Sharks v Wests Tigers: Five key points
Two tries in the final six minutes saw the Sharks come from nowhere to down the Wests Tigers 24-22 in a result that does their Telstra Premiership top-two aspirations the world of good.
It wasn't always pretty but you got the feeling that if Cronulla could work their way into the arm wrestle then they'd somehow find a way to finish over the top of an inexperienced Wests Tigers outfit.
In the end that's exactly what happened, although Sharks coach Shane Flanagan would have preferred their fightback to have started earlier than the 74th minute.
"I thought we were always coming, but I thought that last try they scored might have put a stop to it. I thought if we got some momentum and some consistent football that we could score some points," he said.
Sharks captain Paul Gallen shared a similar view.
"We knew if we could get some back-to-back sets or some consistency in our footy then we'd be able to score points. We just needed to get momentum, and we did in the last 10 minutes to a certain degree," he said.
Tiger cubs stand tall
While a couple of errors and late defensive lapses took the gloss off their performance, the Wests Tigers' youngsters deserve a massive pat on the back for their efforts against the defending premiers.
Malakai Watene-Zelezniak and Esan Marsters both grabbed their first NRL tries, Jacob Liddle scored and was a constant threat out of dummy-half, while Matt Eisenhuth stole the show with 193 metres and a try assist off the bench.
"I thought he handled himself really well…he didn't look out of place," Tigers coach Ivan Cleary said.
Elijah Taylor benefited from an Eisenhuth short ball to score his side's opening try and was full of praise for the debutant.
"He's a big body and he's earned his opportunity," he said.
"He's come back from a very serious leg injury so it's great to see all his hard work pay off. The way he played tonight, I thought he was outstanding in his debut against a big forward pack."
A win is a win
At this stage of the year, it doesn't matter how teams get there so long as they claim the two competition points.
The Sharks weren't anywhere near their best but did enough to ensure they finished the round firmly entrenched in the top four.
"It probably doesn't feel like a win, but the two competition points are very important and we got there at the end of the day which was the most important thing," Gallen said.
With five of their best players away on State of Origin duty, the Sharks scrapped their way to victory just like they did in the Round 12 win over the Bulldogs.
"To have two wins without our Origin players during that period, however you get them is really important. That's an important thing for later in the year," Flanagan said.
Flanagan has to find a spot for Capewell
His future most likely lies in the back row, but Kurt Capewell showed he is more than capable of playing the utility role with a man-of-the-match performance for the Sharks that included two tries, an assist and a game-high 251 metres.
Capewell has played wing, centre, back row and off the bench this season and is mounting an irresistible case to be included in the squad every week.
"He played really well and was dangerous every time he carried the football. He's only going to get better," Flanagan said.
"The way he played tonight I don't think he'll be out of the 17 for too long."
Horror day for Wests Tigers
You'd think losing on the buzzer in first grade was bad enough, but sadly for the Wests Tigers it was nowhere near the worst thing to happen to the club on Saturday. Fans who got to Southern Cross Group Stadium early were treated to a footballing clinic as Cronulla's Holden Cup team piled on a record-breaking 84 points in their 78-point drubbing of the Tigers. Halfback Kyle Flanagan scored 32 points while back-rower Briton Nikora crossed for a hat-trick as the Sharks confirmed their status as NYC title favourites with an 84-6 victory.