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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
A Saturday night blockbuster in the shire awaits the NRL public as the Cronulla Sharks host the Sydney Roosters at the newly named Pointsbet Stadium.
The Sharks have had a rocky 2019, with off-field dramas starting their season, and then their performances on the park have been shaky. Opening the year with two wins and two losses from their four games, it's been back-to-back wins sandwiched between losses. Last weekend, they boys in the black, white and blue were left injury depleted with Paul Gallen, Matt Moylan & Shaun Johnson all missing last weeks 24-12 loss to the Eels.
Cronulla were comprehensively outplayed despite the scoreline at fulltime - and even sitting level at 12-12 at halftime, the Sharks never looked as if they were going to win the contest. They do welcome back Paul Gallen and Shaun Johnson into the line up as per Tuesday's team announcement, but they have lost Aaron Woods who has suffered a foot fracture.
The Sydney Roosters meanwhile showed no signs of weakness last weekend, as they put on a Rugby League clinic against the Broncos at the SCG with their 36-4 demolition of a very poor side. The Roosters have won their last three matches after their shock Round 1 defeat, and in that winning streak, chalked up 94 points across the three games. Their dominance last week was assisted by a Brisbane side who looked disinterested, but even so, the Roosters showed why they are reigning premiers.
The Eastern Suburbs side will be boosted by the return of Jared Waerea-Hargraves who missed last week's game. JWH is an important addition for the side, who have a poor winning rate when the New Zealand international is out of the team.
Last meeting: Finals Week 1 2018 - Roosters 21 Sharks 12
Over the past 20 years, the Roosters have dominated the contests between the two sides with 23 wins from the 40 matches played with 1 draw. The Roosters have also won the past two matches the two sides have played in the Shire.
Who to watch: Rep star Josh Dugan is the temporary fullback for the Sharks whilst Matt Moylan is out injured and despite it being his preferred position, Dugan's performance at the back last week left a lot to be desired. The NSW centre will want to and need to put in a much better performance in the custodian role this week, because the Roosters will be more than willing to test him at the back.
Roosters enforcer Victor Radley has had to move into the number 9 jersey in recent weeks following injury to captain and regular rake Jake Friend, and last weekend he was supremely impressive. Radley possesses speed, size and ball playing skills. The key will be his service out of dummy half to both Cronk and Keary against what should be on paper a tougher opponent than what the Broncos threw at them last Thursday.
The favourite: The Sydney Roosters head into the game as heavy favourites.
My tip: Even with big returns, it's hard to see the Sharks pose much of a threat to the Roosters. The Roosters have looked stronger each week and their performance last week would be close to the performance of the season so far. In comparison, Cronulla's two wins have come against the strugglers of the first four rounds. Roosters by 20.
1. Josh Dugan 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Bronson Xerri 4. Josh Morris 5. Sione Katoa 6. Shaun Johnson 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Jayden Brailey 10. Matt Prior 11. Briton Nikora 12. Kurt Capewell 15. Jayson Bukuya 14. Blayke Brailey 16. Jack Williams 17. Scott Sorensen 20. Braden Hamlin-uele
1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Matt Ikuvalu 6. Luke Keary 7. Cooper Cronk 15. Zane Tetevano 9. Victor Radley 10. Siosiua Taukeiaho 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Angus Crichton 13. Isaac Liu 14. Lindsay Collins 16. Poasa Faamausili 17. Mitchell Aubusson 18. Nat Butcher
Referees: Matt Cecchin, Phil Henderson; Sideline Officials: Todd Smith, Rickey McFarlane; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Beau Scott;