The Rabbitohs extended the Sharks' month-long winless run with their 12-6 win on Monday night. While South Sydney's finals fate was sealed long ago, there was still plenty to play for against a team without their skipper Paul Gallen.
Pride on the line for the Rabbitohs
They sit at 13th on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder and only last week ended a nine-game losing run, but it didn't deter the Rabbitohs from grinding out a win over one of the premiership heavyweights. A club who thrives on high standards under the watchful eye of coach Michael Maguire, the Rabbitohs absorbed the Sharks' best efforts in the second half as if they're set to feature past the first week of September.
"I'm really pleased for the players. They showed what they're capable of defensively. We have been searching for that for quite some time and they actually looked like they were enjoying themselves," Maguire said.
"It's the character we've always tried to build at this club. The boys have plenty of motivation too, they hold a lot of pride in themselves.
"It's unfortunate we have put ourselves into the situation we're in this season. But we were able to hold strong against Cronulla and come away with the win."
Sharks running on empty
The Sharks' 15-game winning run seems a lifetime ago in what's been a winless month for Shane Flanagan's side. A draw against the Titans in Round 21 was followed by three-straight losses to the Raiders, Dragons and Rabbitohs. Flanagan remained unperturbed over Cronulla's recent negatives, seeking solace in the fact his side didn't die wondering.
"We tried really hard, we defended pretty well to only concede one try in the first half and one really late there when the game was all over," he said. "But the effort was definitely there. If we keep the effort up then we'll turn this around."
Struggle is real for Reynolds
South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds has had the very definition of a mixed season. The joy of his State of Origin debut for New South Wales has been offset by a long list of injuries. Reynolds left the field concussed in the 26th minute following a head clash with teammate Hymel Hunt. It came nine days after he failed to finish the Rabbitohs' big win over the Warriors with a hamstring complaint. Reynolds has also broken his jaw and suffered major troubles with his neck and shoulder this year.
"It was a good character-builder for us as a team considering what Adam brings in terms of his kicking game and I thought he was showing some pretty good form until he went off," Maguire said.
"The boys really stood up. Cody Walker has definitely grown as a player especially through this little period of wins. He's really directing the team around."
Gallen absence is telling
The Sharks skipper is often criticised for being too involved in his side's efforts around the middle third of the field. But it's quickly become apparent it's what they're lacking. In a common case of not knowing a good thing until it's gone, the Sharks have failed to fill the void left by Gallen over the past fortnight. The likes of Kurt Capewell and Jesse Sene-Lefao are excellent in their own right but they're a long way off from matching Gallen's 172.3 metres and 30.6 tackles per game this year.
Joe Burgess endearing himself to Bunnies faithful
The England international and Rabbitohs winger has only been at the club since late June and will leave again in a fortnight's time, but he's done so by leaving his mark. Burgess's time at the Roosters for the first half of the year didn't go quite as well, which led to his mid-year release. Since, the 21-year-old has played eight games for Souths and capped off his side's win over Cronulla with a spectacular try at the death.
"I've known him since he was a young kid when I was coaching Wigan back in the day. He's definitely grown in his time being with us," Maguire said.
"The boys really enjoy his character around the club. They can't really understand a lot of what he says but he's having a good time with the boys."