Milestone tries save Sharks blushes
It's the notorious punishment no footballer wants: the dreaded end of season nudie run for those that get through a whole year without crossing the stripe for so much as a single try.
For some front-row toilers it comes with the territory; for attacking outside backs it can be the ultimate embarrassment.
It's also something two key Sharks won't have to worry about in 2015 after Wade Graham and Gerard Beale crossed for their first tries of the year.
For Beale it was also his first ever try in Sharks colours after joining the club this year.
"Yeah I'm off the nudie mate, I am, it's good, both me and Bealey," Graham laughed to NRL.com after the game.
"I saw Bealey race 95 and I knew he was off it so lucky I was in a good position and lucky enough to get across the line."
Graham's was less spectacular than Beale's length-of-the-field effort but it sealed an important win and came after he spilled the ball over the line with a try on offer several weeks ago, thus saving him an additional ribbing from teammates.
"I don't care how I got off it as long as I got it but more importantly we got the result. We were [setting for a field goal], Val's slotted over a couple this year," Graham said.
"We probably didn't set up the best and we ended up playing off the cuff. We hung tough, the Cowboys are a quality team of competitors, players like JT, Lachy Coote, Michael Morgan will fight to the death."
Another man who has been short on tries – fullback Michael Gordon – earned just his third of the year when he also streaked away for a long-range effort that wound back the clock for the 31-year-old.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan praised the efforts of all three men after the game.
"It did turn the game," he said of Gordon's effort straight after half time.
"We defended well the whole time. Teams that defend well you get the ball bounce into your hand and Michael was lucky enough to do that, he broke through some tackles there and ran the length.
"Gerard Beale did very similar, it was his first try for the club and it was a great try, length of the field. Wade's first try of the year so a few milestones there," Flanagan added.
When his side wasn't scoring long-range tries, Flanagan was happy with their control over proceedings against one of the competition favourites.
"Our defence [was the most pleasing aspect]; I thought in patches there, it was outstanding, they were losing metres at different stages," he said.
"We defended well and defended in systems. All their tries came off kicks. To keep them [to] limited line breaks and they didn't run the ball over our try-line too often so it's a good effort, great effort."
Despite the Sharks having earned some big scalps already this year with wins over the Roosters twice, Cowboys twice, Rabbitohs and Bulldogs, Flanagan said rather than being a heavyweight themselves they still have some improving to do.
"I think we're competing really hard and we're a tough side. I've heard it plenty of times this week about we'll go in the grind but we can score some tries as you saw tonight so we'll go in the grind but we'll score points as well. We're developing as a team. We go out there every week thinking we can win," he said.
"It's a great effort by everyone, particularly the players, they've got a real lot of belief in them, they're working really hard for each other during the week and work really hard for each other out on the field and they need to take the credit.
"I'm pushing them in the right direction but if they don't want to go there they won't. They're just working really hard on the field and building a good bond and that helps a lot."