Sharks v Wests Tigers: Five key points
The Sharks managed to get their season back on track and confirmed their place in the 2015 Telstra Premiership finals series with a 40-18 win over the Wests Tigers on Saturday.
Holmes's star rises again
Valentine Holmes's two tries – on either side of a three-try mini-comeback from the Tigers in the second half – just about proved the difference for the Sharks.
While Cronulla would kick on with it with two late tries in the end, Holmes's game-high 217 metres proved essential for his team.
"It's good to have someone like Val," Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said of the speedster, whose first try was a spectacular long-range effort from an intercept.
"Probably over the past couple of the years, we haven't had those type of players in the team who can go the length and score tries.
"We've been a grinding and grafting team for the most part of me being coach. It's a real pleasure to have him in the team."
Another important lesson for Taylor's Tigers
Down 8-0 with barely a touch of the ball, the Tigers' fate appeared to have been destined from the opening whistle.
Coach Jason Taylor said the high defensive workload contributed to his team's 13 errors throughout the match.
"When you're on the back foot, it affects your attack and that's where the errors come from. It's a great lesson for us and it's important we don't think if we held the ball things could've been different," Taylor said.
"It may have made a difference, but a lot of the errors came from the fact that the Sharks rolled us in defence."
Sharks' season back on track
After a disappointing 28-point loss to the Storm last week, a big victory was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Sharks.
Still a real possibility to drop out of the top eight before playing the Tigers, the Sharks were able to secure their ninth win in 11 games.
"It was crucial," Flanagan said of the win. "We were up for a while having won a few in a row and then we came up against a committed Storm side. It was really important we went out there and won it at home [against the Tigers]."
Kapow influence returns for Tigers
It came as no surprise that the Tigers' comeback occurred when enforcer Martin Taupau was on the field – including one try he scored himself – and abruptly ended when he was benched late in the game.
While Taupau started nervously upon entering proceedings from the bench, he quickly returned to his barnstorming best in his first game since being suspended for three weeks following a moment of madness against the Roosters back in Round 20.
Ending the game with 83 metres and 18 tackles, the Kiwi international is set to finish the final fortnight of his season with a bang.
Top four still in reach for Sharks
Not satisfied with a top-eight berth, Flanagan said his Sharks were still aiming for the top four ahead of the 2015 finals.
After South Sydney were thrashed by the Bulldogs on Friday, the Sharks are once again tied with them on 30 competition points.
However the sixth-placed Storm will re-enter calculations once again too if they do a number on the Knights on Monday.
"We're sealed for the top eight I think. But we'd like to think we're a chance for the top four," Flanagan said. "The ball's in our court."