Match Preview: NRL Round 26

Wests Tigers will look to end the year on a winning note when they take on the Cronulla Sharks in their final game of the 2014 season at Leichhardt Oval this Saturday.

Having lost their past six matches heading into this week’s clash, Mick Potter’s side will be keen to finish the year with a positive performance to take into the off-season and end their unwanted losing streak. A disappointing 27-12 loss to the Canberra Raiders highlighted their biggest area for improvement this week — holding the ball and completing their sets — and they’ll no doubt look to build on that this weekend.

Their opponents come into the match with plenty of off-field issues, though, and they too will be keen to end the season on a positive note. The Sharks almost pulled off one of the upsets of the year as they went down 20-19 to the North Queensland Cowboys in Round 25, and if they carry a similar mental fortitude into this Saturday’s clash at Leichhardt Oval, they’ll no doubt prove to be a tough team to break down.

It’s shaping as an important clash for both teams, and a fantastic afternoon of football at one of Sydney’s suburban grounds as Wests Tigers celebrate their Member Appreciation Round — something which could well lift the boys and help them get over the line.

Read on for a full match preview including all the need-to-know details, team news, statistical analysis, coaching insights and more.

Click here to secure your seat for our final home game of the year against the Cronulla Sharks at Leichhardt Oval on September 6.

Match Details

Date — Saturday, September 6

Time — 3:00pm (Gates open at 10:30am)

Venue — Leichhardt Oval, Sydney

 

TV, Radio and Live Stream Details

TV — Fox Sports 1 (check local guides)

Radio — ABC Grandstand, Triple M (check local guides)

Live Stream — Foxtel Go, NRL Digital pass (subscription required)

Twitter — Click here to follow Wests Tigers on Twitter for live scores and commentary

 

Match Officials

Referees — Gavin Reynolds and Adam Gee

Touch Judge — Paul Holland and Belinda Sleeman

Video Referees — Steve Chiddy and Luke Phillips

 

Confirmed Squads

Last week’s debutant Asipeli Fine retains his starting position in the centres this week, with Cory Paterson moving to the bench to replace Brenden Santi (NSW Cup). Mitchell Moses has again been named at halfback, while for the visitors, Michael Lichaa and Tinirau Arona have been named after being late withdrawals last week. That sees Pat Politoni and Junior Roqica drop back to the bench at the expense of Penai Manumalealii and Patrice Siolo, with the latter named to play for the Sharks in Holden Cup.

 

Wests Tigers

 

Cronulla Sharks

Jy Hitchcox

1

Michael Gordon

Pat Richards

2

Sosaia Feki

Asipeli Fine

3

Blake Ayshford

Chris Lawrence

4

Ricky Leutele

Sitaleki Akauola

5

Valentine Holmes

Blake Austin

6

Daniel Holdsworth

Mitchell Moses

7

Jeff Robson (capt.)

Aaron Woods

8

Tim Robinson

Robbie Farah (capt.)

9

Michael Lichaa

Matthew Lodge

10

Matt Prior

Curtis Sironen

11

Tinirau Arona

Bodene Thompson

12

Tupou Sopoaga

Adam Blair

13

Chris Heighington

Ava Seumanufagai

14

Pat Politoni

Martin Taupau

15

Junior Roqica

Sauaso Sue

16

Sione Masima

Cory Paterson

17

Scott Sorensen

 

Last Five Matches

Wests Tigers

R21 — Melbourne Storm 28 def. Wests Tigers 6

R22 — North Queensland Cowboys 64 def. Wests Tigers 6

R23 — Sydney Roosters 48 def. Wests Tigers 4

R24 — Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 30 def. Wests Tigers 10

R25 — Canberra Raiders 27 def. Wests Tigers 12

 

Cronulla Sharks

R21 — Parramatta Eels 32 def. Cronulla Sharks 12

R22 — New Zealand Warriors 16 def. Cronulla Sharks 12

R23 — Melbourne Storm 48 def. Cronulla Sharks 6

R24 — Canberra Raiders 22 def. Cronulla Sharks 12

R25 — North Queensland Cowboys 20 def. Cronulla Sharks 19

 

Match History: Played 24, Won 16, Lost 7, Drawn 1

 

Last Time They Met

Round 10, 2014 — Wests Tigers 22 def. Cronulla Sharks 20

It was a back-and-forth affair at Remondis Stadium that saw Wests Tigers fight back from 20-10 down with tries in the second half to Chris Lawrence and Cory Paterson to emerge with the two points. David Nofoaluma and Pat Richards had both crossed for tries earlier in the match, but efforts to Sam Tagataese, Paul Gallen and Michael Gordon had given the hosts the lead mid-way through the second half. The class of Luke Brooks then came to fore, though, with the young halfback creating a try-assist and linebreak-assist in the second half to engineer a match-wining comeback on the road.

 

Number to Know — 279

That’s the number of errors Wests Tigers have made this year with the footy — ranking them as the second-worst team in the league, behind the Gold Coast Titans. Errors (particularly in attacking positions) crippled their chances at winning last week’s clash against the Raiders and certainly didn’t help their cause against the Roosters and Bulldogs either, and has been the focus all week in training. If Wests Tigers can hold the ball and maintain some pressure in attack, the likes of Robbie Farah and Mitchell Moses should be able to find some potency in attack, but they won’t be able to do so without the ball. Look for a marked improvement in the hosts’ ball control this Saturday.

 

Coach’s Comment

“The Sharks were tenacious last week; they were hard-working, and they made North Queensland get every single point the hard way. We need to have the same attitude this week — be hard to score against, control the footy and earn the right to work down the right end of the field… What we want is people there watching and cheering us on, because it does motivate the players and help get the result we want. The boys are driven to get the result this week; they’re desperate, and I hope the fans are desperate to get behind them this week…” (Mick Potter, NRL Head Coach)

 

Individual Stats Leaders

 

Wests Tigers

Cronulla Sharks

Points

Pat Richards (145 points)

Michael Gordon (122 points)

Tackles

Robbie Farah (724 tackles)

Tinirau Arona (577 tackles)

Hit-Ups

Aaron Woods (242 hit-ups)

Chris Heighington (166 hit-ups)

Total Metres

Aaron Woods (2563 metres)

Michael Gordon (2880 metres)

 

Key Player Stats

·       Pat Richards ranks first in the NRL for intercepts (5)

·       Jeff Robson ranks first in the NRL for charge-downs (5)

·       Robbie Farah ranks second in the NRL for dummy-half runs (116)

·       Luke Brooks ranks first in the NRL for missed tackles (97)

 

Team Stats

 

Wests Tigers

Cronulla Sharks

Position

22 points (13th)

14 points (16th)

Points For

394 points (14th)

324 points (16th)

Points Against

621 points (16th)

587 points (14th)

Missed Tackles

780 tackles (2nd most)

639 tackles (11th most)

Tackle Breaks

608 tackle breaks (11th)

604 tackle breaks (12th)

Line Breaks

81 linebreaks (13th)

77 linebreaks (15th)

Offloads

254 offloads (4th)

297 offloads (1st)

2014 Home Record

Played 11: Won 5, Lost 6

Played 12: Won 2, Lost 10

2014 Away Record

Played 12: Won 4, Lost 8

Played 11: Won 3, Lost 8

2014 Total Record

Played 23: Won 9, Lost 14

Played 23: Won 5, Lost 13