Five key points – Sharks v Cowboys
The first half not so good, while in the second they showed a lot of character to overcome a 14-point deficit and grind out a valuable 18-14 win over the Cowboys.
The Sharks had a handful of stars and there were a number of key moments to come from the win.
We look at the five key points from last night’s victory over the Cowboys?
1 It’s a game of two halves
It’s a much-used cliché however long has it been said Rugby league is a game of two halves.
Never was it more obvious than last night at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The Cowboys scored 14 in the first half, then zero in the second, the Sharks were nil at half time, then three tries and 18 points in the second 40-minute period saw them snatch a dramatic victory.
Paraphrasing the coaches at the post-match press conference, one said his team was awful in the first half, the other his side way below par when it came to their kick and last tackle options in the second.
In the end run the way it panned out the Sharks managed to do enough, scraping together a gutsy 18-14 win in a match that excusing a few more clichés ‘was the tale of two halves’ and ‘wasn’t over until the fat lady had sung.’
2 Lewis looms large
Two big Luke Lewis plays turned the game in the Sharks favour and it had nothing to do with line breaks, scoring tries or spectacular attacking plays.
hen the Sharks were coming from behind and needed a lift, it was Lewis who was the man providing it, with two special plays in pressuring the kicker, another sa the first man down on a kick chase in pinning the Cowboys fullback deep in his own end.
Lewis raced up quickly on Lachlan Coote twice, once forcing a kick to be sprayed out on the full, the second when he smashed the Cowboy number one and forced a sixth tackle turnover on the half way line.
They were a couple of inspirational efforts from the veteran which again showed his worth to the this Sharks side.
3 Kick finishes are crucial
Both coaches were critical of their kick finishes as rugby league vernacular refers to them these days, the last play options that are so crucial in regards to the success or failure on any given day.
Shane Flanagan hated the way his team kicked in the first period, Paul Green was understandably disappointed with a series of last play and kicking options from his team in the second half.
Kick pressure sometimes played a role (see above Luke Lewis), while on other occasions it was just poor options and execution from the respective playmakers, but it was no coincidence that kicked the Cowboys built up a handy lead on the back of some astute kicking in the first period, the Sharks coming storming back with some improved options in the second.
The way the modern rugby league is played the kicking game is a vital aspect of a game plan and the halves and kickers who excel in this area are worth their weight in gold.
4 Sensational support play
Sharks half back Chad Townsend shoulders the responsibility, along with halves partner James Maloney, of steering the team around the field and executing the game plan.
In their premiership winning season of 2016 Townsend showed great improvement and maturity in this area of the game and has continued where he left off so far this season.
However a strength of the local number seven’s game often overlooked is his support play.
In a statistical category labeled ‘most supports’, crediting players backing up and pushing with the ball carrier whether or not he receives the ball, Townsend leads the NRL and is a long way ahead of the second ranked player.
It was only fitting then that Townsend, again in support and off the shoulder of Andrew Fifita, accepted a clever off-load and dashed 20-metres for a Sharks try, just his second of the year but an important one in the Cowboys win.
5 Origin season almost upon us
Sharks Coach Shane Flanagan has always wanted players to aspire to play at a higher level and achieve representative honours. He knows that teams don’t win premierships without that caliber of player.
His ‘wish’ then may be about to come true when Origin teams are named after the weekend’s round of matches, with a handful of Sharks in contention.
Andrew Fifita for NSW and Valentine Holmes, Queensland, after playing for the Kangaroos two weeks ago, appear certain of selection, as does incumbent NSW five-eighth James Maloney.
Throw in Wade Graham and Jack Bird, both well and truly in the frame for the Blues and there could be five Sharks in Origin camp next week and missing from the team to play the Bulldogs.
As Flanagan says, it gives others a chance to show their worth and we remember back to the win over the Panthers last year, when exactly that happened with a similar number absent.
One bonus, Paul Gallen will be on deck at Southern Cross Group Stadium next week after his retirement from the representative arena.