5 Key Points v Manly
The game began poorly for the Sharks and up against a spirited and committed Sea Eagles side it was a bridge too far to climb as they slipped to a disappointing 35-18 loss.
Against a quality opponent the Sharks needed to be good, but unfortunately couldn’t find their best form and as a result have now fallen out of the top four.
So what were the big moments, the key points to come from the Sharks performance.
1. Sharks pay for another slow start
They fell 12-0 behind against the Storm, fought back but came up just short, 14-0 in arrears of the Cowboys, only to win 18-14.
Same story in narrow victories over the Bulldogs and Tigers. Slow starts, giving up leads to their opposition, only to show plenty of character to eventually come out on top and claim the points.
This time around it was 18-0 Manly 20 minutes in and the two points were as good as gone. As coach Shane Flanagan said his team gave him and the fans some false hope, but it was always going to be a huge ask to come from three tries down.
“Hold the ball,” was one simple solution the coach offered up, with the Sharks their own worst enemy at the start of matches in a number of games this season.
2. The ‘kid’ will be missed
A shocking injury suffered by young gun Jayden Brailey threatens to cut short his debut season in the NRL, with the Sharks hooker needing surgery to repair a badly broken jaw.
The injury occurred when Brailey was attempting a tackle on Manly’s Dylan Walker in the early minutes of the second half.
Prior to that Brailey had again done the job assigned to him by coach Flanagan to his usual high standards, which was to make his tackles and deliver crisp service out of dummy half.
The ‘kid’ will be missed and with James Segeyaro still a couple of weeks away from returning, there will be some difficult selection decisions for Flanagan and his coaching staff.
3. Graham backs up
One Shark who can hold his head high despite the heavy defeat was NSW rep Wade Graham who was presented with both the Players Player and the Coaches Award following the game last night.
Backing up four days following another disappointing loss, the last one while playing in Origin Two for the Blues, Graham showed outstanding attitude and character to back up and deliver a typically physical and determined performance.
In his 150th NRL game Graham ran for a team-leading 177 metres, made 30 tackles, scored a late try and throughout the 80 minutes was a thorn in the side of the Sea Eagles.
4. Lewis inspirational
Luke Lewis, pushing 34 years of age but playing with the energy of a teenager, swoops on a Daly Cherry-Evans pass and streaks away 80-metres, outpacing the cover defense for the Sharks first points of the night.
At the time the Sharks were 18-0 down and Manly were attacking, with the Lewis play inspirational.
It could and should have been a game changer. The Sharks scored a second shortly after from a well-worked set play but the Sea Eagles held firm in the minutes before half time and from there well and truly went on with the job in the second period.
Age shall not weary them and Lewis continues to deliver for the Sharks each and every week.
5. Its bunched at the top
With one loss the Sharks have slipped to fifth on the NRL ladder with another crucial clash ahead of them against the Roosters in Gosford next week.
While the Storm sit out on top, the challengers are gathering and its bunched at the top, with four points separating the next six teams.
The Sharks are on 22, level with the Sea Eagles and Broncos, two behind the Roosters and just two in front of the Dragons and Cowboys.
Which means the next few weeks will be vital should the Sharks hope to position themselves for a run at the top four.