The Brisbane Broncos struggled to match Cronulla in the first half on Sunday afternoon.

Sharks v Broncos: Five key points

A first-half ambush has propelled the Sharks to their sixth win a row to join three other teams at the top of the NRL Telstra Premiership. The Broncos fought back valiantly after the break but ended up falling just short, going down 30-28. 

 


Sharks make it six straight to go top of the table

Cronulla's thrilling two-point win was enough to send them to the top of the NRL Telstra Premiership alongside the Broncos, Storm and Cowboys.

The win was their sixth in a row and coach Shane Flanagan said the 7-2 start to the season was something he couldn't have even imagined. 

"I couldn't be happier to tell you the truth," an ecstatic Flanagan said after the game. 

"Going into the rep weekend where we're at, if someone said at the start of the year we'd be in this position then I would have taken it. I'm really proud of the effort the guys have put in. We're in a really good place but there's still a lot of work to be done."

After earning a reputation as a team known purely for their physicality, the Sharks' biggest difference in 2016 according to skipper Paul Gallen was the flair that had crept into the side thanks to players like Ben Barba, Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird. 

"We've got some young, enthusiastic boys out there who can come up with some freaky plays," Gallen said.

"We've got a good balance at the moment but as I've said we haven't really done anything yet." 

Broncos undone by shocking first half

The Broncos went into Sunday's clash with the best defence in the NRL, but left Southern Cross Group Stadium after their worst showing of the season.

The 2015 grand finalists had only conceded eight points in their past three games, and hadn't allowed more than 23 in any game in 2016, but that all changed as the Sharks ran in 28 points before the half-time siren had even sounded.

Brisbane captain Corey Parker admitted the Broncos were so embarrassed with their performance that they couldn't even acknowledge the men sitting next to them. 

"We were sitting in the sheds and to a man not many guys could look each other in the eye and that's pretty embarrassing thing for the boys," the dejected skipper said. 

"We spoke about it and thought there's only one way we can get out of this and that's with the guys that are sitting here. I thought in the second half we went out there and as Wayne said we just fell short. But at least we can look each other in the eye now."


Bunker ruling almost changes the game

Ahead by two with barely two minutes left in the game, the Sharks muscled up in defence to pin their opponents deep inside their own territory.

Under pressure to score, the Broncos resorted to running it on the last but halfback Ben Hunt was subsequently smashed by Jayson Bukuya in what appeared to be a classic big hit.

However, the bunker controversially intervened, ruling Bukuya had in fact felled the star Bronco with a shoulder charge.

The ruling ultimately had no bearing on the game, but if it did, Flanagan admitted he might have been forced to cough up a few dollars. 

"I saw Todd (NRL CEO Todd Greenberg) up there so I'm not giving him any money," he joked. 

"I thought it was a great tackle at the time, but as I said we'll have a look at it on Monday and dissect it from there. I need to slow it down and have a look at it but for me it was a great shot from Jayson Bukuya and I think most of the fans thought it was a great shot as well."

Everyone loves their Sunday afternoon footy...except Brisbane

It's not often you see the Broncos play during the day - in fact Sunday's fixture was their first afternoon game since Round 19 last year – and it seems the earlier kick-off time seemed to have an effect on the team.

Brisbane never got out of first gear and were seemingly ambushed by a team that appeared hungrier in every facet of the game. 

Down 28-6 at the break, the table-topping Broncos suddenly sparked back into life; and it probably coincided with the going down of the sun. 

The visitors ran in four unanswered tries to set up a grandstand finish but couldn't manage to complete the miracle comeback.

They have one more afternoon game in Round 13 against the Warriors, but that shapes as their only remaining fixture that won't be played under lights. 

Sharks shut down Milford

He might be one of the hottest players running around in 2016 but Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford was a marked man on Sunday afternoon.

Milford was limited to just 83 metres – well below his season average – while missing two tackles and coming up with a couple of errors in his least impressive showing of 2016. 

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said his star No.6 should expect similar attention as the season rolls on.  

"He got the same last week against South Sydney so he's just going to have to get used to it," the master coach said. 

"He's a talented player and everybody knows that. He'll come through this little period he's in. It's just testament to the fact of how good he is."

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan was happy with the way his side handled the game's most electric playmaker.  

"He caused us a bit of danger there a few times where he poked his nose through a few times," Flanagan said. 

"He's a quality player and obviously sitting here yesterday doing our preview and so on we knew what sort of player he was.

"Credit to the team they defended him really well. He got some bumps and bruises early on when we ran into him but he'll bounce back because he's a quality player."