Shane Flanagan has hailed the effort of Cronulla’s unsung heroes in the Sharks’ late 24-22 win over the Wests Tigers.
The Sharks trailed 22-14 with six minutes to play before late tries to Edrick Lee and Jayson Bukuya earned Cronulla a vital two points.
Cronulla were without their five State of Origin stars – Andrew Fifita, Wade Graham, Jack Bird, James Maloney and Valentine Holmes – while the Tigers were also missing James Tedesco and Aaron Woods.
It was far from Cronulla’s best performance with a number of simple errors in attack and the conceding of three particularly soft tries close to their line.
But, as they have done so many times over the last two seasons, the Sharks simply found a way to win.
Much of the credit had to go to the Cronulla players who came into the squad, with Kurt Capewell scoring his first two NRL tries while Daniel Mortimer celebrated his first appearance in the black, white and blue with two vital try assists.
The 28-year-old, who joined the club from the Gold Coast in the off season, came on for the final hour and immediately sparked the break that led to Chad Townsend’s try before rolling the pin-point grubber kick into the in-goal for Bukuya to win the match.
“To have two wins without our Origin players during that period, however you get them, is really important,” Flanagan said.
“We’ve got two wins and we’ve got a fair few [players] in [Origin] this time. So that’s an important thing for later in the back end of the year.
“[Mortimer is] an experienced player. Unfortunately he did his knee earlier in the year in round two or three playing second grade. We were always planning on Jayden [Brailey] or James Segeyaro, those three players could rotate around. But he did his knee pretty nasty and was out for about eight to 10 weeks. He’s only just come back. I thought his experience and just the way he brought players onto the ball out of dummy-half in that 30 minute stint was outstanding.”
Flanagan also suggested Capewell had done enough to retain his place in the squad despite the club’s Origin stars due to return against Manly on Sunday.
“Capes was good. He scored a try… he played really well and was dangerous every time he carried the football and he’s only going to get better,” he said.
“[His best position] is either centre or back-row. He’s definitely not a winger. He just filled in there for us earlier in the year. But he can play in the centres but moving down the track into next year he’ll be a back-rower for us.
“The way he played today I don’t think he’ll be out of the 17 for too long.”