1 A win is a win, however you get it
Too many errors, a penalty count which spiraled out of control, coupled with a sin-binning and injuries which put their interchange rotation out of whack, made it a difficult afternoon for the Sharks.
But on the positive side of the ledger they managed a victory, something of a comfortable one at least on the scoreboard and when it all boils down a win is a win and the two competition points count for the same, no matter how you get them.
The Sharks weathered an early storm against the Titans, four first half tries making it their game to lose, and while the second 40 minutes were disappointing, if nothing else coach John Morris would have been satisfied with the defensive attitude and the resilience displayed by his team in the 20-6 win.
There is still plenty to work on, but if you can win when below your best it is certainly a good sign.
2 It’s all right on the right
Sharks centre Josh Morris, back rower Kurt Capewell and the ever-reliable Sosaia Feki did their job on the left had side on Saturday night, the trio defensively sound and close to error free with the football.
But it was hard to miss the efforts of the Sharks right, with four first half tries scored in virtually the same spot in the south-western corner of Shark Park.
Sione Katoa scored twice, Josh Dugan once, while young gun Briton Nikora ran a fantastic line off a Matt Moylan pass in crossing for his first try in the top grade.
Add to the mix Shaun Johnson with his speed and skill providing time and space, not to mention fullback Moylan chiming in to create doubt in the opposition defence and the results were there for all to see.
Nikora in just two games has been a revelation, Katoa has that x-factor every team needs and with the experience and guile of Johnson, Moylan and Dugan, the sky is the limit.
3 When milestones mean more
Skipper Paul Gallen equalled Andrew Ettingshausen’s record of games played for the Sharks when he ran out against the Titans on Saturday.
Proud of the achievement, Gallen downplayed the milestone, explaining it was bittersweet considering the man known as ET was a major reason he had chosen the Cronulla club when still a teenager.
For the other ‘milestone man’ in Chad Townsend, he had every reason to be somewhat emotional when running into the game day banner erected in his honour.
A local junior, Townsend would watch and dream from the family hill at Shark Park as a youngster, before working his way through junior reps to under 20’s, then eventually an NRL debut back in 2011.
He went away for a couple of years, but Townsend’s heart has always been in the Shire, therefore notching 100 NRL games for the Sharks, just the second genuine number seven to do so, represented a significant achievement.
Getting to run out with his young daughter would have made the occasion even more special, with the controlled and professional performance that would follow, typical of what Sharks fans have come to know.
4 A day of firsts
Saturday represented the first game at home for our two new recruits, with Josh Morris and Shaun Johnson enjoying the support of a Sharks crowd.
The pair were embraced by the Shark Park faithful and if they can combine for more wins and hand in similar performances in 2019 there is no doubt the Shire will be fully behind them.
It was also the first-time young gun Briton Nikora had crossed the stripe for an NRL try, however going by his initial two performances in the top grade, there is plenty more of that to look forward to.
Sione Katoa’s double was his first in the NRL, but as a prolific try scorer in the lower grades and with the likes of Johnson, Moylan and Dugan supplying the opportunities, again we can only hope that was the first of many multiple scoring matches.
But perhaps the most significant first was recorded by new NRL Head coach John Morris.
Undoubtedly disappointed by the narrow loss in Newcastle the week before, the win at home on Saturday represented his first at an NRL level.
Looking back to 2017 and his first year in charge of the Sharks 20’s, Morris also lost a heartbreaker in round one, his team going down to a length of the field try in the last seconds, a result not dissimilar to the game against the Knights a week ago.
From there he went on to coach a Sharks team that was dominant throughout the regular season, easily winning the minor premiership and unearthing the likes of Kyle Flanagan, Blayke Brailey, Sinoe Katoa and Briton Nikora in the process.
5 The numbers don’t lie
John Morris said it. Shaun Johnson echoed his thoughts and in speaking with Sharks Media, both Dugan and Moylan, while pleased to have been a part of a Sharks win, were left disappointed by the large error count and lack of respect for the football.
In the loss to the Knights it was 12 errors in possession, this week against the Titans it was 18, a number unacceptable in the NRL.
Only good fortune would have it that the Titans committed 17, giving back to the Sharks as much ball as they were presented through Cronulla mistakes. And with the sun shining throughout and a fast Shark Park surface, conditions couldn’t be blamed.
Add to the error tally a 14-5 penalty count in favour of the Titans and if looking for a positive, to win with those numbers stacked against you, was a commendable effort.
Morris was left to count the cost of the errors in the round one loss, his team managed to grind out a victory in week two, but it will definitely be an area of their game that will need attention should the Sharks hope to challenge the leading teams in the 2019 NRL competition.