Canberra Raiders vs Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks: Five things we learned

The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks made it four wins in a row as they toppled the Canberra Raiders 24-16 at GIO Stadium, Canberra on Sunday.

The Sharks just know how to win don’t they? Despite missing Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Wade Graham, they have proved that all the players in their system can lift when needed and allow their outside backs to shine.

It was a disappointing loss for the Raiders who failed to score a point in the second-half and it will be back to the drawing board for the team from the nation’s capital.

There was plenty of talking points in this game so let’s look at five things we learned.

  1. 1 Raiders pay a heavy cost

    Earlier in the season Blake Austin was struggling to keep his place in first grade as Ricky Stuart's patience was dissipating. The coach made the call for Austin to spend a week in reserve grade to work on his defence and get his confidence back. While his attacking abilities in moments had never been questioned, the fact the Raiders couldn't close out games fell somewhat on the shoulders of the former Panthers and Tigers five-eighth.

    With a week to ponder his performance he returned to the first grade team and showed why he was once touted as a potential New South Wales representative. In today's game he was continuing that rich vein of form before disaster struck. Despite crossing over for a try under the posts, the full force of Andrew Fifita's body was compounded on Austin's ankle and lower leg.

    A try that gave the Raiders extra confidence was important but with the game still well and truly in the balance it was not an ideal situation. It looks like a high ankle sprain so hopefully for the Raiders faithful it won't be too long out for the man they call 'Stone Cold'.

  2. 2 Mixed bag for Holmes

    For the past decade the Queensland Origin team has almost picked itself but after Kevin Walters made the tough call to not pick Billy Slater in game one last season it showed that there was so such thing as a guarantee. 

    Fast forward to this season and with Greg Inglis returning and finding form, he seems like an automatic selection alongside Will Chambers in the centres. Add that to the fact that Billy Slater will play fullback and last season's player of the series, Dane Gagai, is a lock that leaves one wing spot and two world-class players in Darius Boyd and Valentine Holmes.

    Boyd has shown glimpses of quality but still looks hampered by that dodgy hamstring while Holmes has floated between wing and fullback for the Sharks with varying degrees of success. With neither man pleading their case, every little moment in games become crucial.

    Holmes has been called the 'best winger in the game' but has been playing fullback recently because of the injury to Josh Dugan. Holmes prefers the fullback role but his lack of urgency to get rid of the ball in the in-goal cost his side the opening try as Nick Cotric was more desperate and ran around Holmes to score.

    The comical error didn't deter the Australian international, though, as just minutes later he was on the end of a Blake Austin spiral bomb and beat multiple defenders before streaking away for the visitors first four pointer of the game.

    Later in the match he was able to set up the try for Jack Williams on his debut and scored the final match-sealing try by backing up James Segeyaro but he showed moments of brilliance, the little moments of Origin can change the contest and cost your state the match. He will need to show more over the next two weeks if he wants to be lining up in Melbourne on June 6th. 

  3. 3 Cotric is ready for Origin

    It's incredible to think Nick Cotric is only 19 years old. Despite being in only his second season of first grade, the 185cm and 98kg winger has dominated some of his far more experienced wingers over that time.

    New Blues coach Brad Fittler is said to be a big fan of the young Raider and after his performance today it's hard not to see why. 

    He may only be young but his big body on the wing would be vital in Origin carrying the ball out from their own end when the going got tough. The same could be said for someone like Tom Trbojevic and Blake Ferguson but the Manly fullback hasn't played wing in sometime and Ferguson may have been permanently overlooked because of his past off-field behaviour. 

    It is shaping up to be a young backline with Euan Aitken and Josh Addo-Carr also touted as options but with NSW struggling to make a dent on the Maroons dynasty it might be time for out with the old and in with the new. What else do they have to lose?

  4. 4 Commentators curse

    Now the heading might mislead in the sense that the players were not the ones cursed but actually the people at home forced to listen to it. 

    For years the Channel Nine commentary team has been much maligned as people grew tired of Phil Gould and the work of Ray Hadley. In that time, mostly, the Fox commentary team were praised for their analysis and general quality. However, this season something has changed. I have read on countless occasions that people have rather watched the ads on free to air than listen to the bumbling commentary of Matt Nable and Steve 'Blocker' Roach.

    The amount of times in today's game that Nable got the players name wrong, most noticeably on the final try of the game where it was clearly Valentine Holmes yet called him Sosaia Feki. 

    Now I know that calling players in the heat of the moment wrong can happen to all the best commentators but one of the most 'interesting' moments of the call was when he complained that teams should stop taking the two basically because it was boring and he wanted to see more football. It's easy for him to say but if the Sharks had lost by two points, then I'm sure he would have been the first to comment on them not taking their opportunities. 

    Most of the commentary team at Fox Sports are outstanding but the work of Nable not only today but this season has left a lot to be desired and I am not the only one with those sentiments. 

  5. 5 Raiders old habits creep in

    The Raiders ability to close out games have been well-documented and today showed their inability to do so once again. Not at any stage did the Raiders look comfortable in the lead but when the game was on the line they seemed to go into their shell. Losing Blake Austin before half-time hurt their cause, but that was the perfect opportunity for Aidan Sezer to step up and lead this team to a win.

    It's not panic stations after losing one game but they will have to find form quick before they come up against a fired-up St George Illawarra Dragons next weekend.

    What did you make of the Sharks win against the Raiders? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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