Five Key Points – Sharks v Knights

What were the big moments, the game changers, the key points to come out of the Sharks loss to the Knights on Friday. Here’s what we thought.

1 The NRL season is a marathon, not a sprint

The Sharks had their chances in the loss to the Knights but unfortunately, they couldn't quite get the job done in Friday’s game in Newcastle.

Banking competition points early in the year is crucial, so you aren't scrambling to qualify for top eight, top four, at the back end of the season. However, while disappointing, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Sharks after one loss, with 23 games of footy still to be played.

Too much dropped ball and missed opportunities in attack came back to bite the Sharks, but there were a couple of positives to take out of the game and there is no doubt plenty of improvement to come.

The timing may have been a little bit out, with passes just behind players and fractionally missing the mark, most notably a couple Josh Dugan may have been blamed for which weren’t necessarily his fault, but when the pieces come together in attack there seems to be a lot of upside to look forward to.

In one aspect coaches always find pleasing, John Morris was high in his praise of his team’s defensive attitude, especially on their try line.

It’s one game, the result wasn't what was ordered, nevertheless an NRL season is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

2 Round one hoodoo continues

An incredible stat to come from Melbourne’s win over the Broncos on Thursday was the fact that it was the 17th season in a row where the Storm have started their year with a round one victory.

It is a record the Sharks can only envy after dropping their sixth consecutive season-opener in the loss to the Knights.

After levelling the scores, then going on the attack within the final six or seven minutes, it appeared the Sharks would continue another streak and register a ninth win in a row against Newcastle, until Edrick Lee’s 90-metre intercept saw the two points claimed by the Knights.

Nobody in the Sharks dressing room was pleased about it, no loss is good, but the coach and senior players stressed there is no need for panic, pointing out that (excepting 2014) the Sharks have been contenders in recent years, Premiers in 2016, despite coming away empty in round one. 

 

3 Pass mark for Sharks debutants

It was a tough initiation for Sharks debutants Briton Nikora and Blayke Brailey, playing the Knights in their first NRL appearances in front of over 21,000 fanatical Newcastle fans.

Nikora won a starting job after an outstanding off-season, and the junior Kiwi didn't disappoint in an eye-catching 80-minute effort where he made 40 tackles and ran for 123 metres, second behind only Kurt Capewell amongst his fellow Sharks forwards.

As for the younger Brailey, he was thrust into the action with the scores locked at 2-all and with the game on the line, in an indication of the confidence coach Morris has in his abilities.

Blayke may only have been given 16 minutes on the field on Friday, long enough to suggest he will see more minutes and have plenty more opportunities in the weeks, months and years ahead.

It was a pass mark for both first-gamers with Sharks fans having a lot to look forward to from these two young guns.

 

4 Try? No try? The jury is out.

There was a lot of discussion about the Sione Katoa penalty try in the aftermath to the game on Friday night.

Edrick Lee brought Katoa down in the in-goal, when the Sharks flyer was two steps in front of the chasers in attempting to run down a Shaun Johnson grubber kick.

The subsequent decision leveled the scores with under 10 minutes to play, the consensus amongst the so-called experts being there was massive doubt that Katoa would have reached the ball. What only some argued was that if Lee hadn’t tackled him, not bumped, obstructed, interfered with Sione, but tackled Katoa out of play, that we wouldn’t be talking about it.

But as controversial as that decision might have been, little was made of the Josh Dugan no try, when Katoa showed exceptional skill to collect a kick near the sideline and pass inside for an apparent Sharks four-pointer.

The referee ruled try, the bunker, slowing it down to frame by frame vision, said no try. They decided it was a deliberate action.

Was it a breach of the rules or outstanding skill? It depends who you talk to.

At full speed, less than a metre from the sideline, with not one but two players in his field of vision, Katoa made a play at the ball, regathered and in one motion passed on the inside to Dugan.

Brad Fittler on the Sunday Footy Show said no try, Sam Thaiday says it is definitely a try. John Morris was left scratching his head at how it could be disallowed. The on-field referee, who saw what happened in real time, awarded it.

It's history now, the game over and the Knights ultimately deserved their win, but it's difficult to recall the last time this rule has been enforced, the match officials convinced tapping the ball forward was a deliberate action and a penalty warranted. 

What do you think? A try? No try? Not much use worrying about it now, but the jury is out. 

 

5 You learn more from a loss

They are often hard lessons, but the saying goes you learn more from a loss than you do a win.

A close win, from a less than stellar performance, can sometimes gloss over deficiencies and areas of your game that need attention.

Morris, his coaching staff and the playing group will certainly be hoping that is the case after dropping a game they had every opportunity to win.

They no doubt learnt you can’t win in the NRL with a 60 per cent completion rate.

Their review of the game will also highlight they made four clean line breaks to just one from the Knights, unable to capitalise on any of those scoring chances, yet from their lone break Newcastle posted a try to Tim Glasby.

They will also take away from the match the rucks and play the balls and the referee’s interpretations of the rules in 2019 are somewhat different, the whistles all weekend were kept in the pocket, and the Sharks need to adjust accordingly.

This Saturday at Shark Park against the Titans we’ll see just how much was learnt from the game in Newcastle last Friday.