NRL: Sharks back-rower Wade Graham is on the cusp of possible NSW selection, however will this coat-hanger on Jonathan Thurston rob Graham of an Origin debut if picked?
CRONULLA skipper Paul Gallen and senior teammate Mick Ennis noticed some complacency creep into Sunday’s captain’s run, so they gave the players a good old-fashioned decent rev-up.
“Training was a bit on and off, it was a bit loose at times, so myself and Mick at the end had a little blow-up (at the players), and it must have worked because the boys had their heads on and competed hard for 80 minutes tonight,’’ said Gallen, as his high-flying Sharks made it 10 straight wins.
The Monday night stoush between two genuine premiership contenders did not disappoint.
Finals football had arrived on a cool June night in the Shire.
Those wondering when the Sharks’ golden run will end might be waiting for a while yet.
Cronulla triumphed 13-10 courtesy of some brutal defence in the second half and James Maloney’s right boot.
They joined Melbourne on top of the ladder to sit sit six points clear ahead of the rest of the NRL pack.
Good luck trying to find a weakness in this mob. Yes, this could be the Sharkies’ year.
Jack Bird, Ben Barba and Valentine Holmes _ who scored a brilliant 92m solo try _ are a joy to watch at the start of each set.
Five-eighth Maloney again kept a cool head to slot a field goal late in the game, then nailed a nervous penalty goal.
But it’s their forwards who smash and intimidate their rivals every week that is impossible to ignore.
Maloney told The Daily Telegraph afterwards: “Obviously I was well aware of the pack I would have been playing behind when I first came here, and that was a big reason for actually coming here.
“They’re doing a really good job for us at the moment.
“We lost our way a bit in the first half, but the real character of this side is they hang tough and hang in footy games, which we did tonight.’’
Johnathan Thurston was not the first visiting captain to admit after the match his side had anticipated a brutal encounter.
Thurston was entitled to feel confident given the premiers had won five of their past six trips to the Shire, and had Matt Scott, James Tamou and Jason Taumalolo going head to head with Andrew Fifita, Gallen, Wade Graham and Sam Tagataese.
“It’s always physical when you play the Sharks, they control field position, so they can tighten their line up and jam off their line and really give it to us,’’ Thurston said.
“I don’t know how many possessions we had in their territory in the second half, but it didn’t feel like much compared to theirs.’’
North Queensland dominated the early exchanges, and went ahead through a Antonio Winterstein try after five minutes. A Thurston penalty goal made it 8-0 before Holmes’ intercept try got the Sharks _ and the huge Cronulla crowd _ back into the match.
Referee Gerard Sutton kept his whistle warm _ he blew no less than 20 penalties _ with a Barba knock-on late in the game a call that did not haunt the home side.
Cowboys coach Paul Green’s only gripe was the no-try ruling to Scott late in the second half.