Manly Sea Eagles (@2.75) vs Cronulla Sharks (@1.5)

Our Prediction:

Cronulla Sharks will win

Manly Sea Eagles – Cronulla Sharks Match Prediction | 15-09-2019 05:50

With all the talk swirling around the Blues' halves for the Origin series-opener at Suncorp Stadium, barely a whisper has been heard about Chad Townsend. The Sharks have been ravaged by injuries but Townsend's steady play is the main reason they have managed to maintain a winning record. A two-time City Origin rep, Sydney-born Townsend might never get a taste of State of Origin, but the Cronulla playmaker has matured into one of the game's elite halfbacks and barely takes a wrong option these days.

A big battle of the halfbacks. While Sezer has struggled at times, hes won nine out of his twelve games to keep Canberra in the top four, and will be a vital part if Canberra are to push deep into the finals. Sezer, who took a while to regain his place from the now out-of-favour Sam Williams, has combined well with fledgling five-eighth Jack Wighton.

However, their season was summed up in that final 13 minutes, as they conceded 22 unanswered points, en route to a 28-24 loss. They were on track for a commanding win over the Panthers, having led 24-6 with little time to play. The Sea Eagles saw their quest to end their losing streak evaporate before their eyes with only 13 minutes remaining. This shows that despite being more than capable of scoring points, their defence is in tatterstosay the least.

In fact, the Sharks have only beaten the Sea Eagles twice this decade. In the 5 most recent encounters between the two adversaries, the Sea Eagles have come out on top in 4 of these matches, despite the struggles of the men from the northern beaches in recent years.

MATCH REPORT | Wests Tigers 8 25 Cronulla Sharks

That could prove crucial for the injury-hit Sea Eagles who will be without numerous players but with 15 wins from the last 17 against the Sharks, Manly could still get home. It will take a mammoth effort from their patched up side but head coach Des Hasler will not allow them to feel sorry for themselves with some key players missing and although Cronulla should win, Manly will take some beating on home soil. Manly will have home advantage in this clash with Cronulla after Lottoland was cleared after a safety concern.

Moreover, they are ranked 5th in offloads (223), meaning they are certainlydangerous when in possession. Only the Knights have conceded more points. As emphasised previously, the men from the northern beaches have minimal trouble scoring points (379), despite their lowly position on the ladder. In fact, they have actuallyscored more points than their opponents for this match. In addition, the Sea Eagles have made 2 x 40/20 kicks for the season, which is the 2nd most in the competition. However, their defence is simplyatrocious, having conceded 472 points this season, which is the 2nd worst in the competition.

Despite their solid home record, this looms as a danger game for the Sharks, as the Sea Eagles have won 22 of 38 matches in the Sutherland Shire. There were matches where the Sharks would be defeated by the Sea Eagles at home, despite being higher on the ladder than the Sea Eagles. Their home record is rather sound, winning 6 matches and losing 3. Those losses came against the Broncos, Roosters and local rivals, the Dragons.

Similar to their home record, the Sea Eagles are nothing short of deplorable away from home, having won only twice and losing 7 matches. On the flip side, those teams are firmly entrenched in the top 8, which should give them some confidence leading into this match. Their only away wins all season came against the Panthers and Storm. Moreover, they have a rather solid record at Southern Cross Group Stadium, as well as a very strong record against the Sharks.

Fifita has upped his involvement and minutes this year with more carries for Cronulla has helped them through their tough matchups. The Sharks prop has tallied already 26 offloads this season while making more tackles than ever before with past veterans not there in 2019 its been up to him to stiffen the middle, even more, to stop sides from rolling over his team getting on the front foot.

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Despite only one team destined to play in the finals, there is still an abundance at stake here. Both teams will be eager to return to winning ways. The Sharks will want to win, in orderto maintain their chances of finishing in the top 4. Therefore, at this stage they would love nothing more than to avoid their first ever wooden spoon. For the Sea Eagles, they are only one win clear of the bottom of the ladder, and level on points with the Cowboys.

Curtis Sironen shifts from five-eighth back to the pack and Jack Gosiewski goes back to the bench. Sea Eagles: The return of Dylan Walker in the centres for his first game of the season is a huge boost for Des Hasler's side. Cade Cust will debut at five-eighth following the withdrawal of Lachlan Croker (hamstring). Jorge Taufua (calf) and Addin Fonua-Blake (knee) return which helps offset the loss of Moses Suli (finger) and Toafofoa Sipley (knee).

The Battle of the Beaches is well known to fans for fierce clashes in the middle of the park with the big men dictating the outcome more often than not, the idea for Manly to ambush the Cronulla side with enthusiasm and their defence on the goal line to frustrate their young backs will no doubt be tested. An emphasis on completions and giving their opposition not an inch of possession will be the focus of both teams heading into this Sunday. The Sharks in front of another packed PointsBet Stadium will help them when struggling but with their team bruised from past encounters and calling upon players with new combinations to do the job it could be too much to ask after already winning past fixtures with their back against the wall.

This fixture will be a fitting match-up for both injury-riddled sides, having the great depth that Sharks and Sea Eagles boast it will still be down to one key battle in the match which is between arguably the best props in the competition in Andrew Fifita and Martin Taupau. These two have boosted their discipline on and off the ball this season becoming stronger leaders with their team play but also individual performances that have inspired their young players who have featured this season.

This year, Manly won 24-20 at Brookvale after Canberra led 12-0 in as many minutes. Recent contents between the Raiders and Sea Eagles have been tight. Manly have a habit of getting under Canberras skin, so these contests are always willing. While Manly beat Canberra 32-16 on Easter Saturday in 2018 (though the scoreline flattered Canberra), the Raiders rebounded at Bruce with a 21-20 win in round 12, with an Aidan Sezer field goal sealing the win in the 79th minute.