Five Key Points – Sharks v Storm
What were the big moments, the game changers, the key points of interest to come from the Sharks loss to the Storm on Saturday night. Here’s what we thought
1 Feki ‘no try’ a game changer
Two tries in quick succession and the Sharks were mounting a spirited second half comeback.
The Storm and their 22,000-plus home crowd were getting a bit nervous, with that anxiety level going up a few more notches when Sosaia Feki strolled across the line for a try which would have put the Sharks in front.
The night was all about Cameron Smith and his 400th game but were the Sharks about to spoil the celebrations?
Then comes a whistle from lead referee Ben Cummins, calling the final pass forward, the potential go-ahead try denied.
The commentators were apparently divided, with replays appearing to indicate a pass which was line-ball. The referees will defend the ruling, alternatively the Sharks when going through their video review will see it as a try and a decision that went against them at a critical time in the match.
It was a huge call, one which easily could have gone either way and while the score blew out over the final 20 minutes it could have be very different had Feki’s try been awarded.
2 A frustrated coach
At his media call leading into the game in Melbourne, coach John Morris said you can’t win against the Storm if you beat yourself.
In translating coach speak, that means hold the ball, complete your sets, make the basic defensive plays and don’t give the Storm anything they haven’t earned.
Unfortunately, Morris’s team didn’t get the memo, or at least weren’t able to carry out the plan.
The Sharks completed just 19 of 31 sets, for 61 per cent, that equating to them having just 41 per cent of the ball.
With fatigue a factor due to the high error count and lack of possession, the Sharks missed 38 tackles.
The injuries during the game didn’t help and they were well and truly in the contest midway through the second half, however all those numbers go a long way towards explaining why the coach was left frustrated and why Sharks couldn’t come away from AAMI Park with a win and the two points that go with it.
3 The globetrotting Storm and Cameron show
The Harlem Globetrotters, the legendary American basketball team which plays exhibition games around the world, regularly matches up with a squad called the Washington Capitals.
Obviously for the sake of entertainment, it is always about the Globetrotters and they always win.
The Sharks would have felt something like the Washington Capitals on Saturday night in Melbourne. And that’s certainly not to say the result was pre-determined as is the case when the Capitals play the Globetrotters in games which are more about theatre than competition.
Saturday night was all about Cameron Smith and his remarkable 400-game milestone, with the recognition justified for a player who has achieved everything in the game.
The Sharks were part of the supporting cast, and while they threatened for a period during the second half, Cam and his ‘globetrotters’ put on the show late in the contest and got the result their fans were hoping for.
Smith was his usual self, controlling the rucks and the game in what was another masterclass from one of the best the game has seen.
4 Johnson finds his feet
Much scrutiny has surrounded Sharks five eighth Shaun Johnson in recent weeks, with his goal kicking and general play coming under the media spotlight.
Coach John Morris was at pains to explain the average form of his side wasn’t all about Shaun, but many kept pushing the agenda.
The external pressure was on the Sharks playmaker heading into the Storm clash on Saturday night however rather than talking it up or defending himself from the criticism, Johnson let his actions speak for themselves.
And while he couldn’t steer the Sharks to a win, Johnson slotted two sideline conversions, the other from the touchline hitting the upright, ran the ball with confidence, created opportunities for his outside men and was back to near his best in the losing effort.
An ankle injury taken out of the game is a concern but there was definitely some determination evident the day after the game from Johnson to overcome his problems and be fit for Friday night against his old club.
5 Beware the injured Shark
During the early part of the season the Sharks were without the likes of Wade Graham, Matt Moylan, Paul Gallen, Aaron Woods, Andrew Fifita and Johnson for varying periods.
With youngsters deputising they managed some memorable wins and they may be forced to do so again in the weeks to come with the casualty ward a busy one after Saturday night’s game.
This time is was Josh Dugan going down with a hamstring injury early in the game against the Storm, forcing a backline reshuffle.
Josh Morris replaced Dugan at the back but he too came from the field after a nasty head clash resulted in a badly broken nose.
Bronson Xerri, who has limited experience at any level as a fullback was then shifted but the damage had been done and the game got away from the Cronulla side.
Dugan, who has played 15 of the 16 games this year, is likely to miss the NZ trip, as is Graham, with the status of Gallen, Moylan and Johnson still somewhat unknown.
But beware the injured Shark, with the young guns ready to step in and do the job if required.