5 Key Points v Raiders
Rebounding from a round one defeat, the Sharks were impressive in racking up 42 points in their win over the Raiders.
After weathering a physical beginning to the match the Sharks asserted their authority in the second half, running away with the match as they crossed for five tries after the break.
The Sharks had many outstanding performers as all of Shane Flanagan’s squad did the job required on the night.
But what were the big moments, those on the field and some away from it, the five key points to come from the Sharks win?
1 - Home away from home
They may attempt to intimidate with the pre-game Viking clap, as Paul Gallen mentioned in his post-match presser the crowd is a hostile one, and the three hours-plus trip down the Hume Highway isn’t ideal, however all that being said GIO Stadium has been a happy hunting ground for the Sharks in recent years.
Saturday’s win was the Sharks fifth in succession in the national capital, included amongst those the against-the-odds finals victory of 2016.
In saying that though, the Sharks need to beware. The Raiders have won at Southern Cross Group Stadium on their last three visits, setting up an interesting return bout in round 22.
2 – Big is not always better
The Sharks have decent sized forwards, a pack which has remained largely unchanged from the one good enough to take out the 2016 title, however other than our biggest ‘bopper’ in Andrew Fifita they were somewhat outsized by the monster Raiders pack.
Junior Paulo, Shannon Boyd, Josh Papali, Sia Soliala, Jeff Lima off the bench, all extremely large humans by any standards, came with an aggressive attitude early, but a game plan which directed traffic towards their edges and ran them around certainly set the Sharks on track for the convincing win.
Big is good, but on Saturday night at least, isn’t always better.
3 – Good headache to have?
We are not sure there is such a thing, but Shane Flanagan has what he termed a ‘good headache to have’ coming up this week.
Jack Bird fit seamlessly into the fullback role, handling the high kicks, returning the ball strongly and chiming in as a dangerous attacking weapon where needed in an impressive first outing at the back on Saturday.
Which is good to know Bird can be if need be, a highly competent fullback.
The headache now has to do with where to put a fit Valentine Holmes this week for the local derby clash, with Holmes due to return from his hamstring strain.
Holmes has trained all off-season at fullback in anticipation of Ben Barba being missing (for 12 round anyway, which has turned out permanent) and now on the flip side Bird was excellent last weekend and looked extremely interested and energised.
It does add up to ‘headache’ on selection Tuesday for the coach.
4 – Raining points in Canberra
It was dry, fine and a fast track in Canberra but who could have predicted the points avalanche at GIO Stadium on Saturday.
While the Sharks NRL team notched 42 points against what is usually a hard-nosed Raiders defence, the two prior games set the tone early in the day.
The Sharks girls in their first hit out for 2017 sizzled in the Canberra sun, scoring six tries in the 12-minute each-way match for a 28-10 win, before the NYC boys took centre stage.
It was 44-6 at half time, 74-12 when the final whistle blew, 13 tries to the Sharks, three of them to Jesse Ramien and 30 points from half back Kyle Flanagan who kicked 11 goals and scored two tries.
The sun then stars were out in Canberra on Saturday, but it was raining points.
5 – So much for the experts
We admit the loss of a couple of key components from the Grand Final success, coupled with the difficulty in backing up a premiership victory the following season may have turned a few so-called experts off the Sharks in 2017, however the lack of support from various media outlets in week two was hard to fathom.
The Sunday Telegraph tipping panel, made up from a list of former players and noted media contributors, deserted the Sharks on Saturday, with only one (well done Buzz!) out of the 14 predicting a Sharks victory over the Raiders.
At the same time bookies quickly lost faith, winding out the Sharks premiership odds to more than 20-1 following the round one loss, only to swiftly bring them back in to somewhere around 12-1 after the Canberra win.
But the one we may have enjoyed most was Michael Ennis telling fellow Fox Sports commentator Mark Gasnier the fact that he didn’t rate the Sharks chances last Saturday meant little.
“You hardly tipped us at all last year and we won the comp,” a smiling Ennis said to Gasnier. Touché!