Rd 7: Sharks v Roosters (Hls)
Despite a much-improved performance on recent efforts the Sharks have dropped their sixth game of the season in going down by 24-18 to the Sydney Roosters.
In a free-flowing game the Sharks played some of their best attacking football of the season, only to give up some long range tries to their opponents on a night where the result could have gone either way.
The Sharks kept battling back, leveling the scores at 12-apiece, then 18-all, before a late Roosters try just eight minutes from fulltime broke their hearts and sent them home without the two competition points which were desperately needed.
The match however did see the return of captain Paul Gallen, the skipper giving his all in an inspirational effort, with a numbre of his high profile teammates set to join him over the next few weeks.
The Sharks began the game well enough and notched first points, a try coming through some individual brilliance from Ricky Leutele, the Sharks centre beating a number of would-be defenders in an outstanding 50-metre dash to the try line.
Gordon converted from wide out and after 14 minutes the Sharks led 6-0.
The lead however would be short-lived, with the Roosters mounting pressure, then gaining a repeat set of six, before Boyd Cordner scored from a determined 10-metre run.
James Maloney was on target with his kick at goal and the scores were locked up at 6-points all.
The next points came in bizarre and controversial circumstances. After a scramble for the football following a Todd Carney chip kick, the Sharks five eighth appeared to be dragged off the football, with the Roosters re-gathering.
From the scramble which followed the kick Roosters five eighth Maloney would go 80-metres to score at the other end of Remondis Stadium. The play was sent to the video referee and in another of a series of dubious decisions during the weekend of football the play was allowed and the try awarded.
Maloney converted the Roosters led 12-6.
Undeterred the Sharks responded, playing some of their most enterprising football of the season and were unlucky not to bridge the gap before the break, however the Rooster defense held firm and the teams would go to half time with the visitors up by six.
With the confidence gained by their first half effort the Sharks went on the attack and were first to score in the second, a Gallen short side play putting Blake Ayshford into space before he was pulled down just a metre shy of the try line.
From the ensuing play the Sharks spread the ball wide and brushing off Mitchell Pearce and a couple of other Roosters defenders Wade Graham would plant the ball down some ten metres to the left of the uprights.
Gordon was again on target and the scores were locked up again at 12-all.
The next 15 or so minutes of the match was end to end, with the next points again coming in unusual circumstances.
Pressuring the Roosters line Carney put up a cross field kick, only to see it float over the head of Ayshford and into the arms of Shaun Kenny Dowell, with the winger going the length of the field to put his team back on top.
Maloney added the extras and the Sharks trailed 18-12 less than 20 minutes remaining.
Again showing great commitment and resolve the Sharks bounced back and in following the trend of the match once more it came in exciting fashion.
After a Rooster grubber kick went dead Jonathan Wright took a quick tap, passed the ball to Leutele, who found Feki in support, the big winger winning a 70-metrre foot race to the try line.
Feki ran the ball around under the posts making the conversion an easy one for Gordon and the scores were level for a third time.
However as quick as they worked back into the contest the Sharks again gave up the lead to their opponents, Kenny-Dowell touching down for his second after a Pearce bomb was batted back.
Maloney converted from the touch-line as his team would go ahead 24-18 with seven minutes left on the clock, an advantage they would hold through to the full time whistle.
The Sharks had a whole host of solid performers on the night, with Gallen a worthy winner of the players’ player award and Leutele the recipient of the Coach’s award.
Outside of those two Feki was damaging everytime he carried the ball while showing surprising pace to score from long range, Jeff Robson cut down many a dangerous situation with copybook defense, with Michael Lichaa performing well in just his second game in the top grade.
The Sharks will now look to regroup ahead of their next match against the Penrith Panthers, to be played at Remondis Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Ricky Leutele, Wade Graham, Sosaia Feki tries, Michael Gordon 3 goals
Shaun Kenny-Dowell 2, Boyd Cordner, James Maloney, tries, James Maloney 4 goals
Minute by Minute scoring
13 mins – Sharks 6-0 – Leutele try, Gordon goal
19 mins – 6-all - Cordner try, Maloney goal
25 mins – Roosters 12-6 – Maloney try, Maloney goal Half time
43 mins – 12-all – Graham try, Gordon goal 60 mins – Roosters 18-12 – Kenny-Dowell try, Maloney goal
68 mins – 18-all – Feki try, Gordon goal
71 mins – Roosters 24-18 – Kenny-Dowell try, Maloney goal
Crowd – 12,163