Sharks circling Storm


THE Cronulla Sharks with bench dynamo James Segeyaro are eyeing another win over the Storm in tomorrow’s NRL semifinal at AAMI Park.
They finished the regular season in second place but the Storm headed into the playoffs on a losing note, going down 22-16 at home to Penrith in the final round of the regular season.
It mattered little, as the NRL titleholders came from behind more than once to beat South Sydney by a point in a thrilling week one finals clash.
As much as they would’ve loved a rematch with the Panthers, Melbourne must surely be relishing the chance for another crack at the Sharks.
Cronulla have had the Storm’s measure this season, just like they did in the 2016 grand final.
Of their two meetings in 2018, the Sharks prevailed 14-4 at home in round four before claiming an equally gritty 17-14 victory in Melbourne in round 22.
Cronulla won their final four games of the regular season and it would’ve been six straight if not for losses to the Broncos and Manly.
They lost to the Roosters in week one of the finals before staying in the premiership race with last week’s 21-20 win over Penrith.
Melbourne are expected to be at full strength, while the Sharks will be without Wade Graham (knee injury) and are sweating on the fitness of veteran back-rowers Paul Gallen, pictured, and Luke Lewis after both picked up injuries against the Panthers.
Key match-up: Billy Slater might be the greatest fullback of all time but he hasn’t been the standout No.1 in 2018. While Slater has had his usual moments of brilliance, Valentine Holmes has played more games and barely put a foot wrong. Here’s hoping the former Queensland Origin teammates put on an exciting show.
For the Storm to win: The forwards need to hold their own against the workmanlike Cronulla pack, while Cameron Smith will need a dominant display and ensure he has his goal-kicking boots on. Melbourne will also be banking on Slater and Cam Munster to give their speedy wingers good service, while Will Chambers should be fresh after serving a three-game ban.
For the Sharks to win: Cronulla know what they will get from their forwards and the likes of Holmes, but halves Chad Townsend and Matt Moylan occasionally look like they’re still learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which they probably are given Moylan only arrived at the club this season.
The Sharks are a huge chance of winning if Townsend and Moylan maintain their recent good form.
Storm Stat Attack: Melbourne kicked more goals than any team during the regular season, with Cam Smith knocking over 84 to be third behind Jamayne Isaako and Gareth Widdop. The Storm finished third in tries and third in total points. On the down side they had the most handling errors and second-most errors overall.
Sharks Stat Attack: Valentine Holmes has made more line breaks (25) than anybody else in the NRL in 2018 and scored 21 tries. Chad Townsend leads the NRL in support play and was his team’s best player against Penrith. – NRL

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