Five Key Points: Dragons v Sharks
The Dragons starred as the Sharks crumbled to a crushing 42-6 loss, a sure-tell sign that the Red V's attack is finally matching their defensive prowess while Mitch Rein put his hand for a NSW Origin jumper.
Dragons' attack finally on point
Scoring 74 points in their past two matches, the Dragons looked to have finally buried their demons with the ball in hand. To put it into context, in their other nine matches in 2015 the Red V have only scored 122 points at an average of 13 points per game.
Not that coach Paul McGregor was worried.
"I'm happy to win a game by one point to be honest, we're a team that enjoys the defensive side of things and I think if you look back over the past decade every team has won the premiership off the back of defence," he said.
After shocking plenty this season to ensure they still the hold an equal-lead of the Telstra Premiership, McGregor insisted he is only focused on one thing.
"Playing next week," he said. "We're a long way away from the finals; we have to just keep working towards what we know we can do.
"The NRL is a tough competition and it can change pretty quickly and any team can beat any team so we have to make sure we are at our best which is what we're doing."
Sharks continue slide
After getting blitzed by 36 points by the Dragons, Cronulla dropped four places on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder despite the teams below them not getting favourable results either.
With for and against already proving valuable, the Sharks dropped below the Bulldogs, Knights and the Titans. With the byes yet to be factored in for the Bulldogs and Wests Tigers the Sharks will finish Round 12 at 14th.
Sharks captain Wade Graham said the Dragons were too good.
"[Dragons] second half performance was one of the best team performances from an opposition this year. They beat us to the punch with everything, all the little things," he said.
"When they got their roll on, they were still disciplined enough to stick to their plan and do what they practiced which helped them put us to the sword."
Mitch Rein for Origin
With Robbie Farah in severe doubt for Game Two for New South Wales, a host of contenders have put their hand up to fill the No. 9 jumper if necessary, including the Dragons hooker.
Rein, who was one of Country's best in Wagga Wagga a month ago, continues to impress. His captain Ben Creagh, a veteran of 11 Origins, believes the 25-year-old is up to the challenge.
"Mitch would handle it fine," he said. "I think he's in career best form at the moment to tell you the truth and the last five or six weeks he's really come along great.
"He's played some wonderful football for us and he's steering us around well. The tries he's scored the past few weeks have been outstanding too so he wouldn't let anyone down there."
Referees can't win
Referees - whether on-field or those upstairs - came under plenty of scrutiny on Sunday across both games.
Warriors prop Ben Matulino was awarded a contentious try after the video referee deemed there was not enough evidence to overturn the on field decision, despite the Knights appearing to do enough to hold him up.
Sharks winger Valentine Holmes was lucky to have his try registered when Adam Devcich uncharacteristically awarded it without referring it to his colleagues upstairs.
Replays showed that what looked like a garden variety try had indeed been dropped by Holmes. While it didn't impact on proceedings, it's just another sign of how much scrutiny and pressure is placed on the referees, no matter the circumstances.
Suburban grounds are the greatest
18,011 people filled into Jubilee Oval on Sunday afternoon and it was glorious. Sure, it was a local derby and a lovely day outside but imagine if they played the game elsewhere?
From a Dragons point of view, playing in Wollongong takes away from the derby completely and the three-quarter empty ANZ Stadium would have seen the atmosphere disappear completely.
It showcases why and how places like Kogarah, Brookvale and Leichhardt still hold an important place in the heart of the NRL.