Sharks v Cowboys: Who will move closer to their first ever premiership?
The Cronulla Sharks take on the North Queensland Cowboys in a do-or-die semi final tonight at 1300SMILES Stadium, and the match up is looking promising.
Both sides are chasing an elusive first premiership title. For the Cowboys, luck looks to never quite be on their side, with finals appearances in the last five Telstra NRL seasons to no avail. Not to mention their last three finals exits were on considerably controversial terms.
Cronulla’s finals history is much more inconsistent. Finishing 5th in 2013, to then go on to claim the wooden spoon in 2014, the Sharks have finished up a strong 2015 campaign in 6th place – narrowly missing out on 4th spot. A solid performance against a lacklustre South Sydney side in the first round of the elimination finals saw Cronulla polish off the reigning premiership holders 28-12, adding momentum to their strong second half of the season.
However, the Sharks have never won a finals match outside of Sydney, and tropical North Queensland is certainly a long way from home. The Cowboys are entering the match off the back of a fast-paced, high intensity tussle with the Broncos. With 57% of possession, the Cowboys lacked creativity in their attack, and allowed Brisbane to run away with the win 16-12.
If North Queensland can manage to bring the same speed and intensity into their upcoming game however, the story could be quite different. Cronulla have defeated the Cowboys on both occasions this year, but only because they have successfully dictated the terms of each game. They are the masters of engaging teams in a grinding battle of the forwards, breaking down their opposition’s momentum and attacking style in the process.
Michael Morgan returned against the Broncos last week, but his performance, understandably, isn’t quite at its peak. Andrew Fifita has recovered from the back spasms he suffered during the beginning of Cronulla’s first elimination final. However, with three handling errors marring his performance last week, his side is certainly going to be looking for an improved performance from him this week to keep their finals hopes alive.
Crucial for the Cronulla side as well, young gun Valentine Holmes has fully recovered from the corked thigh he battled through last week. The youngster was surprisingly quiet against Souths, and as arguably one of the Sharks’ players of the season, Coach Shane Flanagan will certainly need Holmes to be at his tenacious best.
Tonight, these two sides will fight to continue their runs towards their first ever premiership trophy. It’s going to be a hell of match.