The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement

Sharks announce themselves as major contenders after downing Roosters in high-scoring Magic Round epic

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Replay
Cancel
Next
Editor
18th May, 2024
35
1386 Reads

Tomorrow morning we’ll see Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Uysk dispute the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world in the heat of Saudi Arabia, and if the pair spent 12 rounds taking lumps off each other, it might not equal this.

The Sharks and Roosters lit up Magic Round with a real slobberknocker, tearing lumps off each other’s defences in an attack-first thriller that Cronulla eventually won 38-30 thanks to a final round knockout blow from Tom Hazleton.

This was one of the best games of the season and it would be very surprising if these two were not combining again at the pointy end of the year.

Though the scoreline indicates that attacks dominate defence, the run of play was far from that: the eleven tries took some scoring and ran the gamut from manic, improvised team efforts – Junior Pauga’s on the stroke of half time – to powerhouse individual efforts – Siosifa Talakai’s second half score – and everything in between.

Magic Round? You betcha. From the first minute, when Will Kennedy gathered a kick that eluded Dom Young, it was clear that this was going to be a belter.

Young struck back immediately after a silky Joseph Suaalii offload, before the centre was binned for professional foul, in which time Sione Katoa added another.

Advertisement

It was that kind of game, a we-score-you-score affair that, somehow, never lacked in defence.

By the time it was settled late, the Sharks could righteously claim to have laid to bed their tag as flat track bullies.

This team have now beaten Melbourne and Easts in consecutive weeks and sit top of the table with just one defeat all year.

Craig Fitzgibbon’s men have improved massively year-on-year and can now count themselves among the very best having defeated the best that both Craig Bellamy and Trent Robison could muster in back-to-back games.

Next week he goes for the hat trick with the Panthers set to visit the Shire on Saturday afternoon. Win that and they might be the new favourites.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 18: Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii of the Roosters runs the ball during the round 11 NRL match between Cronulla Sharks and Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium, on May 18, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“I thought we were under the pump for the most part but still kept hanging in, found a way. That was the most pleasing part,” said the Sharks boss.

Advertisement

“I don’t think we were as good as we have been the last few weeks, but I think they put us under pressure and made us feel that way. Pleasing to get out of it.”

Robinson focussed on the points against.

“I really like some of the stuff we’re doing,” he said.

“We just need to get harder in some of the areas there – getting out of our own end, lots of errors, lots of opportunity and then lots of missed tackles. Any time you leak 38 points, you’re not going to win a game.”

Nicho and Sam, Tom and Terrell

This was a tale of two halfbacks and four front-rowers.

Advertisement

The 7s, Hynes and Walker, were their side’s best players but went about their business in massively different ways, playing to their strengths as footballers.

Nicho was all angles, drawing defenders and creating gaps with his run threat.

The first half move with which he draw Walker – admittedly not the world’s greatest defender – and then slipped Teig Wilton through the hole that his opposite number had vacated was a piece of art.

Paired with a relatively green five eighth, Hynes was a little more kick and control than he is when Braydon Trindall is also in the side, but even so, it was his running and directness that stood out.

He goes, Cronulla move around him and the space appears.

Walker is almost the opposite. It’s not that he doesn’t run, but where Hynes works in straight lines, the Roosters 7 is more rococo.

Advertisement

It’s jinks, swirling footwork that makes him hard to pin down and easy, if you’re a Rooster, to run off.

The improvisation and irrepressible confidence brings players into the game and draws men around him. Often tonight the final space was exploited elsewhere, but the wellspring began with Walker.

The little men were great, but the big men more than matched them.

That was Terrell May and Spencer Leniu for Easts and Hazleton and Tuku Hau Tapuha for the Sharks, all of whom mightn’t be considered the senior members of their respective packs but who were the difference here.

May and Leniu are up and down forwards who generally deal in impactful metres, but both made massive impacts with their hands tonight, setting up a try apiece through deft passing that defied their size.

The Sharks pair specialised in straight, hard gains that won the floor and challenged the line.

Advertisement

The knock on Cronulla previously had been that their agile attacking style, which requires a mobile pack, limited their punch through the middle.

Now, with Hazleton promoted to start and Hau Tapuha coming off the bench, they always have a genuine big man on the park to win the floor and allow the moves to be set in motion.

It’s the clear area of upgrade from 2023 to 2024, and will only improve further when Addin Fonua-Blake turns up next year.

For now, though, it can help the Sharks compete against the very best in the comp in the here and now.

close