It was a hard-earned but extremely valuable two competition points for the Sharks who came away with a 26-16 victory over the Cowboys.
The Sharks jumped out to a big half time lead and did enough in the second 40 minutes to maintain this position inside the top four with a couple of huge matches to come.
But what were the big moments, the major talking points to come from the Sharks trip to Townsville. Here’s what we thought.
1. It’s a simple game
They say rugby league is a simple game. Run hard, tackle hard and hold the ball the results are likely to come your way.
That’s exactly what occurred in the first half against the Cowboys, with the Sharks aggression, coupled with their ball control helping them establish a 24-6 half time lead.
As captain Paul Gallen and coach Shane Flanagan expressed in the post match press conference the fact that the Sharks were winning the ‘contact’ meant arms were free and off-loads were available.
The Cowboys were unable to control the second-phase of the Sharks and for first period tries were the result.
Run hard, tackle hard, win the ruck and success will follow.
2. A game of two halves
As much as the Sharks dominated the first half, the second 40 minutes turned out to be somewhat frustrating.
To their credit the Cowboys showed outstanding fighting spirit to repel a number of Sharks attacking raids and restrict them to just a penalty goal after the break, while the loss of Wade Graham with calf tightness didn’t help Cronulla’s cause.
But on the flip side the Cowboys had some injury issues of their own and it was a less than impressed Shane Flanagan seemingly expressing that frustration in the dressing room following the game despite his team claiming the all-important two competition points.
A good win at what is a difficult place to play by the Sharks and 40-minutes of quality football is definitely a step in the right direction, but they will need to string together a few 80-minute performances in the weeks to come.
3. Brailey is back
Eight weeks after having his jaw smashed in a game against the Manly Sea Eagles, young hooker Jayden Brailey was back and it was an impressive return.
Flanagan pitched Brailey straight back into a starting role and the young local product didn’t disappoint, scoring his teams first try with some good support play while providing excellent service from dummy half.
In his first game for two months Brailey last 52 minutes before turning over the reins to James Segeyaro who injected his trademark energy and enthusiasm into the final half an hour of the match.
Brailey is back, Segeyaro and Fa’amanu Brown are available to come on and add some variety with the signs around the dummy half position looking good for the Sharks going forward.
4. Maloney is ‘back’ as well
James Maloney was back last week in the loss to the Broncos but he was closer to being ‘back’ this week in Townsville if you know what we mean, with a first half performance that broke the game open in Townsville.
In his own words Maloney admitted to having a ‘shocker’ in Brisbane but last night it was the Origin five eighth Sharks fans know and love as he bamboozled the Cowboy defense on the back of the excellent lead-up work of his forwards.
Maloney threw the last pass for tries to skipper Paul Gallen and fullback Valentine Holmes in a dominant 40 minutes of football.
The second half was more difficult and somewhat frustrating for the entire Sharks team but it was reassuring to see Maloney back doing what we all know he is capable of.
5. The ‘championship’ Club
There are still two rounds to go but a couple of trophies are already Shire bound following the trip to Townsville yesterday.
The Sharks NYC team continued on their winning ways, beating the Cowboys 36-12 in confirming their place on top of the competition points table.
The young Sharks will be at least nine ahead, maybe as many as 11 points clear of the second placed team at the end of the weekend, with the Holden Cup minor premiership trophy to be presented at their home game against the Roosters next week.
Similarly, the wins by the NRL and NYC teams in North Queensland means the Club Championship has also been wrapped up by the Sharks, which is a great result and testimony to the hard work of all at the club.
The Sharks junior rep teams enjoyed strong seasons in 2017 and just two years won a pair of state and national age group titles, the current NYC team is breaking all sorts of records and the NRL Sharks are bravely defending their 2016 premiership.
By any measure the Sharks as a club are in good shape and it isn’t outside the realms of possibility that two teams in blue, black and white could be at ANZ Stadium on Grand Final day.