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The New Zealand Warriors came away with a hard-fought one-point victory on Friday night against the Cronulla Sharks, thanks to the first field goal of Blake Green’s career.
The Sharks came close to levelling scores in the final play, but a field goal attempt from Chad Townsend was inaccurate and saw them fall just short of going to golden point.
New Zealand Warriors 19
Cronulla Sharks 18
The NRL Round 18 Friday doubleheader kicks off with this crucial clash between the New Zealand Warriors and the Cronulla Sharks in Wellington. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage from 6pm (AEST).
With the Warriors in 12th place on 15 points after drawing with Brisbane last week, they have a great opportunity with a win in this game to overtake their opponents the Sharks, who sit in 9th place on 16 points.
The Sharks are coming off a month of horrible football, losing their last four matches, including three where they scored more tries than their opponents and still lost.
To make matters worse, this was a period in which they got many of their top-liners back from injury, including Matt Moylan, Shaun Johnson, Aaron Woods and Wade Graham – many were tipping them to go on a bit of a run and make a tilt towards the finals.
That hasn’t happened, but it’s not too late for them to turn it around with a win against the Warriors.
With both sides in the pack of seven or eight vying for two top eight spots, you can bet they’ll be up for this game. It should be a cracker!
The Sharks’ cause is boosted by the return from a hamstring injury of fullback Matt Moylan, as well as captain Paul Gallen from a glute injury.
However Josh Morris is out with a broken nose, while Josh Dugan will also miss this game due to a hamstring injury.
Aaron Gray will shift to the wing to replace Morris, while Kurt Capewell goes into the centres for Dugan, with Scott Sorenson promoted to the starting side to take Capewell’s backrow position.
The Warriors are unchanged 1-17 from the side that drew with Brisbane last week.
The inclusion of Matt Moylan means the Sharks will have more points in them than in previous weeks – he is the nucleus of their attack.
Kurt Capewell defending in the centres for the Sharks is a bit of a worry – he’s done it before but it’s always risky having a back-rower defending one wider. Expect the Warriors to target him.
The Sharks’ backline is a lot less threatening without Josh Morris and Josh Dugan. The Warriors, in contrast, have plenty of strikes out wide, with David Fusitua and Ken Maumalo both fantastic finishers, while Peta Hiku has been looking very dangerous with ball in hand in recent weeks.
I expect that to be the difference. I see the two forward packs as fairly evenly-matched, while each halves combination has been fairly clunky recently. The Warriors’ backs however, are head and shoulders above that of the Sharks, with their only real wide threat being young gun Bronson Xerri.
With Roger Tuivasa-Sheck pulling the strings at the back, I can’t see the Sharks getting up in this one. They will slump to their fifth straight loss, while the Warriors will win quite comfortably in the end after a tough first hour.
Warriors by 10.
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 6pm (AEST).
Where: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
When: 6pm (AEST)
TV: Fox League
Streaming: NRL Digital Pass, Kayo Sports
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. David Fusitua 3. Peta Hiku 4. Gerard Beale 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Blake Green 8. Agnatius Paasi 9. Issac Luke 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Adam Blair 12. Isaiah Papalii 13. Jazz Tevaga 14. Lachlan Burr 15. Sam Lisone 16. Bunty Afoa 17. Chanel Harris-Tavita 18. Adam Pompey 20. Ligi Sao 21. Blake Ayshford 22. Chris Satae
1. Matt Moylan 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Bronson Xerri 4. Kurt Capewell 5. Aaron Gray 6. Shaun Johnson 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Aaron Woods 11. Briton Nikora 12. Scott Sorensen 13. Paul Gallen 14. Blayke Brailey 15. Jack Williams 16. Braden Hamlin-Uele 17. Matt Prior 18. Billy Magoulias 19. Kyle Flanagan 20. Will Kennedy 21. Ronaldo Mulitalo