Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has dismissed the notion that the emerging stutters in the Sharks attack are due to inconsistency in his spine.
For the third week in a row, Flanagan has been forced to re-arrange his fullback and five-eighth with ongoing injuries to Josh Dugan (groin) and Matt Moylan (knee-hamstring).
Admittedly the Sharks won the previous two games (Parramatta, Melbourne) but losing their No.1 in Dugan on Friday, just hours before facing the Sydney Roosters, didn’t help cohesion.
"Duges was close… getting very close. He trained right up until today, so he’ll be right next week," Flanagan said after the 28-10 loss to the Roosters, giving the Sharks a 2-3 start to the 2018 Telstra Premiership season.
Moylan returned after two weeks out on Friday but went to fullback, although he regularly swapped with right-side winger Valentine Holmes in the custodian position. The former Penrith captain received a heavy hit on his left shoulder tackling his opposite James Tedesco.
He had the trainer check it and he played on.
"He copped a burner on his shoulder. He’ll be OK, I think," Flanagan said.
Holmes began the year at No.1 against the North Queensland Cowboys before Dugan took over in round two, meaning three different players have been in that position in five rounds.
There have also been two different No.6s, with Moylan and Trent Hodkinson filling the second receiver role.
While leading into this weekend the Sharks were the second-best defensive side behind the Wests Tigers, they are now level with the Tigers and Eels for the lowest number of tries scored – eight. The Sharks have played five while the other two clubs are set to play on Saturday and Sunday.
Match: Sharks v Roosters
Round 5 -
Venue: Southern Cross Group Stadium
- LIVE PASS
"I think that (spine changes) has a little to do about the clunkiness but it’s not the reason we lost tonight," Flanagan said.
"It was the penalties late in the tackle count, gifting them field position in the first half in particular. We defended those silly, or frustrating penalties in my view, because one stage in the second half we only had just over 30 percent possession.
"I’ve got a really brave footy team. But we spent too much juice in that first half and they are pretty good attacking side when they get down on your try line. But they couldn’t break us – they had to kick over the top."
Three of the Roosters tries came from kicks.
"Our offence looked a bit clunky in the end because of all they defence we’d done," Flanagan added. "They’d worked their butts off. But we worked against ourselves in the first half with stupid penalties."
The Roosters also had considerable sway in the ‘fan’ department as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was in the Southern Cross Group Stadium stands. His electorate of Wentworth covers the Roosters territory, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, although he was in the Shire as a guest of his Treasurer and avid Sharks supporter Scott Morrison.