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2017 NRL - Grant Trouville © NRL Photos

Souths competed hard for most of the night but in the end the Sharks were a touch too good, the 26-12 win seeing them remain well and truly in the fight for a place in the top four.

While again making too many errors for the liking of coach Shane Flanagan, there was enough to like about the effort to suggest the Sharks can find some consistency and continue to mount a charge in the weeks to come.

It was also a night to celebrate the 300th NRL game for Luke Lewis, with the veteran back rower again delivering a trademark performance.

But what were the key points to come from the game? Here’s what we thought.

1. A night to celebrate
He would have enjoyed the occasion, the good wishes from friends, family and the current Sharks playing group, but Luke Lewis will likely also look back and remember an extremely busy week.

Certainly worthy of all the attention and the accolades that came his way, Lewis is a no frills type off the field and the extensive media commitments throughout the week and the fuss and fanfare on game day would have somewhat altered his normally regimented game preparation.

All that being said, Lewis was his usual self, his defence first class, while his kick chase and energy was the same as the 299 games he had played before.

His first NRL coach at the Panthers Royce Simmons summed it up when congratulating Lewis on his achievement and offering words of encouragement prior to kick off, when he said the best thing about Luke Lewis is he has had a ‘dig’ every time he has taken the field.

It was the case for game 300 and there’s a big chance the same thing will occur in match 301 in Auckland next week.

2. The other ‘old’ bloke delivers
While he was happy to take a backseat to fellow veteran Luke Lewis, Paul Gallen certainly stepped up once again to show why he is looking to finalise a new contract for 2018.

In 67 minutes Gallen made 26 hit ups, churning out 253 metres despite the Souths big boys bashing, smashing and doing whatever they could to nullify his influence.

Throw in 25 tackles and it isn’t hard to see why Gallen is such an important cog in the Sharks machine in 2017.

He carries the ‘C’ as the captain but is also the heart and soul of the team and the Sharks inspirational leader.

3. Back five on fire
They were an integral part of the premiership success in 2016 and while the faces and names have changed only slightly, the Sharks back five, in the fullback, wingers and centres, again turned in inspiring performances.

With their fast feet and powerful running troubling the big Souths pack, the back five carried the ball strongly all night, getting their team out of defensive end of the field and on the front foot time and time again.

Led by Valentine Holmes at the back with 172 metres, Gerard Beale was outstanding (123), Ricky Leutele again consistent (150) and Sosaia Feki strong as usual (112), with those four running for more than 100 metres.

Add Kurt Capewell’s contribution with his incisive darts from dummy half and running from one off the ruck and their combined 614 run metres almost doubled that of their Rabbitohs' opposites who could only manage 316 metres in response.

Two tries, one to Beale and a late four pointer to Leutele was cream on the top and its not hard to see why the Sharks back five are up there amongst the best in the business.

4. Hooker rotation a winner
Mick Ennis retired at the end of 2016 and for some it was all doom and gloom.

In comes Jayden Brailey and a workable solution had been found. Unfortunately the rookie suffers a broken jaw, ruling him out for an extended period, then one of the potential replacements in Daniel Mortimer takes up a lucrative deal in the UK Super League.

But fear not, the problem looks to have again been solved with the partnership of Fa’amanu Brown and James Segeyaro more than capably handling the job in the win over Souths.

Brown was creative and solid in defense in 33 minutes, and although the stats might say he only ran for three metres, what a three metres is was.

Capitalising on a quick play the ball close to the line, a bit of slight of hand, a shimmy and shake and Brown had dived over for the Sharks second try of the night.

Then in his second game back from 15 weeks out Segeyaro gets through an enterprising 47 minutes, regularly threatening with his speed out of dummy half.

Who will wear the nine shirt going forward remains to be seen, with Brailey to eventually return, but Coach Shane Flanagan found another extremely workable solution with last nights hooking partnership.

5. Young Sharks challenged – but too good
We haven’t mentioned them lately in Five Key Points but after another victory, this one a 40-14 win over Souths, the NYC Sharks again deserve some praise.

While the final score line may have indicated another comfortable triumph for a team which sits five points clear at the top of the Holden Cup ladder, last night’s match was far from that.

Souths turned up in a determined mood, ran hard and tackled hard in the opening exchanges and before they knew it, the Sharks were behind 14-0.

They worked their way back into the contest with a first half try but their 10-game winning streak was under pressure as they trailed 14-6 at the break.

John Morris’s group however has class, composure and plenty of resilience, sticking to the plan and trusting their ability in the second period as they ran away with the points.

Kyle Flanagan with two tries and six goals added to his tally as the NYC’s leading point scorer but he had plenty of willing helpers.

They young Sharks were challenged, but again proved too good. 

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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