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R25 NRLCronulla Sharks vs Sydney Roosters at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Picture : NRL Photos/Gregg Porteous

Unfortunately it was ultimately a penalty, and a dubious one at that, which decided the game and saw the Roosters take home the all-important competition points.

The 78th minute Michael Gordon goal broke the hearts of the 17,000-strong crowd and dropped the Sharks out of the top four and now with a tough road ahead as they attempt to defend their NRL title.

There were some big moments, some crucial calls in what was a heart-stopping contest.

But what were the key points? Here’s what we thought.

1. The interpretation of the ruck
Its possibly the hardest part of the game to officiate and the 78th minute penalty against the Sharks was a clear indication of just that.

Was it a penalty? Did Boyd Cordner milk it? With the interpretation often inconsistent the answers to those questions probably depend on which side of the fence you sit.

Cordner didn’t get to his feet in attempting to play the ball, yet on the other hand Gallen still had hold of his legs.

The rucks are a mess, that game-deciding penalty showed it, however there is unlikely to be any clarity coming in this area of the game anytime soon.

2. It's hard but not impossible
The goal of a top four finish is now long odds of eventuating, meaning the Sharks are going to have to do it the hard way should they hope to defend their NRL title.

A win by the Eels over the Broncos on Thursday night saw the Parramatta side move to 34 competition points and jump the Sharks, moving into the top four.

With the Eels to play Souths in the final round, a team beaten 64-6 by the Storm and obviously hopelessly out of form, chances are they will retain that position at the completion of round 26.

A win by the Sharks over the Knights should see them finish fifth or sixth, meaning they will be in sudden death from week one of the finals.

Since the top eight format has been the way it is no team has won the competition from outside the top four. The Sharks created history in 2016, can they do it again in 2017?

3. Lewis a standout
There was a battle royal down the Sharks right, the Roosters left, with Boyd Cordner, going at it with the old bull Luke Lewis, with honours shared evenly.

Lewis was a standout for the Sharks in a beaten side, running hard and straight and defending stoutly against the potent Rooster left hand side attack.

He scored the try which levelled the scores after just moments earlier punching through and causing Luke Keary to make a second grab in the tackle, resulting in his sin-binning.

It was a vintage performance Lewis, who for his efforts deservedly walked away with both Sharks player awards, the Coaches Award and Players Player.

4. Injuries a concern
In his 200th NRL appearance Wade Graham lasted just 20 minutes before a severe cork to his right calf saw him assisted from the field.

On a big occasion for Graham it was a disappointing end to his night, with the Sharks Origin backrower heading off for scans tomorrow to determine the extent of the problem.

A similar injury saw Sam Tagataese also limp off late in the contest, with his status going forward also unsure.

The good news is Jack Bird is due back for the match in Newcastle but it will be watch this space on the other two for what is a crucial game to wind up the home and away season.

5. Not so memorable milestones
We’ve spoke about Wade Graham and his 200th NRL game, a match which he will likely rather forget in years to come rather than remember as one of his classics.

On the same night Paul Gallen, celebrating his 300th and James Maloney his 200th, ran out onto Southern Cross Group Stadium through commemorative banners, with the pair notching up those milestones in games away from home.

Post-game the boys were all presented with game balls from those particular milestone matches, but none of the three were able to get too excited.

What we can do however is congratulate the trio for their outstanding careers to this point, and there is certainly more to come, hopefully in some big end of season games in 2017.


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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