Moylan: Streaking Sharks can win the title
CRONULLA insist they have the game to seriously challenge for this year's NRL title, they just have to roll it out on a regular basis.
The Sharks are eyeing Thursday's clash with Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium as the sternest test of their credentials, after winning 10 of their past 12 game to sit fifth on the ladder.
Friday's controversial win over Canberra was overshadowed by the drama surrounding Sione Katoa's try, but it was hard to ignore the fact the Sharks turned in arguably their best 40 minutes this year to lead 22-6 before the break.
Despite their winning run, Cronulla have won both halves of a game just twice in those 12 matches and know it has to change for their belief they can win the title to be proven correct.
"I think so," five-eighth Matt Moylan responded when asked if they could win the title.
"I think we've showed in patches in every game that we're a side that can threaten. We've just got to string those patches into a full game and a full performance.
"It's the sort of inconsistency we want to get out of our game if we want to give it a fair crack. If we can string 80 minutes together I think it gives us every chance to win them big games."
Crucially, the Sharks put their resurgence in recent months to the fact they've finally found some stability in key positions.
Cronulla couldn't roll out the same four players in their spine in back-to-back games in the first seven rounds, but have since found a set-up that works with Valentine Holmes at the back and Moylan at five-eighth next to Chad Townsend in the halves.
That structure has stayed in place for all but two games now since round nine, and it's the one Cronulla will take into the finals with Josh Dugan set to return on either the wing or in the centres from a leg injury.
"It's really allowed us to form those combinations," Townsend said. "When you get put in situations on the field that's when you form combinations down to a tee.
"I think the more times you can come out of a situation and talk about it on the field and in the post-match review the more you can get the combinations right."
Brisbane were the last team to beat the Sharks in round 15, and both teams are still vying for a top-four spot in the closest finish to a season between the eight finals-playing positions since 1999.
Cronulla, placed fifth, are just two points behind ladder leaders Melbourne, but have a far weaker for-and-against than teams ranked above them.
"It's probably our biggest test for a long time," Townsend said.