Sharks v Roosters: Five key points
Gallen's return, the Roosters' dramatic form drop, and Ferguon's recovery ahead of schedule. The key talking points from Cronulla's 10-4 win over the Sydney Roosters at Remondis Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Gallen's inspirational return for the Sharks
The scene was set for a big performance from the Sharks.
On a perfect Sunday afternoon, the atmosphere at Remondis Stadium was electric and the club was celebrating signing a new major sponsor.
But nothing had a bigger impact on the performance of the much-improved Sharks than the return of Paul Gallen.
In a match where Cronulla remarkably stopped the forward momentum of a usually dominant Roosters pack, his mere presence was pivotal.
"He's our leader," Shane Flanagan said.
"The confidence he gives to the players around him… He doesn't talk when he doesn't have to, he's a great leader of the club. The confidence he gives to those young blokes, Valentine Holmes, [Sosaia] Feki and Jack Bird, it's not measurable. It's good to have him back."
Roosters struggle to work around the Sharks wall
With the inspired Sharks forwards halting their momentum through the middle, the Roosters tried to go around Cronulla early on to minimal effect.
The Roosters ended the match with 19 errors and scored only one try - off a length-of-the-field run from James Maloney.
"It felt like every set we were trying to score," Trent Robinson said.
"For 80 minutes, every set we were trying to score. We didn't care about building a game, we didn't care about putting pressure on our opposition, we were just trying to score. Error, poor kick then defensive pressure on us again was just incredible," he said.
Gallen also noticed the downfall of the Roosters' attack.
"If we're being honest, the Roosters, they didn't respect the ball at all. And we probably should've made them pay a bit more, especially in that first half. But we didn't," he said.
Two new-look teams
Last week the Sharks were hugely disappointing against the Dragons, while the Roosters were in top form against the Storm.
How quickly things can change in the NRL.
For the second time this year Cronulla pulled off one of the upsets of the season, and both times they've done it, it's been against the Chooks.
Roosters coach Robinson was frustrated by his side's display after the match, most notably their inability to back up a big game on Monday night.
"Very different [performance] we just relied on it (the Storm win) a bit much," Robinson said.
"We thought we could just turn up and it would all happen again. It's just a poor performance coming off what we did [to the Storm]. Too many blokes thinking it will just happen again and looking for some easy outs."
Meanwhile Flanagan was in a very different boat but accepted his opposition weren't in their usual form.
"They made a lot of errors, but we forced them into errors," Flanagan said.
"I thought we were pretty good in ball control. But we can still get better in our attack, especially attacking their try-line. But overall I thought we were pretty good. We forced them into errors."
Ferguson's return imminent
On Monday night the Roosters showed the competition how much attacking potency they can have out wide when their forwards are on top through the middle.
Against the Sharks, their backs showed that they have minimal impact when they aren't on the front foot.
One of the few players in the competition who can still dominate without a forward advantage is Blake Ferguson, who Trent Robinson insists is very close to a return.
"He was pretty close today," Robinson said, "it's a medical call and a coaching call."
"Blake's been flying around training and ready to go. Just with that particular injury and a bone injury in a foot there is a risk. The surgeon said he doesn't have people coming back until 16 weeks, that's the normal sort of time, he's ten weeks now."
Gallen will be a huge inclusion for the Blues
Although coach Flanagan described it as only "gamesmanship" Paul Gallen was definitely struggling for fitness at various times on Sunday afternoon.
Despite this struggle, and some obvious lingering effects of his debilitating hip/glut injury, Gallen showed he can still have a huge impact on a match without being anywhere close to full fitness.
Asked if he'll be right for Holden State of Origin Game Two in Melbourne, Gallen was confident of his chances.
"I spoke to Laurie earlier in the week and just told him that I'd be right to play this week," Gallen said.
"I'll just wait and see what he comes up with in the next 24 hours. I just have to wait and see. Fingers crossed, I'm ready to go. We'll just wait and see."