Sharks a step closer to guaranteed finals berth

Paul Gallen

It was a try to John Williams on the siren that sealed it, and it was a win that moved the Sharks one step closer to an elusive finals berth – as they defeated an inconsistent Souths side 20-7, at Toyota Stadium.

The game was evenly poised at one stage, despite Souths not playing their best footy, after halfback Adam Reynolds kicked a field goal with 12 minutes to go, to put the Rabbitohs up 7-6 with 12 minutes remaining.

The plan for an early field goal backfired, though, as the Sharks scored the next 14 unanswered points to win the game – with the loss meaning Souths have now lost two on the trot, but they still remain in third place.

It did not appear that it would be Souths night from the outset, with Dave Taylor fumbling the footy, before going into touch off the kick-off.

With some indifferent and inconsistent performances in the past month, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said that this win was the confidence boost that his side needed, heading into the finals.

“I think even they started to doubt whether we could compete with sides like South Sydney but I was really pleased with the effort,” he said.

Despite the win, however, the Sharks know that now is not the time to get too overconfident, as they have games coming up against the in-form Cowboys, and the Melbourne Storm, in the next two weeks.

“I don’t know if it 100 per cent confirms it (finals) but we would be pretty unlucky to miss out but we’re not going to sit back … we’d like to win those games as well,” he said.

“We’ve struggled a little bit in the last couple of weeks and I was really feeling the pressure and I didn’t want the players to feel it and they came out and performed really well.”

For Sharks captain Paul Gallen, he is just excited at the chance to play finals footy once more!

“Not playing in them in the past three years has been pretty tough … I went to most of the semis last year and the crowds and the hype and the build-up throughout the week is pretty big and pretty special,” Gallen said.

“I remember when I first started we were always making the semis in 2001 and 2002 and I just thought next year, next year, but it just doesn’t happen. I think we all had that attitude tonight that we were playing for our season and we played really well.”

Souths coach Michael Maguire made no excuses after the game, admitting that the Sharks were in fact the better side.

“We probably didn’t handle the arm wrestle as well as what they did, that was probably the biggest thing for us that we will take out of that game,” Maguire said.

A worrying statistic for the Bunnies, is that they have not beaten a top eight side since Rd 9 – but that does not concern Maguire.

“No, not at all. Every week we’re growing as a group and we’re learning about different parts of our game that we need to improve on,” Maguire said.

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