Bulldogs v Sharks: Five Key Points
Unlike Mick Fanning, the Bulldogs couldn't handle the Sharks at crucial points of their 18-16 loss to Cronulla in their second-coming to spiritual home Belmore Sports Ground.
Unsurprisingly the Bulldogs weren't concerned with appropriating themselves with specifics as to why they lost, while the Sharks' vice-captains stood tall.
Sequels are never as good
Unless we're talking Toy Story 3 or Captain America 2, there has always been a general point said about sequels never being as good as their predecessors. The same applies with the Bulldogs' two-point loss in Back to Belmore 2.
Riding the wave of success garnered from their last start Belmore Sports Ground victory over the Storm a month ago, the Bulldogs struggled from the get-go and could never create much momentum despite scoring three tries and having a further three disallowed.
Not that the Sharks were much better. With the two teams combining to concede 34 errors and 19 penalties, it was an overall 80 minute performance which could perhaps end up on the editor's cutting room floor.
Sharks grind out key victory
Grinding out their second-consecutive, tough-fought victory - after winning in golden point in the Nation's capital last week, the Sharks managed to keep themselves well-oiled for finals football.
While Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan will take any win he can get, he hopes they'll come a bit easier than they have over the past fortnight.
"We don't want to keep [winning brave] though, we can't continue to be brave. We need to be smart and execute well," he said.
"We just can't afford to do it week after week because we'll get caught by a side when they're on.
"Luckily we forced a few errors out of them too. It was always going to be a tough game coming back to Belmore."
Bulldogs not complaining about late penalty
With the Bulldogs going down by two points – coming from Josh Reynolds' late challenge on Sharks winger Valentine Holmes while he was attempting a field goal – there was a general consensus across the board that it was a penalty.
Defeated for the second time this season in a similar fashion, casting back to the Dogs' late loss to the Rabbitohs on Good Friday, both coach Des Hasler and captain James Graham weren't outraged by referee Gerard Sutton's decision.
"I tried to plead a little bit of a case but if the referee gave it then it's a penalty," Graham said.
Hasler added: "It didn't matter. We should've had the game put away, rather than try to blame the loss on a charge down."
Sharks captain Paul Gallen shared his opposition's sentiment.
"It's a penalty," Gallen said post-game.
"If it happened in the first minute of the game there's no questions asked."
Cronulla vice-captains stand tall
Making it eight try assists in four games, Sharks vice-captain Michael Ennis returned to Belmore to dish out a bit of punishment to his former team. His fellow vice-captain Wade Graham did much the same.
"I thought Michael was outstanding. To set up two tries, and some of his defence and playing against his old club, he was super," Flanagan said.
Wade Graham did himself proud as well. A former five-eighth, the now back-rower's prowess with the ball is proving handy on the Sharks' edge.
Finishing the game with 162 metres, a try assist and 27 tackles – Graham is certainly one of the Sharks' important figures leading into the finals.
Sharks shake up Telstra Premiership ladder
Jumping four points from the ninth and tenth-placed Raiders and Dragons, who are on 20 competition points, the Sharks, for the time-being, have consolidated a place in the NRL's top six teams.
Tied with fifth-placed Melbourne on competition points, and just two points from the top four, the Sharks win will prove crucial especially with the Bulldogs and Warriors two points behind them.
With the Bulldogs and Warriors teetering on the edge of the top eight, the Sharks clash with the latter next Saturday in Round 21 will certainly prove vital in helping establish the finals hierarchy.
This article first appeared on NRL.com