Upset win over Melbourne restores belief in Cronulla's title chances
A week ago after suffering their second straight narrow defeat to a team below them on the ladder, doubts were raised about Cronulla's chances of competing for a second premiership in three years.
On Sunday at AAMI Park, coach Shane Flanagan was pleased by the fact that not only they had beaten Melbourne but by his players getting a much-needed dose belief that they can compete with the Telstra Premiership's top teams.
The Sharks move into sixth on the back of the 17-14 triumph and with matches against three teams out of the playoff picture - North Queensland, Newcastle and Canterbury - to finish the season, they could leapfrog Penrith and St George Illawarra into the top four.
"It's massive for the players and their self-belief that they can play against quality sides like the Storm," he said.
"We just need to find some form at this tail end of the year. I think we've been pretty patchy, over the whole year, and hopefully we're starting to get it right. It's a good start."
The Sharks spent plenty of time keeping the Storm away with desperation tackling and Flanagan said it was their goal-line defence that led to the win.
"I thought parts of it was really skilful and parts of it, real courageous," he said of their performance.
"We held them out there for a while. I think that was a turning point for us to get the result. There's a couple of tries there where we held them up over the try line. Some really important moments and I just think we won more than the Storm did."
Flanagan also praised Valentine Holmes's performance, with the 23-year-old flyer impressing with two line-breaks and 172 running metres, plus some telling plays in defence at fullback.
"When you put a checklist of Valentine Holmes's qualities, you probably don't talk much about his [defensive qualities], but he saved a try for us today. That was really important. Some of those kicks, the catch on it, was really important, under a lot of pressure."
Sharks skipper Paul Gallen was happy to see some steel in the Cronulla defence after their 33-32 loss to Manly seven days earlier..
"That's what we need to do at the end of the day," he said.
"That's what got us the win, the defence on our try line. That's what we're known for - our defence and our gutsy performances.
"We probably let ourselves down the last couple of weeks in our performances.
"To put one of our best 80-minute performance down here today is a good effort, but we've just got to back it up for the rest of the year now."
Wade Graham suffered bone bruising to a knee and will wait to determine the injury, while Josh Dugan, Matt Prior (head) and Luke Lewis (knee) suffered knocks but will be available next Saturday night at Southern Cross Group Stadium.