5 Key Points to come from the Sharks gripping win over the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium yesterday.
1. The Sharks have found their finals football grind.
The Sharks of 2012-13 were renowned with winning dogged, low-scoring affairs and grinding their way to wins. Having started the season with four losses by 8 points or less, some began to question Cronulla’s resilience and wonder where their gritty nous had wandered.
But having strung together seven wins from their last eight games – with six of those by a 6-point margin or less – The Sharks have returned to the style of football they’ve been accustomed to playing, and the results are certainly telling. It tells for good signs for Flanagan and his team as the side looks likely to figure in the 2015 finals series, with the ability to grind out wins a must at the pointy end of the season.
2. Sam Tagataese has found form with added responsibilities.
Sam Tagataese’s promotion to the starting side in recent weeks has been met by stronger showings from the barnstorming forward. Down 10-0 and needing a spark, the Sharks turned to ‘Slammin’ Sam’ who tore through the Warriors’ line, before linking with Jack Bird who found Valentine Holmes to score.
3. The depth of the Cronulla pack will be a huge bonus come September.
Minus the Fifita twins the Sharks forwards yesterday showed no signs of letting up, with veteran Chris Heighington filling the prop role and doing so with vigour and purpose. Cronulla also welcomed back Anthony Tupou from injury while Tinirau Arona returned to first grade, in showing that the Sharks’ forward stocks have plenty of depth should injuries strike in the lead up to the finals.
A mainstay in the Cronulla back-row this season, Luke Lewis is set for a return in a fortnight’s time, which will undoubtedly cause a selection headache for the Coach. Flanagan has described the mass of forwards baying for selection as “a good problem to have” in the run in to the finals.
4. The Sharks must learn how to build pressure.
The Warriors asked the Sharks to restart play from a goal line drop out on six occasions yesterday, while the Cronulla side only forced two from the hosts. In season 2015, Flanagan’s men have only in six matches (from 21) forced more dropouts than their opposition – a statistic that must improve come finals time.
5. History repeats at Mt Smart Stadium as Sharks score an 18-14 win.
Here’s one for the stats men!
Round 21, 2013 – The Warriors played host to the Sharks at Mount Smart and the visitors snuck home with an 18 points to 14 win. Fast-forward to Round 21, 2015 – some 728 days later, and history would repeat itself.
Yesterday’s result also marks the fourth time within the last five Sharks v Warriors fixtures where the winning margin has been exactly four points.