Raiders, Sharks backs to light up prelims

BATTLE OF THE BACKS IN THE NRL PRELIMINARY FINALS

CRONULLA v NORTH QUEENSLAND

Ben Barba and Valentine Holmes shape as potential match-breakers for the Sharks against the reigning premiers at Allianz Stadium. Holmes leads both team’s backs for tries (19), line breaks (23) and metres per game (128), while Barba has 91 tackles breaks and 21 try assists – both team-highs.

While the footwork of Barba and Holmes will threaten North Queensland’s defence, getting past Sharks centre Jack Bird will be another challenge. The NSW representative has made 60 one-on-one tackles this season, the second highest of any Cronulla player.

The Cowboys right edge of Justin O’Neill and Kyle Feldt is where they’ve produced most points – the duo scoring 26 tries. Fullback Lachlan Coote holds the unwanted stat of most errors. He’s made 34 mistakes, including three against Brisbane last Friday, but has chimed in with 18 try assists and three 40/20s, the most by a Cowboy.

SEASON LEADERS

Tries: 19 – Valentine Holmes (CRO)

Line breaks: 23- Valentine Holmes (CRO)

Metres per game: 128- Valentine Holmes (CRO)

Tackle busts: 91- Ben Barba (CRO)

Errors: 34 – Lachlan Coote (NQ)

BACKS VS BACKS – AVERAGE MATCH STATS

Games this season: CRO 112 – NQ 102

Tries: CRO 2.6 – NQ 1.91

Line breaks: CRO 3.48 – NQ 1.96

Metres per game: CRO 549 – NQ 469

Tackle busts: CRO 13.48 – NQ 10.24

Errors: CRO 4.24 – NQ 4.17

MELBOURNE v CANBERRA

Canberra’s backs bring the flair, while Melbourne’s outside five bring a reliability which is the hallmark of the entire Storm outfit.

The Raiders hold a sizeable advantage in tackle busts, making a whopping 422 compared to the Storm’s 258. More than half of those (253) have come through the right-hand edge of Joseph Leilua and Jordan Rapana, who have scored 33 tries between them. While Canberra largely strike on one side, Melbourne do their damage in the corners. Fijian wingers Suliasi Vunivalu and Marika Koroibete have crossed for 35 tries.

The Storm’s backs have made 50 fewer mistakes than Canberra, with Raiders’ fullback Jack Wighton (38) his side’s worst offender. But Wighton does play a leading hand with the ball, setting up 13 tries in 2016, while his Storm counterpart Cameron Munster is second in his side for line break assists with 22.

SEASON LEADERS

Tries: 23 – Suliasi Vunivalu (MEL)

Line breaks 25 – Jordan Rapana (CAN)

Metres per game: 150 – Cameron Munster (MEL)

Tackle Busts: 132 Jordan Rapana (CAN)

Errors: 38 – Jack Wighton (CAN)

BACKS VS BACKS – AVERAGE MATCH STATS

Games this season: MEL 94 – CAN 120

Tries: MEL 2.6 – CAN 2.7

Line breaks: MEL 3.72 – CAN 3.12

Metres: MEL 630 – CAN 590

Tackle busts: MEL 13.72 – CAN 17.5

Errors: MEL 4.47 – CAN 5.58

*Stats courtesy of Fox Sports Stats

* All Offers and Promotions posted in this article excludes NSW residents.
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