Just finished watching the replay so here's my full report,
In terms of making yardage and coming out of our end, it appears the plan from last year hasn't changed. We've been quite conservative in that area recently and it was the same last night. And why change it? It's effective. I thought we were losing the middle battle a bit in that first half but huge credit to the boys for turning it around and absolutely coming over the top of them in the second, with 15 men I might add!
I think it was Dan Ginnane in the commentary that said our attack was very varied last night and that we were making a bit of a statement to the rest of the NRL about our right side. Couldn't agree more with that. No doubt we had a bit of a different game plan to attack right and boy did it look good!! Lachy, Keaon, Stretch and Izaac killed it!! they looked so dangerous as all our points came down that side and an 'almost try' in the first half down the right too. We all know it's the lethal left that gets all the accolades in our side but we showed last night that we are well balanced and have threats all over the park in 2023. That's super exciting because it makes us even more unpredictable. Hats off to the coaching staff as they obviously identified something down the Cronulla left edge and it worked like a charm. We hardly even attacked left, so that tells me it was a clear game plan. Same thing happened in the Round 22 Sharks game last year, same game plan, except this time, we executed it. So good to see.
In saying that, the left edge did look a little clunky when we did go there and I can't quite figure out why. Probably a bit of early Season rust. We know how lethal that side is and I think they'll be sweet as.
I was impressed with some parts of the defence but not with others. Our general play defence was very good. We were coming up off the line all game, often driving them back coming out of their end and wedidn't really looked troubled in terms of them making a line break coming out of their end, so that was very impressive.
The goal line defence was a little mixed for me. There were periods there where we looked unbreakable. Some fantastic efforts to keep denying them and turning them away. Especially with about 20 minutes to go I think, there was a huge set where the Sharks threw a lot at us but the lads kept turning up for each other and shut them out. That was big in the context of the game. However, we did still concede 18 points which is more than I'd like. Yes, one of their tries was off a flukey, football like play and another off a more conventional kick, it's still 18 points. We were a little lucky too as they broke us down out wide three times, but we're lucky two of them were denied. So edge defence still looks a little flakey for me so that's a big work on. However, I think we're heading in the right direction. the team clearly has a huge defensive focus so we're bound to get better and it's important to remember this is a top team we were playing.
Player by Player
L.Mitchell: Aside from a couple of good kick returns, some safe bomb catches at the back and some defensive plays, we was pretty quiet in the first half. I would have liked to have seen him more involved. Looked a lot better in the second 40 though as he did get a bit more involved. Some huge kick returns that only Trell can do, his safe hands at the back continued and he came up with two really big tackles to save our arses when it looked like something was happening for Cronulla. Got a bit more involved in attack and laid on that beautiful second try for Stretch. That was a nice double pump before delivering the pass which was just enough to commit Talakai and create the hole for Graham, that's great skill. Finally, his goal kicking was faultless and he slotted that field goal to ice it. Still not involved enough for mine but I'm sure it will come.
Johnston: Pretty quiet night for AJ but he still did his job. No fault of his own that it was quiet for him either, the ball just didn't come his way as much and the ball that he did get wasn't quite clean ball. Still, as I said, he did his best and did his job for the most part. Still ran for just over 100 meters so he did well there. A big defensive play late in the game to hold Katoa up when he looked in for all money however, he was caught out twice on that edge with the wrong defensive read.
Tass: Kind of similar to AJ, Tassy didn't get very many good ball opportunities in attack. However, I do have to tip my hat to him in regards to the tough stuff. Constantly put his hand up to take a hard run out of our end and he had some really good carries. In fact, I was a bit surprised when I looked at the stats and saw he made 174 meters, he didn't seem that imposing watching it for the first time but watching the replay, you realise the work he really did. Well done Tassy.
Graham: Incredible game to open the Season from him as he continues to go from strength to strength. Up there in our top three players last night no doubt. Pretty solid defensively as always, he shut down a lot of the Sharks plays down there. Had just the one real lapse when Lachy saved our arses with that try-saver. With the ball was where he really shone though. Just amazing and I am constantly blown away by his ticker. Was huge rucking it out and taking the tough hit ups, looked super strong there and not once did he shirk it. This contributed massively to a team high 198 meters which is insane. Skipped through and made that line break in the first half, he set Izaac up very well and it's a real shame he couldn't quite finish it. To top it all off, he picked up the well-deserved double off some great whole running. Well done Campbell!!
Thompson: Had a bit of a mixed first half. Got caught out massively when Ronaldo almost scored early on. he was standing far too close to Graham and rushed up too much too. He also made a couple of poor errors and didn't have the toe to finish off that try. However, I think he redeemed himself a bit in the second half as he was really good. His hands do worry me a little but I love his hit ups, was very hard to put down last night and he got through a heck of a lot of work on his way to 173 meters. Not a foot wrong in defence in the second half either. So a little bit of a mixed game but I thought he was more bad than good. Important to remember that was only his third NRL game too.
Walker: Very quiet night to start the Season by his standards. Didn't really do a lot in attack compared to usual. However, that's not to say he was bad. Threatened a few times with his running. I also think he was happy last night to take a bit of a backseat and let Lachy control things. If it's working like it clearly was in this game, then I don't mind that.
Ilias: Wow, wow, wow, where do I start? Absolutely outstanding stuff from the young fella, easily man of the match, easily his career best game. And this wasn't just any game either, it was against one of the top sides which makes it even more impressive. Firstly, I'll talk about his defence. How bloody good was it??!! Started his great night with that huge, huge play on Mulitalo to slap the ball out and save the try. That was clearly intentional and is one of the best try-savers you'll see all year. The rest of the game his defence was just incredible too. Constantly handling guys way bigger than him, and came up with two massive shots to force an error both times. Textbook tackles too as they were shots right up under the ball. I'm just blown away by his defence to be honest, when else have we seen a young guy come in and be able to defend this well? On the other side of the ball, he was just as good too. Straight after that try saver, we go up the other end, Lachy spots a gap, goes straight through and scores. Classy. A bit later we're up there again and Lachy puts in one of those perfect grubbers to the in goal to set up Keaon perfectly. He sadly bombed it. A few moments later he has a hand in our second try with a nice pass to Keaon. Seven minutes into the second half and Ilias is the star again. That pass to put Stretch over was a thing of beauty as he took the ball right to the line and got his timing pinpoint perfect. He held the pass just, and I mean just long enough to commit Talakai and create the hole. That was impressive. Finally, he has a hand in our last try. He was at first receiver and did a nice little dummy before passing to Trell, this help up two defenders and allowed Trell the time and pass to get Talakai interested again. Just loved that stuff from Lachy, it's subtle but at the same time, it's huge. Finally, his kicking game as solid. Just a huge game for Lachy moving forward. We probably all knew it but he has just proven to the rest of the NRL that he can be a real star in big games. So proud of him!