Raiders v Sharks: Five key points
The Sharks made it four on the trot, and handed the Raiders their second-straight big defeat, with a 40-16 point victory in Canberra. Here are the key talking points from the clash.
Defense the most pleasing aspect for Flanagan
There was plenty to be happy about for Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan after his side won their fourth in a row with a comprehensive victory over the Raiders.
But after the encounter he pin-pointed his side's defensive efforts which were immense in setting up the big victory.
"Defensively we were strong and ruthless and to be able to score 40 that’s a real pleasing point," Flanagan said.
"But that was on the back of our defence."
Flanagan also noted how crucial it was for his side to start out on top.
"We've started really well the last couple of weeks and in the end we've got the result," he said.
No excuses for another poor Raiders showing
After dominating the Bulldogs just two weeks ago, the Raiders were looking like a genuine top four team, but now after two big losses, they'll be lucky just to stick in the top eight.
Coach Ricky Stuart was understandably upset after the match, and unable to target what has gone wrong for his side.
"I haven’t seen anything [different] from the Belmore game, that's the disappointing part of it that we didn’t back that [performance] up," Stuart said.
"We had the opportunity to back that up today. There's no excuses. There are no short-term solutions.
"We've got some hard work ahead of us to get out of this, there's no easy way.
"We weren't prepared to go into the grind and the battle with them."
Stuart was also asked if the constant chopping and changing in the halves has affected his side.
"No excuse whatsoever," he replied.
Sharks forwards just played better according to Gallen
It wasn't because they were bigger or more experienced that the Sharks played better in the middle of the field, it was just that they performed better on the day according to skipper Paul Gallen.
"I wouldn’t say we're too much more experienced, they're a fair size and got some experience," he said.
"We knew it was going to be a battle there early and we got some early points and I thought we took it to them through the middle but I wouldn’t say that's through inexperience, we just played better than them."
Meanwhile coach Stuart accepted his charges were outplayed in the middle.
"We were totally out-played and dominated in the middle of the football field, there were patches where we were going with them for a little while but we just didn’t have the consistency," he said.
Gallen hoping to crack the Test team again
After making 23 runs for 200 metres and 31 tackles, Gallen spoke of his intent to once again crack the Kangaroos team.
Despite being injured in the early parts of the season, the Blues skipper has started to play himself into the kind of form which has made him a force in the representative arena.
"Those jerseys I've never taken for granted," he said.
"All I can do is play like I played today and see what happens in two week's time.
"I haven't heard from Mal (Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga) and that doesn’t really concern me, I've been out injured for a while and I need to get some minutes under my belt."
Rapana showing the others how it's done
The hugely underrated Jordan Rapana was at his ball-running best against the Sharks, running for 165 metres, making two linebreaks, providing a try assist and scoring a try.
His hugely energetic performance was at odds with the rest of the team, who appeared lethargic carrying the ball at times.
"There's a situation there where we've got a winger and a centre showing the whole team how to play, it's embarrassing to have that situation," coach Stuart said, also referring to Rapana’s edge partner Joey Leilua.
Skipper Jarrod Croker had high praise for the barnstorming Rapana.
"He's been like that for the last month," Croker said.
"He's never dead, he fights like that for 80 minutes. Him and ‘BJ’ (Leilua) were a ball of energy."
Barba back to brilliant best
With a linebreak, a try assist and two tries, Ben Barba was in electrifying form against the Raiders, continuing his impressive resurgence in form so far this season.
"He's getting better each week," his coach Flanagan said.
"He was safe at the back and when there's a try on he seems to nail it. It's good to see him happy and playing good footy again."