Five key points – Sharks v Roosters
It was a welcome return to form for the Sharks who began with energy and then dominated the second half to run away with a comprehensive 44-12 victory over the Sydney Roosters.
Played in front of a capacity crowd of 20,060 at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, the Sharks built on a 20-12 half time lead in their best performance for some time.
But what were the key points to come from the win? Take a look at what we think.
1. Hold that ball!
They say it’s a simple game. Run hard, tackle hard, and probably most importantly, hold onto the ball.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has lamented his side’s inability for much of this season to control the ball and limit their errors. This week he got what he was hoping for, with the handling exemplary.
The first half the Sharks were 19-for-19 in completing their sets at a perfect 100 per cent, while overall they made just two handling errors in 80 minutes of football.
As a result they controlled field position, had a lions share of possession, still had plenty of energy late in the game and the points flowed.
Maybe easier said than done, but hold the ball and the Sharks showed they can play with anyone.
2. Start strongly and good things happen
It was 18-0 down to Manly in the loss last weekend, 14-0 to the Cowboys and 8-0 behind against the Bulldogs in two games they eventually won, with poor starts putting undue pressure on the Sharks in recent matches.
This week they were patient, controlled the ball and after enduring an early onslaught from the Roosters, slowly but surely worked themselves into the contest.
A penalty goal put them up two, a try to Jack Bird in the 14th minute and the James Maloney conversion and it was 8-0 and the Sharks had made their best start in some time.
The Roosters responded but the Sharks stuck to the plan, got back down the other end and Valentine Holmes hunting around the middle of the ruck sliced through to score under the posts.
There were periods where the Roosters threatened however the Sharks had the start they wanted and would go on with the job in dismantling a team many are tipping to challenge for the title in 2017.
Start strongly and good things can happen.
3. Underestimate them at your peril
It might have something to do with the fact both avoid the spotlight, preferring to let their football do their talking.
Sosaia Feki and Ricky Leutele were the Sharks left centre-wing partnership during the 2016 premiership winning season and while the coaching staff, their fellow players and Cronulla fans appreciate their talents, the media very rarely talk them up.
Again yesterday at the Central Coast their abilities were on show, with the pair outstanding, scoring three tries between them and proving a constant threat with the ball in hand.
Having Wade Graham and James Maloney inside them delivering the ball when they need it certainly helps, but there’s no denying Feki and Leutele are amongst the most competent wing-centre partnerships in the competition.
The Fox commentary, led by former teammate Michael Ennis, even threw up Leutele as someone good enough to be considered for the Queensland Origin team. Underestimate Feki and Leutele at your peril.
4. Lewis has wheels – part 2
He did it in the Sharks loss to the Sea Eagles and again on Saturday Luke Lewis turned back the clock with his second 90-metre intercept try in as many weeks.
Defending their line Lewis showed his football smarts once more when he dashed off the line, anticipating a long, loopy dummy half pass from Jake Friend.
Lewis grabbed the ball and off he went, this time chased by good mate and former Shark Michael Gordon, as well as Roosters young gun Latrell Mitchell.
Surely this week they would run him down, with a couple of speedsters taking off in chase, but if we needed any more evidence that Lewis still had wheels here it was for a second consecutive week.
Rather content with his achievement, Lewis was happy to tell teammates he was well onside prior to the intercept and he was so quick the fastest Roosters made no impression in the chase. Who are we to argue?
5. Sharks fans will travel
Yes there were quite a few family and friends of the two local boys in Chris Heighington and James Maloney in attendance, add to that the Sharks do have good support on the Central Coast, however there was a sea of blue, black and white despite it being a Roosters home game held a long way from the Sutherland Shire.
They may have been a little quiet early, but once the Sharks, the fans that is, smelt blood in the water they became vocal and enthusiastic, cheering loudly as their team did a job on the Roosters in the second half.
The Sharks song was heard echoing around the stadium with two minutes still on clock as they started prematurely celebrating the impressive win.
Then Leutele and Feki combined for a try on the siren, converted by Maloney and the place went nuts.
We saw it during the 2016 finals series, but yesterday again showed the Sharks fans will travel.