Five Key Points – Sharks v Raiders

Five Key Points – Sharks v Raiders

1 Maybe he is a fullback after all
The doubters are nothing if not consistent in their criticism of Valentine Holmes as a fullback, however overlooking one error on Sunday, he showed he can do things with ball in hand that very few others in the NRL can match. 

He was forgiven by coach Shane Flanagan for allowing a ball to bounce in the in-goal, pounced upon by Canberra's Nick Cotric for a try, "a split second decision gone wrong", the coach explained it, but considering Holmes would have a hand in three of the four tries, scoring two with long range efforts, and it's no surprise Flanagan didn't come down too hard on him for that one gaffe.

In a fight to retain his wing position for Queensland, Holmes not only displayed his knack for getting the ball over the line, but also showed his ability to have a massive influence on the outcome of a game.

Yes he is a classy winger and an outstanding finisher out on the flank, but on yesterday's effort, Holmes definitely has plenty to offer as a fullback as well.

2 How can Freddy fit Fifita in?
NSW Coach Brad Fittler might be carefully scanning the Origin eligibility rules today after Sharks forward Andrew Fifita, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, said he would be happy to play games one and three, while sitting out game two of the series due to his commitments with Tonga.

Of course, that won't happen, with Fifita having declared an allegiance to his father's homeland, and with Origin players needing to be eligible to play for Australia, that makes him unavailable for selection.
However, on what Fittler saw yesterday, he no doubt would be keen to have the big front rower in his team come game one on June 6.

Despite being severely restricted at training throughout the week with bone bruising on his knee, Fifita incredibly got through 80 minutes, made over 50 tackles and ran the ball for more than 150 metres.

And he did it with the 'C' as Captain next to his name, taking on extra responsibility to go with it.

Freddy must be wondering just how he can fit Fifita in but Queensland have been doing it for years. Surely is there is a will, there is a way. 

3 The '1-percenters'
Coaches talk about the 'one percenters', the little extra efforts in a game that can make all the difference between winning and losing, the moments that might have gone unnoticed by many but later earn praise when the players sit down for their post-game video review session.

The Sharks had at least three such moments on Sunday, with all crucial to the final result.

First it was Kurt Capewell, who despite the fatigue of the previous 60-or-so minutes, picked himself up of the deck after making a tackle, got to marker, then raced out to pressure the Canberra kicker on the last tackle.

Because of Capewell's effort, Aiden Seizer kicked out on the full, gifting the Sharks the ball in good field position and from there they played the remainder of the game on the front foot.

Next up it was a combination of Holmes and Sosaia Feki, the fullback picking up a kick deep in his in-goal, hustling to get back into the field of play, before being confronted with a wall of defenders.

Rather than take the tackle, Holmes saw Feki had made his extra effort to get back and help out, Holmes passed the ball to his winger, who evaded the defence and made it back into the field of play. It was another huge play in the context of the match.

Then in the dying stages, Canberra down by two and attacking the Sharks line, Matt Prior makes a crucial tackle from dummy half, causes a turnover and the Cronulla side would go on to preserve their lead and claim the points.

The one-percenters, often missed by many, but not by those who matter.

4 The debutants do the job
The Sharks had more than 1,100 games of NRL experience watching on from the sideline, but the likes of Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Wade Graham, Josh Dugan and Jayson Bukuya, must have been hugely impressed with the efforts of those who came into the team on Sunday and did an outstanding job.

Former Canberra under-20's player Jack Williams made his NRL debut and he did so in style, scoring a try, reaping the reward for pushing up in support of a well place grubber kick. Williams would put in a wholehearted performance in making 27 tackles and 10 runs with the football in almost 50 minutes of game time.

As for the other debutant, ex-Cowboy Braden Uele, in his first match in the top grade for the Sharks and his second NRL game overall, was an intimidating presence in the middle of the field, also doing an excellent job for his team on the night.

With injuries at some point of a season inevitable, teams need good depth and the way the two debutants got the job on Sunday, along with the others who have stepped in for their high profile teammates at various stages during the season, all bodes well for the Sharks going forward in 2018 and beyond.

5 Canberra holds no fear
Traditionally Canberra is a difficult road trip.

Three hours down the highway, more often than not the conditions are frigid, with the parochial crowd, Viking clap and all, often creating an intimidating environment.

For whatever reason, seemingly it is a place that holds no fear for the Sharks, at least that's what recent results would indicate.

The win on Sunday was the sixth in succession for the Sharks against the Raiders in Canberra, their last loss in the national capital coming in the Elimination Final of 2012.

Funny enough, the Sharks have found the Raiders tougher to beat on home soil, dropping the points in each of Canberra's last three games at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

We're reasonably sure the Sharks aren't thinking of taking games away from the Shire and playing at alternative venues, however if they were, the coach for one might be pushing GIO Stadium as a suitable place to play.