Raiders v Sharks: Five key points

The Cronulla Sharks won a golden point thriller 21-20 over Canberra with Valentine Holmes again proving to be the hero. Here are five things we learned from the Round 19 clash.

Sharks move into the top eight

Valentine Holmes' game-winning field goal was probably a fair result for the Sharks who were on the good end of a few tight calls from the referees, including a controversial no-try call against Andrew Fifita on the final play of normal time.

They controlled the footy a lot better than the Green Machine and were deserved winners.

After the match Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said he was "totally relieved" that his team managed to claim the two points.

"I thought we had to win it three times to tell you the truth," Flanagan said.

"The way the players held it together after some interesting calls especially the last one there. 

"They could have dropped their bundle but they just hung in there and had that belief, I'm really proud of them.

"I thought in the end the better team won."

Meanwhile the Raiders were clearly hurting after the encounter, after suffering a similar fate against the Cowboys a few weeks ago.

"The boys are definitely heartbroken but we've just gotta keep our heads up, we're not done with yet," Raiders captain Jarrod Croker said.

Cronulla bounce back from controversial call

The game seemed to be over in the 80th minute as Andrew Fifita emerged from the in-goal celebrating like he'd just won the lottery, while Jarrod Croker cursed.

However replays immediately showed the game may not have been over, as there looked to be slight separation between ball and hand as the big man attempted to plant the ball.

Even so, video referee Shayne Hayne's decision to overrule the on-field decision of try was slightly controversial.

"I thought it was a try yeah, definitely," Flanagan said.

"To be honest I don’t know how they come up with it both on field referees rule it a try.

"From my position and the reviews I watched I cant see any conclusive evidence to change that decision."

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart meanwhile refused to be drawn into the discussion.

"What did you make of it," he said when asked about the call, "doesn’t matter what I think."

 

Raiders miss Sam Williams

He's the unsung hero of the Raiders attacking success this year, and has provided the perfect foil to the dangerous running game of Blake Austin.

Sam Williams' value to the Green Machine was proven on Saturday afternoon, despite the fact that he didn't take the field.

The Raiders short kicking game struggled all afternoon in his absence, while Austin wasn't afforded the same space and time in attack without Williams controlling attacking sets.

With the crafty halfback set to miss another four weeks of action, the Green Machine will have to come up with an effective solution at halfback if they want to make a push into the top eight.

Jack Wighton, while an awesome ball runner, is not a creator in attack, and doesn’t have the kicking game to play in the halves.

Josh McCrone and Mitch Cornish loom as likely options following strong displays in NSW Cup.

Holmes is the iceman

Just like he did back in Round 10 against the Titans, Valentine Holmes was once again the man to hit the game-winning field goal for the Sharks on Saturday.

Skillful and cool under pressure, Holmes is the Sharks' first choice when the game's on the line, and that won't be changing any time soon.

"Vals the bloke [to take the big kicks]," Sharks captain Paul Gallen said. 

"He's a superstar kid… he's a match winner, he's a try scorer.

"When he gets consistent and sometimes he comes up with errors but when he gets that consistency about him, he'll probably be an international and origin player one day. 

"We're working on getting that in him at the moment and he's certainly a player of the future."

Gallen also admitted that while he was happy with the final result, he wasn't too impressed with the way his team closed out the game.

"We got a bit lost there… we've got to be more footy smart," he said.

Raiders offloads do more harm than good

The offload statistic is normally savored in the NRL, the more the merrier.

But for the Raiders on Saturday afternoon, their offloads were sloppy and often led to them losing ground and possession.

The Raiders had 22 offloads on Saturday, but very few of them were effective, most hit the ground while others were intercepted by the Sharks.

Canberra only managed to complete their sets at 74% while both teams committed 10 errors a-piece.

Stuart will be telling his team to make sure they earn their right to offload by gaining the ascendancy through the middle of the field, rather than just pushing the pass at any opportunity.