5 Key Points - Sharks v Panthers
It was an impressive win for the Sharks at Pepper Stadium, a 28-2 victory which indicated they are very serious about their premiership defense.
What were the key points to come from the win, the Sharks fourth on the trot.
Defense wins big games
The Sharks may have scored 28 in beating the Panthers however their effort in holding the Penrith side to just two points represented the second time in as many weeks they have kept their opponents try less.
As revealed by Fox Sports it was first time since 1994 the Sharks had successfully defended their try line on consecutive weeks, this Penrith win following on from their 11-2 vicrory over the Storm seven days ago.
Defense wins big matches, wins titles, with the signs very encouraging early in the season for the Sharks.
It’s only early and we don’t want to put too much pressure on the 21-year-old, however Jayden Brailey’s form to date has him well and truly in the picture for NRL rookie of the year in 2017.
Brailey’s defense is outstanding but it is his attack and work out of dummy half, which is improving with every outing.
Running for 60-metres, included amongst that stat a line break from a Chris Heighington off-load where Brailey showed good speed, coupled with the pass for the Paul Gallen try and faultless service from the ruck and its hard not to continue to be impressed with the young local junior.
Penrith a happy hunting ground
Heading into the game the Sharks had won seven of their past nine games played at the foot of the mountains, now make that eight out of the last 10 following the 28-2 triumph.
Maybe it’s the fact that the Sharks have a handful of former Panthers, Wade Graham, Luke Lewis, Jeremy Latimore, Joseph Paulo, throw in Andrew Fifita who grew up in the area, which makes them comfortable playing at Pepper Stadium,.
Or could it be the Sharks gritty style troubles the free-flowing Panthers, whatever it is the ground holds no fear for the Cronulla side.
The crowd is hostile, it’s a long bus trip from the Shire to get there, but once they arrive at Pepper Stadium the Sharks turn up ready to play and have the formula for success figured out.
Plenty of running left in the old legs
Chris Heighington continues to deliver for the Sharks, showing there is still plenty of life left in his 35-year-old legs.
Heighington carried the ball 16 times, running for 137 metres, the most amongst all Sharks forwards, while adding 17 tackles in an impressive 36 minutes on the field.
Throw in a clever off-load in creating a Jayden Brailey line-break and a crucial one-on-one tackle in the in-goal on winger Dallin Watene Zelezniak, creating a line drop out and repeat set, and it was a complete performance from the veteran.
As commentator Andrew Voss said during the call of the game, forget birth certificates, if England coach Wayne Bennett needs an experienced and capable forward for the World Cup at season’s end, he could do a lot worse than Heighington.
Big week for Bird
If anyone was wondering how he might react after an eventful week, Jack Bird left nobody in any doubt as his importance to the Sharks chances of going back to back in 2017.
Bird ran hard, tackled the dangerous Tyrone Peachey out of the game and crossed for a valuable try in the Sharks win, putting aside any fears he might play somewhat distracted against the Panthers.
Coach Shane Flanagan was high in his praise of the 22-year-old, expressing that while extremely disappointed to be losing Bird next year, he was grateful he had him in their premiership winning season of 2016 and would again be able to utilise his considerable talents for the rest of the current season.