We won the big moments: Sharks
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan says the most pleasing part about his team's gritty 26-12 win over Souths on Friday night was an ability to win key moments, despite plenty of sloppy areas that he'd like to see fixed up in coming weeks.
The Sharks missed a few opportunities in attack and pushed some unnecessary passes to cede possession at different times but with Souths finding their way back into the contest at 14-12 with 10 minutes to play, the Sharks lifted a gear, controlled the game and found a way to grind out what ended up looking like a comfortable win in veteran Luke Lewis's 300th NRL game.
"It was a game that was in the balance a few times but I thought we won a few more moments in important stages, particularly in the second half," Flanagan said.
"We won more of those crucial moments than Souths did. A couple of kicks we defended, a couple of seven tackle sets and kick pressures. Little moments, the important moments in games that probably the spectators don't notice as much, we won a few more of them.
"Defensively we weren't too bad. We turned the ball over a few times when we didn't need to, pushed passes. There was a couple of opportunities to score that we didn't because the pass wasn't on the money."
Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen said a strong finish and a resolute defensive effort were the most pleasing parts of the performance.
"Probably the last eight minutes [was what impressed me]," Gallen said.
"We built the game pretty well in that first half but again pushed the pass when we didn't need to, we probably should have just completed our sets and play the way we played the last eight minutes where we rolled the ball in the in-goal, got a repeat set of six and eventually got a try.
"We've prove when we do that sides struggle to go with us but we did come up with a couple of errors as Flanno said but to our credit we won the big moments. Our defence was pretty good."
Flanagan said centre Jack Bird – who was given a week off after the Titans loss last week to recover both from his Origin workload and a painful bruised sternum – would return to face the Warriors next Friday but a couple of other Origin players would still need their workloads managed after five-eighth James Maloney was rested last week.
"Now that all the Origin boys are back we can get some consistency in our training," Flanagan said.
"[Bird has] no fracture or anything but they're pretty nasty, sternums, so it was an opportunity especially off the back of Origin.
"He's had a good break now and I've just got to square a couple of others up, square Andrew [Fifita] up with a couple of days off and Val [Holmes] and we're back to square one with all those players given some time off and hopefully it helps us in the back end."
The team was noticeably better for the return of Maloney, whose kicking game really came to the fore with the game on the line, setting up the two late tries and forcing a few repeat sets at crucial times.
"That was crucial for us but the way he and Chad, all of them handled the last eight minutes was really important," Flanagan said.
"Souths were going to throw the ball around and offload but we kept pinning them on their line and got some repeat sets and it was really good game management in the end so I was pleased with that."
Flanagan was also pleased with bench hooker James Segeyaro in just his second game back from a long layoff due to a broken arm. Segeyaro added 49 minutes of game time to his 43 minutes against the Titans, backing up last week's 30 tackles with 36 more against Souths.
"He's getting better each week, he gives us something out of dummy half that scares opposition," Flanagan said.
"He's fast and as I said he played bigger minutes again and that was important for us."