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4:05pm Sun August 18, 2019
Round 22 - PointsBet Stadium - Crowd: 13652

Round 22: Sharks v Dragons preview

Spot in the eight up for grabs if Cronulla can get past Dragons

While the Sharks may have slipped up last week against Penrith, victory on Sunday will see them move back into the top eight.

The seventh-placed Panthers and eighth-placed Broncos play each other on Friday with the loser surrendering their spot if Cronulla win.

The Sharks' 26-20 loss to Penrith was obviously disappointing given there was so much at stake.

But what made it particularly hard to take was the fact that the week before they had easily taken down South Sydney, a genuine premiership contender.

Perhaps they were a tad complacent, coming up against a young team with three debutants.

Errors killed Cronulla early though, seeing them hand Penrith plenty of chances and slump to a 26-4 deficit.

It was only once they held onto the ball and subsequently built pressure that the Sharks fought back. And by the end of the game they were threatening to steal the win late.

But that would have just papered over concerning issues at the shire. Most people agree that they are the only team outside of the top five that can make a serious dent in the premiership race.

That is how good they can be but more inconsistent performances could see them miss the finals all together.

The Sharks will be without Andrew Fifita this week after the prop flared up a knee injury last week.

It's not ideal as Cronulla come up against one of the competition's better forward packs in the Dragons this week.

Paul Vaughan and Tariq Sims starred for Saints in their 40-28 win over the Titans last week, scoring three tries between them.

While coach Paul McGregor would have been relieved to simply get a win he would have realised that they will need to be a lot better against the Sharks this week.

To be fair the Titans did score a lot of their tries in unorthodox fashion by getting plenty of offloads away.

But that is on the Dragons for not getting the ball carriers arms wrapped up.

Conceding five tries against the competition's cellar dwellers is just not good enough and won't get them far against a desperate Sharks side.

Last meeting: Round 11 2019 - Dragons 9 Sharks 22

A Bronson Xerri hattrick helped Cronulla down the Dragons 22-9 in Round 11 this year.

Who to watch: Two no-nonsense hookers face off in Sunday afternoon's derby. Jayden Brailey may be off to Newcastle next week but he will want to make sure he can put on the black, white and blue as many times as possible. Brailey is a product of Cronulla's junior representative system and will be leaving a lot behind when their season comes to a close, albeit being usurped by younger brother Blayke. 

Brailey is in many ways similar to his opposite this week, Cameron McInnes. Everyone remembers McInnes charging down and chasing a loose ball a couple of weeks ago in the Dragons' loss to the Rabbitohs. It was classed one of the plays of the season - a testament to the hard work the 25-year old does every week in the middle. McInnes averages 49 tackles a game, the most of any player in the competition. Like Brailey he isn't the flashiest in the league but he doesn't always get the accolades he deserves for his consistent work in defence. His service out of dummy-half is just as unwavering.

The favourite: Cronulla are favoured to keep their finals flame flickering.

My tip: If the Sharks can play for the full eighty minutes, they should do this quite comfortably. They will have to be wary though of a Dragons side that took plenty of confidence out of last week's win, even if it was against the last-placed Titans. Sharks by 18.