1. Senior heads saw Sharks to a win
Down 12-nil early, the Sharks did not waver in the face of adversity, rising to the task on the back of the influence of the side’s experienced campaigners.
Fill-in Captain Michael Ennis laid on the first of the side’s two tries, before Luke Lewis’ inch-perfect grubber saw Valentine Holmes cross to score.
All too familiar with the pressure of Finals football, James Maloney made his presence felt in the last quarter – guiding the side home with poise.
2. Matt Prior stood up when the chips were down
Without the grunt of Captain Paul Gallen and stand-in skipper Wade Graham, Matt Prior took it upon himself to take the challenge to the Raiders pack – and that he did.
Prior changed the game with his try on the brink of the break, powering through to find his way to the line to get the Sharks back into the contest.
21 carries for 2016 carries, supported by 29 bruising tackles, had Ennis singing Prior’s praise at the end of the 80 minutes.
“That’s one of the best efforts from a front rower I’ve ever seen,” Ennis said.
“He’s put his hand up for an Australian jersey … he was enormous for us.”
3. Reshuffled backline got the job done
Needing a spark, Gerard Beale was injected into the contest with near on 25 minutes to play, with Jack Bird shifting to a familiar role in the side’s halves.
Partnering with Maloney, Bird’s touch was that of pure class –embracing the challenge thrust upon him by Coach Flanagan.
4. Kurt Capewell showed experience well beyond his time
Playing in just his third NRL match, Kurt Capewell took the proverbial bull by the horns to show he’s every bit a ready-mate first grader.
Entering the play in just the seventh minute as Wade Graham was reduced from the field with concussion, Capewell turned in a memorable performance on his Finals debut – starring in both attack and defence, while not looking one bit overawed by the occasion.
5. Josh Hodgson’s out was a big blow for the hosts
Raiders’ chief play maker Josh Hodgson was taken from the field with a nasty injury early on in the second period, and the Raiders side looked a tamed beast without their influential number nine at the helm.
Crossing for two first half tries the Raiders would score just two points after the change of end. Although looking threatening on occasions, they couldn’t find a way without their Hooker calling the shots.