Roosters v Sharks: Five key points
The Sharks bounced back from last week's drubbing at home with a 44-12 win over the high-flying Roosters that was highlighted by another piece of Luke Lewis magic.
Sharks finally get the fast start they've been chasing
They've been perennial slow starters all season long but the Sharks showed they are a genuine chance of going back-to-back when they hold onto the ball. Last week's diabolical start against Manly that saw them trail 18-0 after 24 minutes was quickly forgotten with the defending premiers completing 19 of 19 sets in the first half en route to a 20-12 half-time advantage.
"It's amazing what happens when you hold onto the football," Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said.
"We've been guilty in the past couple of weeks of poor completion rates and poor starts, and we got both of those right tonight and it showed on the scoreboard. When we compete and get a good start, we're hard to handle."
Lightning strikes twice for Luke Lewis
Like a bottle of 1967 Penfolds Grange, Luke Lewis just keeps getting better with age. Last week the back-rower latched onto a Daly Cherry-Evans pass and raced 80 metres to score a try against the run of play. On Saturday afternoon, he read a looping Jake Friend pass out of dummy-half and once again came up with the intercept, this time running 90 metres with speedster Latrell Mitchell unable to mow him down.
"It was great anticipation on that one today," Flanagan said.
"Last week we knew that play was coming at some stage and we got one. Today, he doesn't talk too much that he's going to do it… but he's talking about it now! That was a quality try."
Roosters outplayed in every facet
They started the round in second spot on the ladder but the Roosters quickly dropped out of the coveted top two following one of their poorer performances of the season. Known for their ability to bully teams through the middle, the Tricolours never got in the contest with their opponents enjoying 61 per cent of the possession. The Sharks won the yardage battle 1837-1186, made 123 fewer tackles than the Roosters and completed a whopping 89 per cent of their sets. While Trent Robinson's men did well to stay in the fight for 35 minutes, it was one-way traffic in the second half.
"We couldn't get ourselves into the grind today and we probably got outplayed in that tough footy area,' skipper Jake Friend said after the game.
Central Coast a roaring success
The Roosters' decision to take their home game to the Central Coast mightn't have paid off on the scoreboard but it proved a major success off the field with a record 20,060 fans flocking to Central Coast Stadium for the game. That figure equalled the Rabbitohs v Sea Eagles match in 2013 as the best-attended game at the venue, and backed up last week's bumper crowd at the Adelaide Oval.
"It was good that fans turned out and appreciated us coming up here. Whether it was Adelaide last week or here this week, it's a real positive for our game." Roosters coach Trent Robinson said.
Wade Graham waiting in the wings
Sharks back-rower Wade Graham looks the man most likely to replace Blues skipper Boyd Cordner on the left edge should the NSW skipper fail to recover from a calf injury in time for the State of Origin decider. Graham set the tone with a couple of stinging shots in defence early in the contest and then let his footy do the talking with some silky skills as the Sharks started to assert their dominance.
"He was outstanding today," Flanagan said.
"His last-play options, he can kick over on that side, he set up a couple of tries for us and I thought his game was outstanding. I thought he was our best player last week in a well-beaten side so his form is pretty good."