After two remarkable come-from-behind victories over the Roosters and Brisbane both away from home, it was no surprise to see near a full house for the Sharks first home game last week against Newcastle.
No surprise either to see the Sharks start well with the crowd behind and the home-side scoring three times in the first half, the first going to Jeff Robson after just 3 minutes of play. The Sharks scored two more tries and went to the break with an 18 – nil lead and all the momentum.
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The second half though was not of the same quality of that that they produced against the Roosters and Brisbane, and only sixteen minutes into the second half, the scores were level with the Knights running in three quick tries.
It was a momentum swing that the Sharks could not counter and in the end, the Knights crossed twice more to seal a Sharks-like victory 31 – 18.
It was a disappointing to see the Sharks, who were looking to register three wins on the trot for the first time since rounds round 11 of last year, not offer more resistance in the second half but they’ll be keen to bounce back here with a Friday night game in-front of another home crowd.
They’ve displayed – albeit in patches – the ability they possess and have proven at their best, they are a test for any side however, they’ll have to start putting two halves of football together if they want to win more games for the remainder of the season.
Paul Gallen is out for this clash and is a big loss but Andrew Fifita returns to the starting line-up.
Although close the Cowboys still couldn’t crack it for their first away win of the season when defeated by the Dragons in round 17, 27 – 24.
After a good run that saw them register four wins out of five, the Cowboys have won only one of their past four and have now slipped to twelfth on the ladder.
In their favour is a much stronger for-and-against than the four teams that sit above them so a win here could see them move up several spots on the ladder.
With four of their last six games at home – where this year they’ve lost one from eight matches, this is a real must-win game for the Cowboys.
Last week’s bye came at the right time for the Cowboys and allowed their Origin pair of Thurston and Tamou, a much needed week off.
They both return for this game allowing Michael Morgan, who substituted for Thurston at half-back last match, to return to the fullback position.
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HEAD TO HEAD
The Sharks won narrowly when the two sides last met in the first week of last year’s finals series however, only two weeks prior to that, the Cowboys had posted a 31 – 18 win.
Importantly for the Cowboys, that win came at Remondis Stadium and it was their third win from as many visits to the venue.
The away hoodoo has to be broken by the Cowboys and now, with their position on the ladder in a precarious position, is the time to do it. They’ve got within 2, 8 and 3 points in their last three away games against Parramatta, Newcastle and Dragons repectively.
The Sharks will have to put 80 minutes together if they are to win. They haven’t done so this year and although their Cowboys record away from home overall is atrocious, they’re record here reads much better and with more on the line, they should get home.
SHARKS: Michael Gordon, Sosaia Feki, Jonathan Wright, Ricky Leutele, Jacob Gagan, Fa’amanu Brown, Jeff Robson, Andrew Fifita, Michael Lichaa, Bryce Gibbs, Luke Lewis, Wade Graham, Anthony Tupou. Interchange: Pat Politoni, Siosaia Vave, Tinirau Arona, Sam Tagataese, Tim Robinson, Tupou Sopoaga.
COWBOYS: Michael Morgan, Matthew Wright, Tautau Moga, Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Robert Lui, Johnathan Thurston, Ashton Sims, Rory Kostjasyn, James Tamou, Tariq Sims, Jason Taumalolo, Glenn Hall. Interchange: Ray Thompson, Scott Bolton, Sam Hoare, John Asiata.