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18 Sep 2018 by Ash Wheldon

2018 NRL – Melbourne Storm vs Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Preview

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AT A GLANCE

When?
Friday 21st September, 10:40 (UK)

Where?
AAMI Park

What channel is it on?
UK – Sky Sports Arena
Australia – Foxtel, LIVE PASS

Where can I stream the match?
UK – Sky Sports subscribers can stream the match online via Sky Go
Australia – https://www.telstra.com.au/tv-movies-music/sports-offer

Are tickets still available?
https://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=NRLMRSSF18

THE STATISTICS

THE LOWDOWN

STORM

Head Coach: Craig Bellamy

Starting 13: Slater, Vunivalu, Chambers, Scott, Addo-Carr, Munster, Croft, J. Bromwich, C. Smith, Glasby, F. Kaufusi, Stimson, Finucane – Interchanges: K. Bromwich, Welch, Hoffman, Asofa-Solomona – Reserves: B. Smith, Hughes, Kasiano, Blair

Unavailable:

  • Melbourne enjoyed a week off to recover from their pulsating encounter with South Sydney after Cameron Munster’s late drop goal sealed the win for the Storm. Having share five tries apiece, Munster stepped up with four minutes left to edge his side to a 29-28 victory.

  • The Storm head into this game with a fully-fit squad. Will Chambers is back from a ban whilst Nelson Asofa-Solomona returns from injury. Ryan Hoffman is also back on the bench as Cheyse Blair, Brandon Smith and Sam Kasiano miss out.

  • Melbourne have restricted opposing teams to the fewest running metres on average in the NRL so far this season. They have allowed an average of 1284 per game and if they can contain the likes of Andrew Fifita in this game, they can earn a place in the Grand Final.

SHARKS

Head Coach: Shane Flanagan

Starting 13: Holmes, Feki, Ramien, Leutele, Lee, Moylan, Townsend, Fifita, Brailey, Prior, Lewis, Capewell, Gallen – Interchanges: Sorensen, Segeyaro, Woods, Bukuya – Reserves: Dugan, Seumanufagai, Paulo, Flanagan

Unavailable: Jack Williams, Wade Graham

  • Cronulla almost blew an 18-0 lead against Penrith last week but Chad Townsend held his nerve to edge the Sharks through to the Preliminary finals. The Panthers drew level at 20 points apiece but Townsend knocked over a drop goal with seven minutes left as the Sharks held on.

  • The Sharks have named an unchanged 17 from last week’s win over the Panthers but Paul Gallen is a doubt after suffering a nasty shoulder injury last week in which he suffered a ligament tear that pulled away a piece of bone. Josh Dugan is named as a reserve and could be a late inclusion if he can prove his fitness.

  • Cronulla make the fewest tackles on average per game in the NRL with an average of 272.5. That suggests they have managed to force errors early in the tackle count this season and turning the ball over in their favour against the Storm could be imperative to their chances.

THE PREDICTION

The first Preliminary final sees Melbourne host Cronulla with the Storm hoping to return to the Grand Final for a third straight season. These two teams met in the 2016 Grand Final when Cronulla were victorious, lifting their first Premiership in the process. The Sharks will be hoping for a repeat of that game but must do so with a few injury doubts with co-captain Paul Gallen set to play through the pain. Melbourne on the other hand are at full strength and enjoyed a week off last week after a win in week 1 of the finals. They will come into this much the fresher and that could make all the difference, especially at AAMI Park. The Sharks won’t fear heading there having beaten the Storm in Round 22 but this is a different kettle of fish. The Storm know how to get the job done and are a difficult side to beat under Craig Bellamy with his side expected to do just enough to make it to their third Grand Final in a row.

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