Sharks defence showing plenty of bite
It mightn't have been the prettiest win of 2016, but Cronulla's 14-6 win over the Storm was certainly one of the grittiest.
The black, white and blue were at their grinding best, suffocating the Storm in what was an absorbing Easter Monday encounter.
The Sharks set the tone from the outset, limiting the Storm to just 18 metres from their opening set, and that trend continued for the entire match with the Storm forwards repeatedly met with bruising defence.
Most pleasing to Sharks coach Shane Flanagan was the fact his team had held a 2015 finals side to less than 10 points for the second consecutive home game (the Dragons managed just two points against Cronulla in Round 2).
"I thought it was an outstanding effort, especially defensively," Flanagan said after the game.
"We rattled them into a lot of errors, and it's hard to do that to the Melbourne Storm because they're such a well-drilled team. We just kept turning up, and they were losing metres in some of their sets, so I'm really proud of the effort defensively."
The Sharks' ferocity in defence forced some uncharacteristic errors out of their opponents, especially on last-play options.
Flanagan was in awe of how his side implemented his game plan, saying Cronulla's execution was the foundation to their success.
"We wanted to get into them. We had to upset them because they're a really well-balanced team," he said.
"There are a lot of classy players there that have been through that sort of situation, so we needed to make sure that we rattled them a bit and got into them early.
"It's easy to say from my perspective to plan it, but for the players to go out there and execute, I thought that was really well done."
Sharks stand-in skipper Wade Graham was equally impressed with how his side handled what turned out to be a niggly tussle.
"We really set the tone there early and the boys did that for 80 minutes. I think you can force your opponent into that (making errors). It's just important for us to back that up now," the back-rower said.
"I think it was just a by-product of the game. It was physical and willing early, and then if you start like that, then both teams get up for it.
"They're a classy team, so we knew we had to put in that 80-minute performance. The whole game built, and then the crowd got into it and it was a really great atmosphere out there. I'm just super proud of the result."
Graham left the field midway through the second half, but returned shortly after and will be fine to take on the Tigers on Saturday night.
"It was just a head knock. I just got one in the tooth there. It's a little bit wiggly but it will probably harden back up during the week and be sweet."