks have their finals destiny in their own hands when they take on the Melbourne Storm on the Gold Coast tonight. Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 6pm (AEST).
The Roosters’ win over the Raiders was the first chip to fall the Sharks’ way this week, but they’re not safe in the eight just yet. The Titans face the Warriors on Sunday currently 23 down on points-differential, so a loss here would leave everyone scrambling for their calculators on Sunday.
There’s intrigue on the other side of the coin, too, needing the win to seal the minor premiership. If the Sharks can get the result, it will open the door for the Penrith Panthers to steal the crown at the death.
If the Sharks do make it to the last eight, they’ll certainly have earned it. A swathe of injuries to key personnel and an acrimonious mid-season coaching change could have derailed their campaign, but here they are sitting in eighth with one round to go.
The Storm have been the best in the business in 2021 as premiers, but a shock loss to the Eels last week has raised questions about where they are at on the eve of the finals.
The Sharks have named an unchanged 17 for this one; however, Matt Moylan will start at five-eighth in the place of the benched Luke Metcalf. It is a chance for them to build on some combinations.
The Storm have rested a fair chunk of their team, with Cameron Munster, Josh Addo-Carr, Christian Welch, Reimis Smith, Felise Kaufusi and the Bromwich brothers all omissions. Ryan Papenhuzen starts at fullback again this week, with Nicho Hynes slotting in at five-eighth. Dale Finucane makes his return at lock.
The Storm did a number on the Sharks earlier this year, running away comfortable 40-14 winners on a Friday night in Melbourne. The Storm have won four of the past five between these two. As you would expect, this is the first meeting between the two sides on the Gold Coast.
The Storm were poor last week, but they were due an ordinary performance after 19 wins on the canter. No matter what team Craig Bellamy sends out this week, you get the feeling that they will have far better attitude and effort than last week. In saying that, bulk changes can really hurt a side, especially defensively and they may be more reliant on their attack to get them home.
For the Sharks, it’s a date with destiny. They should be aiming for a good showing in defence; the points will come in attack against what will be a more disjointed Storm side than we usually see.
It is a toss of the coin this one, but I can’t go past the Storm, just for the professionalism they show each and every week. The Sharks are every bit a chance in this one, though, with a win to finally assure them of a finals spot.
Storm by 2.
Join The Roar for live scores and commentary from 6pm (AEST).
1. Will Kennedy, 2. Sione Katoa, 3. Connor Tracey, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Mawene Hiroti, 6. Matt Moylan, 7. Braydon Trindall, 8. Toby Rudolf, 9. Blayke Brailey, 10. Aaron Woods (c), 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Teig Wilton, 13. Jack Williams
Bench/Reserves: 14. Luke Metcalf, 15. Braden Hamlin-Uele, 16. Aiden Tolman, 17. Siosifa Talakai | 18. Kai O’Donnell, 21. Jonaiah Lualua
1. Ryan Papenhuyzen, 5. Dean Ieremia, 3. Marion Seve, 4. Justin Olam, 21. Isaac Lumelume, 6. Nicho Hynes, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Tui Kamikamica, 9. Brandon Smith, 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 11. Aaron Pene, 12. Chris Lewis, 13. Dale Finucane (c)
Bench/Reserves: 14. Harry Grant, 15. Tepai Moeroa, 16. Jordan Grant, 18. Cooper Johns | 19. Daniel Atkinson, 20. Trent Loiero