CAN THE COW­BOYS DIG DEEP AGAIN?

Rugby League Week - - League Week -

JUST HOW MUCH LAST FRI­DAY NIGHT’S in­cred­i­ble 90-minute slugfest with Bris­bane took out of the Cow­boys will be­come ev­i­dent when the fully rested Sharks crank up the in­ten­sity in the open­ing 20 min­utes. The Bron­cos pushed the premiers to their ab­so­lute lim­its in en­ergy-sap­ping con­di­tions in Townsville and it will take all their re­solve to match it with a hun­gry Cronulla out­fit which is tan­ta­lis­ingly close to break­ing a 50-year pre­mier­ship drought. The Sharks’ elu­sive search for a ti­tle has pro­pelled them into three grand fi­nals — 1973, 1978 and the 1997 Su­per League de­cider — but still the cabi­net re­mains bare. Surely if the team from the Shire is to fi­nally break through then this is their chance — squar­ing off against a bat­tered Cow­boys side for a shot at ei­ther the Storm or Raiders in the big dance. The re­turn of Paul Gallen will strengthen a pack which showed plenty of re­solve to out­mus­cle the Raiders in week one of the fi­nals after be­ing blown off the park early. Wade Graham missed most of that game after be­ing knocked sense­less early on and his pres­ence will mean the Sharks have the full at­tack­ing ar­se­nal to throw at Johnathan Thurston’s men. The bat­tle up front be­tween An­drew Fi­fita and Matt Scott will be a rip­per while Ja­son Tau­malolo’s im­pact is such that Cronulla will need the com­bined ef­forts of Gallen, Graham and Luke Lewis to nul­lify the RLW Player of the Year. The Cow­boys have a clear edge in the halves through Thurston and Michael Mor­gan, although James Maloney is as tough as they come and knows all about big-game pres­sure. He’ll need No.7 Chad Townsend to quickly set­tle into a groove and put his hor­ror night in Can­berra be­hind him.

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