Injuries savage important clashes

Cronulla will be without key playmaker Adam Dykes for its all-important NRL clash with Manly on Sunday.

Dykes is expected to miss the Sharks' next two matches due to a hamstring complaint, with Kiwi Test centre Nigel Vagana set to switch to five-eighth. The Toyota park clash will be vital in determining the finals aspirations of both sides, with the Sharks and Sea Eagles locked on 26 competition points at the bottom of the top eight heading into the match.

Manly will need to break a 19-year hoodoo if it is to come away with a win, with the Sea Eagles having not tasted success at Toyota Park since 1986. They have their own problems, and will continue to monitor the fitness of Test forward Ben Kennedy.

Kennedy is racing the clock to overcome a corked calf and is desperate to play, with the Sea Eagles already weakened by the loss of prop Brent Kite with a knee injury. Kennedy says he has never experienced such a bad cork, but will play if he can be at 50 per cent fitness.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the top 8, Parramatta and St George Illawarra have both suffered a loss of strike-power out wide ahead of their blockbuster clash at Oki Jubilee Stadium on Sunday.

The Eels will be without representative three-quarter Timana Tahu after x-rays confirmed he had suffered a small break to his right hand. The injury could keep the NSW Origin star out of action until the second week of the finals.

NSW centre Matt Cooper has been ruled out of the Dragons line-up with a hamstring strain, with Albert Torrens to be Mark Gasnier's new midfield partner.

Sunday's sell-out clash between the second-placed Eels and the third-placed Dragons could go a long way towards determining which side secures an all-important top-two finish.