Graham grinning despite horror moments
Sharks second-rower Wade Graham was a standout in their streak-busting 24-18 victory over North Queensland on Saturday, but it won't be all plaudits coming his way in the Shire this week.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for Graham, who added a couple of gems to the NRL blooper reel; first tripping over his own feet en route to a breakaway try, then botching a 74th minute field goal that even the Sharks' communications team could not believe.
Down six at the time however, the botched try was worse.
After a slow-motion line break in the earlier stages of the second half, the ball ended up with the 24-year-old who suffered a fit of the speed wobbles, tripping over his own feet with the line open right in front of him.
With fellow forwards Andrew Fifita, Anthony Tupou, Chris Heighington and Jayson Bukuya all safe from the infamous run of the try-less at the end of the year, Graham knows he may just have let slip his best opportunity of 2015.
Adding insult to injury, the Sharks failed to score on the play.
"The boys have been into me. I haven't scored one all year yet and it's starting to become a bit of a running joke, and I'm probably going to cop a whole lot more this week," a jovial Graham said after the game.
"Luckily we came away with the result because if we didn't it would've been disappointing because it was a certain try and I bombed it."
Apart from two of the more embarrassing plays this season, Graham was outstanding in his side's comeback win, with 163 running metres from 15 carries and 25 tackles with zero misses, along with a level-headed touch finder in the dying minutes.
Positives were aplenty for the Sharks, who for the first time sit in the NRL's top eight after having lost their first four games of the year.
Ben Barba continued his good form as an impact player for Shane Flanagan, breaking the line once and providing a spark that his coach said was infectious for the playing group.
"It's a bit unfortunate, Sosaia Feki got a bit of a neck complaint but it was an opportunity for me to get 'Benny' out on the field and he's doing a great job there at the moment," Flanagan said.
"I think all the boys know when (Barba) is out there, they get another spring in their step and know that when Benny's out there, we're going to score some points."
Exciting outside back Valentine Holmes put forward another good outing in his city of origin with 157 metres, alongside strong contributions from both Andrew (140 metres, 28 tackles) and David Fifita (132 and 26).
But it was captain Michael Ennis outpointing everyone else on the field, showing both the toughness in defence (40 tackles) and short-ball game (three try assists) that he has made a living on.
"He's a good communicator, he's a fierce competitor, he gets under the opposition's skin there a couple of times but I'm glad to have him at our club," Flanagan said of Ennis.
Cronulla will aim to make it four in a row for the first time in over two years when they face Manly at Brookvale Oval next Sunday afternoon.