Paul Gallen's season is in doubt after he suffered a ruptured biceps tear in Cronulla's loss to the Knights. Credit: Robb Cox. Copyright: NRL Photos.
After their past two brilliant comebacks, the shoe was on the other foot for the Cronulla Sharks when they lost 30-18 after being up 18-0 after 36 minutes against the Newcastle Knights on Sunday afternoon.
While they have been the team to make the astounding comebacks against the Broncos and Roosters, the Sharks were run over by the Knights in the second half in a loss that leaves them sitting dead last on the competition ladder.
"It was polar opposites compared to last week," interim Sharks coach James Shepherd said after the loss. "We said at halftime nothing should change, in particular our attitude, and right from that very first kick-off [in the second half] when we didn't claim the ball we seemed to be in quick sand."
"We couldn't get anything going and I suppose if last week was the unwinnable game then today was the opposite of that. We just seemed to give away way to many metres in defence and they were good enough.
"It hurts. I mean if you look at all the photos in the newspaper last week, how happy they were, they are the complete opposite today which is really disappointing."
Compounding the Sharks' loss were injuries to captain Paul Gallen (bicep) and vice-captain Wade Graham (collarbone) who left the field of play at the exact same time, moments before Knights captain Kurt Gidley levelled the playing field at 18-all. Although both men returned later in proceedings, the damage was already done.
"Gal copped a bit of a wack on his bicep so he's going for an MRI [on Sunday night] and we'll see how bad it is from there," Shepherd said.
"If we are up by plenty or down by plenty [Gallen] might come off and have a rest but he's an 80-minute player and we weren't planning to bring him off but obviously he needed to sort out his bicep
"Wade was a bit the same, he's an 80-minute player, and they both happened in a period when we were battling and didn't get much footy and when we got them back out there, you might have noticed Michael Lichaa didn't get back out there for a second stint [because we had no more interchanges left] which is again unfortunate.
In positive news for the Sharks though was the return of Andrew Fifita after early season ankle and wrist troubles in an effort that saw the Australian international produce 117 metres and 34 tackles.
"Andrew is a different sort of player. He breaks tackles and managed a one-on-one strip. He was pretty good for us and he'll get better. He played some decent minutes for his first game back."
With the Sharks facing a short turnaround before their Round 19 fixture against the North Queensland Cowboys on Friday night, they'll now look to get off the foot of the ladder against a team who hasn't won a game away from home since Round 25, 2013.