By Stephen Fenech from Tech Guide.
Bloody hell!! That game slipped through our fingers tonight. We could have and should have won that. If you look back at the game (and I’m about to point out everything now) the Sharks points came off our errors or misreads. It was a minor miracle that we managed to draw level to force Golden Point despite having a better completion rate and more possession. Shark Park has never been a happy hunting ground for Souths and tonight’s loss just added to that miserable record.
I can’t believe Latrell could miss three field goal attempts in extra time. He also nearly missed the try conversion from in front to tie the game. Latrell didn’t seem himself tonight – I don’t think he played to his usual high standard. Tom Burgess getting sent off didn’t help our cause either. Personally I thought the tackle looked a lot worse than what it was – his initial contact was his arm. But of course the Sharks vocal home crowd revved the ref up not only over that tackle but plenty of other times throughout the night. In fact, Souths lost the penalty count 3-6 and weren’t given one six again all night despite the Sharks players taking their sweet time to get off us.
Souths started the game strong making great yards with the ball through our forwards – Junior Tatola was particularly outstanding. This gave us great field position and we had the upper hand early and even managed to make the most of that superiority before Johnston scored our first try in the corner in the 12th minute with Latrell adding the extras. Sharks first try came after the ref gave them a six again for nothing. Connor Tracey showed up AJ on our left side – AJ should have gone low and forced him into touch. The Sharks second try came a set after Damien Cook threw a forward pass from dummy half that had them back on our doorstep again. When Mulitalo went up to take that bomb to score his try – not one of players went up for the ball – they all just looked at it.
I don’t know what was up with Cody Walker tonight but it was like he overdosed on angry pills before kick off because he was lashing out at everyone and making some silly mistakes and making some dumb decisions. By the way, his escort was blatant – he was looking at the Sharks player coming through closer than a teenager would look at a porn site. And it should never have been challenged. He also threw a couple of passes when they just were not on. He was even trying to pick a fight as he was walking off with Souths trailing 14-6 at halftime. And inside him Ilias also made a couple of crucial blunders as well including not managing to get off his fifth tackle kicks.
We needed as strong start to the second half and that’s exactly what we got when our forwards took the ball 70m downfield off the kick off. A Sharks knock-on gave us possession again and Latrell pounced on a Cody Walker (he did one thing right) kick after three minutes to bring is back neck-and-neck with them. The next section of the game was an arm wrestle, and it was off the back of the efforts of our forwards who were making great ground with the ball and tackling themselves to a standstill. Our left side was far from its usual potent self tonight and when the ball went that way the Sharks always had an answer. There were also a few occasions when we were attacking their line that it looked like we were making it up as we were going. There was no one calling the shots. There were a few times when we got the ball and just stood still. It didn’t help us losing Cartwright to injury – he was making good yards with the ball and making great tackles including a cracker on Talakai who he forced into touch. This meant Latrell was shifted to centre and Nikorima went back to fullback. Not sure whether playing Latrell out of position was the right call but I guess Demetriou didn’t have much of a choice.
It was an error from Tass – who was having a great game up to that point – that gave the Sharks the ball inside our 30 – it was one of only a handful of times they had been in our half. But some loose defence, including an uncharacteristic miss from Cam Murray, saw Andrew Fifita wind back the clock and score.
I applaud the fact that Souths didn’t switch off here. The replacement forwards Davvy Moale and Siliva Havili kept us in the game with their energy with the ball and in defence. Our defence all night had pretty much been on point apart from a couple of lapses. Junior Tatola was rewarded with a try after one his best and busiest games. He was a standout tonight. He also had company from Keaon Koloamatangi who’s smart one-on-one strip of Talakai got us the ball back for Tatola to score that try. We were now all locked up at 20-all and my heart rate looked like the readout of a 10 Richter scale earthquake.
I thought we had Golden Point wrapped up when the ref bravely ruled that Fifita knocked on in the play the ball in their half. But instead of waiting till the fifth tackle – we could have scored a try – they decided to pass it to Latrell on tackle three and he misses it worse than one of my shanks on a par three at The Coast. Now you’d think that he’d slot one of his other two efforts, but it was just not his night. Burgess’s send off and penalty would be all the Sharks needed to stab every Souths supporter in the heart with an effortless field goal from Nicho Hynes.
That defeat could prove more costly than we realise – it could mean that a top four finish is now out of our reach. It looks like we’ll be without Cartwright for a few weeks and Burgess might also get a decent judiciary-sanctioned vacation as well. It all starts again next week when we take on the Warriors on the Sunshine Coast before we play Parra, Penrith, Cowboys and the Roosters. We need to regroup and we need to do it fast. If we can hold the ball and complete our sets, there’s nothing to say we can’t win every one of those games. We just need to see how badly Souths want it. Let’s go Rabbitohs!!!