7.35pm (AEST), Friday, April 10
Remondis Stadium, Sydney
Cronulla are riding high after getting off the mark with a king-sized upset last Sunday, while Newcastle are aiming to recover from their first loss of the season in one of Round 6’s most intriguing match-ups.
The big news is Ben Barba’s return from suspension on the bench, with boom rookie Jack Bird retained at five-eighth and teenage gun Valentine Holmes holding onto the fullback role. Tinirau Arona and Jayson Bukuya have been named on an extended bench and are likely to miss out. Beau Scott is out for the Knights, which sees Chris Houston coming into the starting side and David Fa’alogo join the bench, while Korbin Sims returns from suspension.
Newcastle holds a 27-16-1 lead in the all-time match tally against Cronulla since 1988, but the 22 matches with the Sharks as the home side have been split 11 apiece. The Knights have won seven of their last eight against the Sharks, including the last four straight at Remondis Stadium.
After surrendering a late lead to go down the Titans in Round 4 – their fourth loss of the year – the Sharks produced a stirring 20-12 defeat of the heavyweight Roosters with Jack Bird bagging two tries in a sizzling display and Valentine Holmes adding extra polish to a stellar team effort built on staunch defence. The Knights, sailing along as the only unbeaten side after four rounds, were shut out 13-0 by the Dragons last Saturday night in a real momentum-killer.
Jarrod Mullen boasts 192 appearances in a decade of NRL football. Jack Bird has played just two first grade games. Bird is a dynamic, powerful ball-runner with superb playmaking instincts, while Mullen is the cool-headed architect-style five-eighth, but their individual showdown will go a long way to deciding Saturday’s result.
Stats That Matter
Cronulla is 11-17 overall and against the line at home since the start of 2013, including an 8-7 record as home favourites (6-9 ATS). Newcastle is 12-17 on the road (16-13 against the start) over the last three seasons; they are 9-15 as away underdogs, but have covered 14 times. The Knights have played just four Friday night games over the last three seasons, winning two and covering both times. The Sharks are also uncommon Friday night competitors, but boast a 4-3 record overall and ATS in the timeslot.
The Sharks’ victory over the Roosters showed what they are capable of, while the Knights’ loss to the Dragons was a worrying insight into what happens when their subpar first half performances of the opening two rounds extend into an 80-minute display. But this is the most difficult match of the round to get a handle on as punters attempt to predict whether Round 5 was an aberration or a genuine form shift for both sides. The Knights’ early-season efforts, combined with a settled line-up, renders the $2.00 on offer for an away win good value; the likes of Bird and Holmes won’t be able to rely on the surprise factor this week, and the Sharks will need to lift another gear to notch two straight wins for just the second time since the start of last season.
How It’s Shaping Up
Newcastle by 4
Newcastle to win ($2.10)
Other Recommended Bets
Over 36.5 ($1.90)
2015 NRL Round 6 Betting Preview for Cronulla vs Newcastle thanks to William Hill Australia.
Cronulla vs Newcastle Comparison Betting Odds
Below we have 2015 NRL Round 6 comparison betting odds from leading Australian and International online sportsbooks for the game.