Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has claims on being the NRL’s happiest man, after the Sharks recorded their sixth successive win for the first time since 2012 on Sunday ahead of the competition’s break for the representative round.
The Sharks’s 30-28 win over Brisbane at Shark Park has propelled them to a 7-2 start and to the top rung of the premiership ladder alongside the Broncos, North Queensland and Melbourne.
Cronulla’s 0-4 start last year cost them a top four finish but they could not be better placed after just over a third of the regular season.
“I couldn’t be happier to tell you the truth going into the rep weekend,” Flanagan said.
“If someone said at the start of the year we would have been in this position I would have taken it. We are in a pretty good place but there is still a lot of work to be done.”
The Sharks dominated the first half before 14,406 fans to lead 28-6 at the break through two tries to Sosaia Feki and single touchdowns to Paul Gallen, James Maloney and Chad Townsend.
Jordan Kahu was the Broncos’ sole scorer.
Brisbane came storming back into the contest in the second half. Tries to Corey Oates, James Roberts, Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker brought them to within two points before the Sharks held out.
A Maloney penalty goal was the Sharks’ only second half points.
“I thought our first half was outstanding, the way we completed and made the most of every opportunity. There were some really big plays there for all of those tries,” Flanagan said.
“I was ecstatic with the first half but I knew the Broncos were not just going to lay down.
“It was a bit too close for me but we showed great resolve and steel. It showed me what sort of team I have got.”
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett bemoaned his side’s slow start.
“It was borne out by the tackles we missed, the speed we played the game at and a lack of communication,” he said.
“We didn’t want to get beaten badly and then have a week off so it was good we came back like that.”
Broncos skipper Corey Parker was more direct.
“To a man we couldn’t look each other in the eye at halftime,” he said.
“We spoke about that and went out there to change that in the second half but just fell short.
“They just out enthused us early, it always felt we were on the back foot.
“If there is a positive it is that we came within two points.”