Sharks v Cowboys: Five Key Points
The Sharks added another big scalp to their trophy cabinet and moved to equal-fourth on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder with a sturdy win at home over the equal-first placed Cowboys on Saturday night. Here are five key points from the 28-18 victory.
Sharks happy with defence after aerial raid
Cronulla were more than happy to finish with a win where their try-line was at no stage breached by anything other than an attack from the sky.
All three of the Cowboys' tries came from kicks (while another Cowboys kick resulted in a long-range try to the Sharks).
Things got hairy in the second half as the Cowboys mounted a comeback but coach Shane Flanagan was pleased with the performance.
"All their tries came off kicks," Flanagan noted after the game.
"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."
Club captain Paul Gallen agreed.
"I think our defence was good last week [against the Warriors], they scored two tries off kicks last week as well and obviously three off kicks [on Saturday night]."
Scott's absence not the reason for Cowboys' off night
Cowboys co-captain Matt Scott, who has been playing through several niggles – most notably a neck issue that may require post-season surgery – earned a well-earned rest in Round 22, staying at home in Townsville while his teammates travelled down to face Cronulla.
Coach Paul Green reiterated after the loss it had always been his intention to give all his Origin players a rest at some stage and said Scott's absence couldn't been blamed for the below-par effort.
"The fact that we rested Matty had nothing to do with who we were playing, it was about what was best for Matty," he said.
"We knew we had a short turnaround into a big game against Souths [next Thursday in Townsville].
"I've said all along I wanted to give the Origin boys a rest at some stage. We just felt that this week was the best week to do it.
"I'm well aware of what that meant for us – he's one of our captains, one of our best players but we've done well throughout the year and I thought that wasn't the reason.
"He could have helped out there but that wasn't the reason why we didn't win tonight."
Taking the two becoming a tactical game
We saw on Friday night a shot at two points prove no help to the Rabbitohs when their opponents Manly shunned a free equaliser minutes later and scored instead, going on to win handsomely.
It was slightly different at Remondis on Saturday; the Sharks opted for two the first time it was offered, in the 11th minute, then five minutes later the Cowboys turned down a free equaliser in what would prove a fruitless attempt to get the try.
Then in the 53rd minute, with the side down by eight points, Johnathan Thurston decided a two-pointer to get back within a converted try was a worthwhile option and it almost proved prescient as his side repeatedly pressed for an equaliser, and again later in the game with the side down 24-18 and looking for golden point.
Sadly for the visitors it wasn't to be on this occasion.
Argument for an eight-point try
When Jack Bird stepped past Thurston to score in the 31st minute he copped what looked like a bit of a knee to the side of the head from Lachlan Coote, who was looking to slide in and save the try.
The Sharks wanted a penalty and possible eight-point try, and the video referee had a look before deeming the act not quite worthy of an additional shot at goal, and therefore not being placed on report.
It was a close run thing but the in-game callers were unconvinced an eight-point try was warranted and Bird himself showed no ill-effects, bouncing up immediately to celebrate the try.
Coote unlucky with the bounce and the call
In what could best be described as a mixed night for the Cowboys custodian, Coote came up with several errors while also helping lay on two of his side's three tries.
But it was a play late in the first half that was perhaps the most unusual.
Coote was wrong-footed by a downfield kick that appeared to skew off his boot and head towards the dead-ball line.
With the referee calling "touched" Coote showed little to no urgency to get back and stop the ball rolling dead in goal, landing his side with a goal line drop out.
Replays were inconclusive but appeared to suggest Coote actually missed the ball, which would explain why – expecting a 20-metre restart – he didn't attempt to retrieve the ball, especially if he didn't hear the "touched" call.
Luckily for Coote his side were able to repel three repeat sets before marching downfield and almost scoring themselves before the half wound down.