TWO little white lies from Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan helped ignite his team’s premiership defence with the Sharks beating Parramatta.
In an entertaining postscript to the 20-6 victory, Flanagan admitted he told his players a couple of lies to motivate them to bounce back from their last-start loss to St George Illawarra — a performance he described as their worst in 12 months.
Skipper Paul Gallen let slip his side had “heard” the Eels forwards were preparing an ambush. When asked how the Sharks had got wind of it, Flanagan interjected by saying; “I made it up”.
“I made some stuff up about their forward pack challenging ours,” Flanagan said.
While the coach may have fooled his captain with that line, it was a team meeting earlier in the week which left Gallen questioning Flanagan.
“I threw out a couple of stats that they weren’t running as hard and not breaking as many tackles (compared to last year),” Flanagan said.
“I didn’t research it and just made it up all the time.”
Gallen requested an immediate meeting with Flanagan after the remarks were made to the team. When Gallen asked the coach for the numbers, he admitted he had fudged them.
Regardless, the mind games seemed to work a treat as Cronulla overpowered a willing Eels defence.
Cronulla returned to ANZ Stadium for the first time since their historic premiership win last October far from the finished product.
The premiers came into the match knowing a loss would see them start their premiership defence with just one win from the opening month of the season.
“That was us of last year,” Flanagan said.
“We know the way we’ve got to play and I know the team we’ve got. We are back to where we think we are, especially defensively. That’s what hopefully you’ll see week in week out.”
Both sides were physical but their ball control was terrible. Parramatta made 17 errors, while Cronulla made 13 with the Eels only try coming from a lucky bounce of the ball. Cronulla’s three tries came from second-phase.
Cronulla skipped to a 12-0 lead after 30 minutes with tries to Jayden Brailey and Sosaia Feki. The Eels crawled their way back when David Gower scored on the stroke of half-time to have them trailing by six.
Eels coach Brad Arthur lamented his team’s ball handling, following their back-to-back losses.
“When you put that much effort into a game of footy you need to come away with a better result,” Arthur said.
“Completions were low about 60 per cent and we had to make an extra 70 tackles. We didn’t give ourselves a chance. A lack of composure and patience.
“The effort is there. They tried very hard. Defensively, physically we were pretty good. A couple of off-loads on the try-line hurt us. Given chunks of possession in back-to-back sets is hard to defend.
“We need to be prepared to build pressure which we were the first two games.”
Cronulla five-eighth James Maloney, who scored all eight second-half points, again played a leading hand despite playing on with a lower back injury after copping an early knock.
James Segeyaro was eased back into the NRL, playing the final 20 minutes.
CRONULLA 20 (J Brailey S Feki J Maloney tries J Maloney 4 goals) bt PARRAMATTA 6 (D Gower try C Gutherson goal) at ANZ Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Chris James. Crowd: 17,003.