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No defence for Cronulla display, but Cowboys will be spurred on

Date

Phil Gould

Loss of form ... you get the feeling the Shire lads may have run their race for this season.

Loss of form ... you get the feeling the Shire lads may have run their race for this season. Photo: Getty Images

The quality of yesterday's clash between Cronulla and the North Queensland Cowboys never rose to any great heights. To be brutally honest, it looked like a game that really didn't know what it wanted to be.

The Sharks were the major contributors to the lacklustre personality of this contest. After all, they were the ones who needed the victory. But despite enjoying what many would see as a motivational advantage over their visiting rivals, never at any stage did the Sharks take it upon themselves to set the intensity level for the afternoon.

I can understand the reason for a somewhat subdued display from the Cowboys. They were adequate without being brilliant, but they spent most of the afternoon idling on cruise control rather than on full throttle.

The Cowboys played in the knowledge that win, lose or draw, this result meant absolutely nothing to them. They were going to qualify for the finals in fifth position regardless of the result. They even took the opportunity to rest key front-rower Matt Scott for the match.

However, I just can't understand why the Sharks were so poor. I'd have thought the prospect of a hometown semi-final, and not having to travel to play the Raiders in Canberra, was incentive enough to produce a more desperate effort. Apparently not.

I would also think that a week before they take on finals football, they would be keen to sharpen their execution in attack, and rehearse their attitude control and resolve in defence.

Again, apparently not.

Instead of high energy, raw enthusiasm and the clinical execution of patterns and plays, the Sharks dished up a disjointed and uninspiring display, which is hardly what you want on the eve of the play-offs.

Post-match comments from both the coach Shane Flanagan and skipper Paul Gallen revealed an interesting blend of immediate frustration at the day's result along with the brave predictions that next week's effort will be far better. One wonders if they were trying to convince the media or themselves.

The Sharks conceded six rather soft tries, all from close range to their own goal line.

This rather meek defensive display has to be a major concern. Defence is where you show your intent. On this score alone the Sharks will get a ''fail'' mark for their afternoon's work.

The sneaky dummy-half try to interchange Cowboy hooker James Segeyaro and the barging effort from Jason Taumalolo where he strolled through the meat of the Sharks' forward pack, bordered on the embarrassing for the home side.

The Sharks also permitted the Cowboy forwards far too much latitude at the advantage line. The North Queensland boys met with little resistance when advancing the ball upfield. Combine these easy yardage-gaining gallops with the kicking smarts of half Johnathan Thurston, and it's no wonder that almost 60 per cent of the match was played at the Sharks' end of the field.

Now, from a Sharks' perspective, if you marry this ordinary round 26 performance up with the fact they have won only two of their last nine matches, you get the feeling the Shire lads may have run their race for this season. I can't see them troubling the top five teams in the race for premiership glory.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, are just about everyone's dark horse for title honours.

The manner of yesterday's victory can only boost their confidence. They won playing at about 70 per cent intensity. A win in Sydney is a pretty rare thing on their resume so the flight to Townsville will be full of smiles.

It the first week of the semi-finals they get to play their state rivals, the Brisbane Broncos, on home soil.

All attention and discussion at the moment when it comes to predicting the likely premiers is on the top four teams. But the Cowboys have the muscle up front courtesy of a giant forward pack and they have the match-winning brilliance of Thurston and fullback Matty Bowen. They are flying under the radar.

This couldn't be more perfect for the Cowboys. They're some hope.

The Sharks? Well, on yesterday's effort, they will not beat the Cowboys home.

Four Nations 2014

Round 1
Sat, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
ENG 32 vs SAM 26 Stats
AUS 12 vs NEWZ 30 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEWZ 14 vs SAM 12 Report Stats
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
AUS 16 vs ENG 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEWZ 16 vs ENG 14 Report Stats
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
AUS 44 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Final
Sat, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEWZ 22 vs AUS 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Four Nations 2014
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 3 3 0 0 22 6
Australia 3 2 1 0 12 4
England 3 1 2 0 0 2
Samoa 3 0 3 0 -34 0
View all
 
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