Sharks refuse to pin loss on disrupted week
Very little went right for his side on Saturday night, but Sharks coach Shane Flanagan concedes the Canberra Raiders were the better team and deserved their 30-14 win at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The loss was Cronulla's first since March 21, and snapped a 16-game unbeaten run while also seeing them slip from top spot on the Telstra Premiership for the first time in months.
Despite a bright start, the home side were never really in the contest with errors and poor options in attack hurting them in the key moments.
The Sharks had two tries disallowed by the bunker, while the Raiders were twice given the green light when the decisions could have easily gone either way.
Michael Ennis was a late withdrawal, with the Sharks No.9 succumbing to a virus before kick-off, while Joseph Paulo was another late scratching.
Throw in Monday night's energy-sapping 18-all draw on the Gold Coast and the Sharks were always going to be behind the eight ball against a Raiders team that has now won six on the trot.
Those reasons alone could have left Flanagan feeling sorry for his team, but instead he accepted the result for what it was.
"It wasn't our best performance, but the opposition were pretty good," Flanagan said.
"I thought we tried really hard. There were some really good moments, there was enthusiasm there, but we just didn't play smart. It's that loss everyone wanted us to have before we got to the semi-finals, maybe."
The fact the Sharks had to back-up five days after a gruelling 90-minute draw on the Gold Coast didn't help their chances, with Cronulla only flying back to Sydney on Tuesday morning.
As a result of the added workload, the Sharks' regular training routine was thrown into disarray.
"We didn't do any training this week and it always is [tough] under five-day turnarounds," Flanagan said.
Sharks skipper Paul Gallen agreed.
"They're always hard but everyone's got to deal with them," Gallen said when asked about the short turnaround.
"It's certainly not an excuse for not getting the win. They were very good tonight. Our effort was there and we tried really hard, but we didn't use our brains in certain situations."
It was a particularly tough week for Sharks five-eighth James Maloney, who on top of the limited preparation had to front the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night to fight a dangerous contact charge from the Titans game.
Maloney was entitled to find excuses for Saturday's defeat, but the NSW Blues pivot said it was the little things that cost Cronulla.
"It wasn't disruptive for us. There weren't any excuses for the way we played tonight. We need to be better and we need to have a look at a few things we're doing," Maloney told NRL.com after the game.
"There are a few things we need to fix up. We probably didn't execute our attack the way we would have liked. Defensively we were way off. Letting in 30 points is nowhere near good enough at this stage of the season.
"We'll take a few lessons out of that and refocus on a few things we need to work on.
"Everything we need to work on can be fixed pretty quickly, so there's nothing too concerning."