Sharks learnt finals lesson in Melbourne
Cronulla believe Monday night's last-minute 20-18 loss, while heart-breaking, gave them the belief they can cause some damage come NRL finals time.
Up until Sisa Waqa put centre Will Chambers over for the match-winning try in the dying seconds, Cronulla had outplayed the competition's second-best team on their home soil - and arguably deserved a famous victory.
So while the defeat itself was cruel, the Sharks believe the lessons they've learned from it will be far more valuable when they contest their first finals series since 2008 in a fortnight.
"It did hurt but we take a lot of positives out of it and learn a lot," star five-eighth Todd Carney said at training on Thursday.
"(We went) very close. We probably should've (beaten them).
"In areas of the game, we looked at it yesterday and we knew where we lost it.
"Hopefully we can fix that if it turns up again this weekend. And more important, in semi-final football, it's going to be really close games and we need to know how to grind out a win and finish a game."
Hooker Isaac de Gois said it was a confidence-building loss which has set them up well for this weekend's important fixture with fellow finals-bound club North Queensland.
"It was definitely heart breaking. But in saying that we can learn from it," he told AAP.
"We're just lucky it wasn't a knock-out preliminary final or something like that. It's definitely a learning curve for us.
"Melbourne are a great side, especially going down there.
"We got done right on the bell ... You do get some confidence out of that.
"I'm sure the boys will take the positives and the negatives out of it. We'll learn from it."
Carney said coach Shane Flanagan had pointed out several areas the club needed to improve to close out games, which they failed to do by conceding two tries in the final three minutes.
And the NSW representative accepted a significant portion of the blame by noting the team's sloppy kicking as a key factor in letting their lead slip at the end.
"We probably didn't kick the way we liked," he said.
"(Storm hooker) Cameron Smith rolled the ruck really well, as he does.
"His last five minutes was the reasoning behind them getting that win, and on the back of a bit of brilliance and individual stuff from (fullback) Billy Slater.
"As a playmaker I need to know how to finish a game like that and there's areas that I would've done different if I could turn it around.
"When the semi-final football coming up in a few weeks time, there's no chance after it.
"We need to know what we're going to do."
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