Hobbled Hynes a bitter blow for Sharks side desperate for turnaround against Tigers

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Wests Tigers Friday 8:00pm at PointsBet Stadium, Woolooware / Dharawal

A Sharks side reeling from the sudden loss of their chief playmaker will look to turn their flagging fortunes around when they take on a rising Tigers outfit.

Last week's 20-16 loss to the Titans was the low point in a mid season form slump that has continued to dig the Sharks into a deeper and deeper hole. Not many teams can win a game after making 16 errors, and certainly the Sharks were not one of them. While they had some bright sparks in Jesse Ramien, Nicho Hynes and Briton Nikora, a lack of performance from their bench and back 3 contributed to the loss.

The Tigers also tasted defeat - a 40-28 loss to the Storm - but their loss showed the promise the team has had in spurts throughout the season. They controlled possession, defended well and took chances in attack, but in the end the better team took the win. One weakness in their side was a lack of production from their prop rotation - particularly Stefano Utoikamanu having a rather poor audition for a club reportedly keen to sign him for 2025.

The big news for the Sharks is that Hynes is out - and not just for this week either, with the star half fracturing his leg and rupturing his syndesmosis in a freak accident in training. He'll be forced to sit out around 2 months, which could rule him out of the rest of the regular season. Braydon Trindall shifts to halfback with Daniel Atkinson named at five eighth. Sione Katoa returns on the wing after clearing concussion protocol, while Teig Wilton starts in the back row with Siosifa Talakai suspended. Jesse Colquhoun and Braden Hamlin-Uele have been added to the bench.

For the Tigers Justin Olam is out as he continues to battle a knee issue, bringing Solomona Faataape into the centres and Alexander Lobb to the wing. Justin Matamua has been dropped to the reserves with his bench spot taken by Reuben Porter. Starford To'a is also among the reserves and could make his comeback from a hamstring injury.

The Sharks have won 10 of their past 12 games against the Tigers, and if the Tigers were to buck the trend in this one 2024 would become the first year they've defeated Cronulla twice in the same season since 2014. The Tigers have struggled away from home all year with just 1 win from 8 matches, and in their last three they've conceded an average of 46 points a game. The Sharks meanwhile average 25 points per game at Pointsbet (a figure greatly brought down by their shutout against Penrith) compared to a mark of 24 points per gena in all matches.

Last meeting: Round 3 2024 - Wests Tigers 32 Sharks 6

Who to watch: With no Hynes more pressure will be placed on Will Kennedy to perform for the Sharks. The 27 year old has struggled this year, with just 9 try contributions and 3 line breaks in 16 games. His running metres are also down on 2023's figures by almost 30 metres per game. But in the two matches Hynes has missed this year he was strong, with a try against the Eels and a try assist against the Broncos. The Sharks will need him to be at his best again if they want to win this one.

His opposite number Jahream Bula will also be worth keeping an eye on. His match against the Storm was by far his best of the season, with a try, two try assists and 181 running metres. He's quietly been improving in 2024 from his barnstorming rookie campaign, and a strong performance against the Sharks would only cement that growth.

The favourite: Despite the loss of Hynes and a poor run of form, the Sharks are still the favourites.

My tip: Everything is coming together for a Tigers ambush, and I hope reality is not disappointing for once. Tigers by 12

1. William Kennedy 2. Sione Katoa 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Kayal Iro 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo 6. Daniel Atkinson 7. Braydon Trindall 8. Royce Hunt 9. Blayke Brailey 10. Oregon Kaufusi 11. Briton Nikora 12. Teig Wilton 13. Cameron McInnes 14. Jesse Colquhoun 15. Thomas Hazelton 16. Toby Rudolf 17. Braden Hamlin-Uele 19. Chris Veaila

1. Jahream Bula 2. Alexander Lobb 3. Adam Doueihi 4. Solomona Faataape 5. Charlie Staines 6. Lachlan Galvin 7. Aidan Sezer 8. Stefano Utoikamanu 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. David Klemmer 11. John Bateman 12. Samuela Fainu 13. Fonua Pole 14. Heath Mason 15. Sione Fainu 17. Reuben Porter 23. Alex Seyfarth 21. Josh Feledy

Referees: Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Daniel Luttringer, Wyatt Raymond; Video Referees: Ashley Klein;

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