Fifita can be unstoppable: Gallen
Just as he did in last year's grand final, Sharks prop Andrew Fifita stepped up when it mattered most to guide his side to a stirring 18-14 come-from-behind victory over the North Queensland Cowboys.
It looked like Cronulla's ball-handling woes had cost them any chance of claiming the two competition points as they found themselves trailing 14-0 in front of their stunned fans, but a powerhouse second-half performance from their representative front-rower turned the game on its head to temporarily send the Sharks to the top of the table.
Fifita finished the game with 162 metres, six tackle breaks and three offloads, but it was his 62nd-minute carry that signalled the turning point in the contest.
With his side down by eight points, Fifita crashed through three would-be defenders and then popped an around-the-corner offload to Chad Townsend to send his halfback over for a telling try that brought the crowd to life.
"That's what Andrew can do; we've just got to get him doing it in the first half," Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said after the game.
"He started really well, Andrew. He showed some really sharp feet in the first half and then his second stint was probably his best stint, and we know that's what he can do.
"Overall, he changed the game for us and it was a fantastic effort. All of our players within the whole team are having moments, and that resembles the team at the moment. We're having moments but we're not clicking at the moment [for the whole 80 minutes]."
Sharks skipper Paul Gallen sent a stern warning to the rest of the competition, telling rival teams that Fifita was simply unstoppable when he wanted to be.
"If he plays that second half every stint he plays then he's the best forward in the competition, there's no doubt about that," Gallen said.
"I thought he was one of the ones trying too hard in the first half, and when he went back to that simple footy in the second half where he ran hard, you saw how good he is.
"If he plays like that second half, there's no one who can stop that and we know that."