Cowboys return to the Shire for electric finals rematch

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Cronulla are coming off a 33-20 win over the Bulldogs at Accor Stadium in which fullback Will Kennedy notched a first-half hat-trick.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, snapped a three-game losing streak with a hard-fought 18-16 win over the Knights in Townsville.

Sharks head coach Craig Fitzgibbon again has the luxury of naming the same 17 that finished atop Canterbury with veteran middle Dale Finucane still a week away from returning from suspension.


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The Cowboys are in the same boat with head coach Todd Payten also naming the same 17 that got the job done in Round 8.

Kangaroos star Reuben Cotter has been named to start at lock with utility Jake Granville on the interchange, however, Payten opted to switch the pair prior to kick-off last week.

The Cowboys forward stocks have been hit in recent weeks with Jason Taumalolo, Griffin Neame, Heilum Luki and James Tamou all in the casualty ward with their absences compounded by Luciano Leilua’s indefinite stand-down for an offseason incident.


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North Queensland’s 32-30 postseason upset in front of a frenzied Shire crowd last September snapped an eight-game losing streak versus the Sharks and a five-game losing streak at PointsBet Stadium.

In one of the most scintillating finals clashes in recent memory, a 79th-minute Taumalolo barge-over sent the game to golden point with a two-point field goal in the 92nd minute courtesy of former-Shark Valentine Holmes proving the difference.

Cronulla won the other meeting between the two in 2022 coming away with a 26-12 victory in Townsville in Round 18 against a Cowboys side sans their Origin representatives.

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The Cowboys currently lead the NRL in missed tackles and are second in penalties conceded; the discipline and defensive fortitude that they built their expectation-shattering 2022 campaign off has been sorely lacking to start 2023 and Payten will be eager for his men to make adjustments pronto.

The Sharks, meanwhile, are currently second in premiership in tries scored and line breaks; their attack has proven dynamic and difficult to contain all across the park thanks largely to work of reigning Dally M Medallist Nicho Hynes.

Cronulla again enter this one as short-priced favourites with bookmakers showing concern over North Queensland’s unconvincing start to the season despite their last-start win.


Game & Team Details

Kick-off: Thursday 27 April (7:50pm), PointsBet Stadium

Sharks squad: 1. Kennedy; 2. Katoa; 3. Ramien; 4. Talakai; 5. Mulitalo; 6. Moylan; 7. Hynes; 8. Kaufusi; 9. Brailey; 10. Hamlin-Uele; 11. Nikora; 12. Wilton; 13. McInnes; 14. Graham (c); 15. Williams; 16. Hunt; 17. Hazelton; 18. Trindall; 21. Hiroti

Cowboys squad: 1. Drinkwater; 2. Feldt; 3. Holmes; 4. Hiku; 5. Taulagi; 6. Dearden; 7. Townsend; 8. McLean; 9. Robson; 10. Hess; 11. Gosiewski; 12. Nanai; 13. Cotter; 14. Chester; 15. Granville; 16. Taunoa-Brown; 17. Dunn; 18. Price; 19. Hampton


 

Cameron Laing
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