Both teams came into this one after a loss, but it was always going to be a tough slog for the Rabbitohs. Not only did they have to negotiate a trip back from Cairns after seeing their finals aspirations disappear in front of them, but they were up against Luke Lewis’ 300th game. A proud man playing for a proud club, who themselves were looking to get their acts together in time for yet another finals charge.
Two Points Is Still Two Points
The Cronulla Sharks played better than they showed against the Gold Coast last week, but they are nowhere near where they want to be just yet. South Sydney asked the Sharks to camp in their red zone during several periods of the game through a series of penalties, especially in the first half, and the Sharks were more than happy to take some of their opportunities. However, they were still guilty of letting many other opportunities go to waste. The 14-6 score at halftime should have been much greater.
Despite what the final score would tell you, the second half was worse than the first for the Sharks. In essence, it was a sloppy performance. Namely too many penalties and errors and they invited the struggling Rabbitohs back into the contest. If it wasn’t for their own issues with the ball, Souths may well have taken the game away from Cronulla. Other teams in the competition would have, but luckily for the Sharks, they weren’t playing them on this occasion. The two tries Cronulla scored in the final ten minutes flattered them to be honest. The first came not long after Sam Burgess walked off with what appeared to be a rib issue. The second was a kick towards a clearly injured Braidon Burns who couldn’t get to the ball and allowed Ricky Leutele to seal the deal for Cronulla.
It wasn’t pretty, but two competition points are still two competition points. And despite how average the performance was, that is the main thing.
South Sydney Discipline Still A Killer
Last week it was the number of dropped balls that helped the Cowboys do a job on the Rabbitohs. This week, it was the number of penalties that did the damage. But yet again, the timing of the few drops that they did have hurt them.
For example, the first try of the game came directly from a Sam Burgess drop on the Sharks try line. That particular error isn’t the problem though. After all, it was the first opportunity to score and it was in the second minute of the game. So, of course, you try to use your best attacking weapon to see if he can get over the line.
The issue is the penalty on the subsequent set of six for Cronulla that piggy-backed the Sharks into their own attacking area. This was a recurring theme for Souths, especially in the first half. These penalties were followed by tries and a promising start to the game went down the drain.
Souths recovered somewhat with a try of their own thanks to the ill-discipline of Sharks, but instead of putting together a solid set to consolidate the try, an errant offload let the Sharks attack them once again. The same issue occurred after John Sutton’s try when they were getting back into the game in the second half. Poor options gave the Sharks cheap possession and took away any momentum that the Rabbitohs were building.
It is the story of their season. They say timing is everything and when it comes to Souths, errors and penalties seem to come when they really don’t need them.
What’s The Plan?
The South Sydney game plan looked to be made up on the run when it came to organising an attacking set of six. Which is more than can be said for their fifth tackle options, which didn’t look as though they had any kind of plan at all. For a team that has one of the best exponents of the short kicking game in Adam Reynolds, their desire to do anything but give Reynolds the ball was astounding. That is not to say Reynolds didn’t get the ball on the last at all, as he did several times. Their first try came courtesy of a Reynolds grubber for young Braidon Burns after all.
However, there were other times when Reynolds wasn’t even part of the plan for the fifth tackle. Robbie Farah tried to do it himself, but he took poor options. Other times, they try to run the ball on the last with a calamity of errors being the end result. Their strength is the Adam Reynolds kick. And he needs the ball at first receiver, not second or at times third. First receiver. Make it the plan and stick to it. His kicking game was a major factor when they won a premiership not that long ago. It can still be a major factor.
When it comes to organising and setting up a fifth tackle option, there are the few preceding tackles that also need to be organised in order to get the most out of the set. It was easy to notice that the Rabbitohs entire game looked more direct and faster when replacement hooker Damien Cook was on the field. They looked dangerous and they looked confident when he was at dummy half. When Farah returned to the game, the Rabbitohs didn’t look as sharp. Is this a coincidence, or just the way the game panned out on this occasion? We’ll let you decide.
Congratulations To Luke Lewis For 300 Games
The evergreen Luke Lewis became only the 28th player to play 300 first grade games in the NRL this week, so he would have been happier than most with a win here. The moment could have affected him as it wasn’t his best game and he even got a bit hot under the collar at one point, but when you look at what he has had to do to achieve this feat, you can understand why his mind may not have been as clear as it normally would be when on the field.
After all, who else has had a cancer scare and then kicked on by playing arguably as well as ever? Luke Lewis did.
You can talk about his achievements in terms of rugby league all you like, after all he has achieved everything there is in the game, but beating cancer is something else entirely. And he is an outstanding example of what can happen if the dreaded disease is caught early.
Back in 2012, during a routine scan after injuring his neck, a 4cm lump was detected on his thyroid. A biopsy revealed the lump was cancerous. Two surgeries and lots of medication later, Lewis is cancer free.
The cancer scare also coincided with Lewis leaving his beloved Penrith Panthers for the Cronulla Sharks. Unfortunately, the cancer issue ended his Panthers career prematurely and he wasn’t able to say goodbye in the way he would have wanted, but he has moved on in a big way since.
Congratulations Luke. May there be many more games played and achievements made before you hang up the boots.
Tries: Graham (3m), Brown (22m), Beale (70m), Leutele (78m)
Goals: Maloney 5/6
Tries: Burns (10m), Sutton (53m)
Goals: Reynolds 2/2