In a match typical of the way the season has unfolded to date, it was near yet so far for the Sharks as they squandered a 10-point lead in going down 22-20 to the Wests Tigers.
The Sharks were very good in patches, below par in others, with two Tigers tries in the space of five minutes in the second half sealing their fate and leaving the Cronulla side anchored to the bottom of the competition table.
It was a match that was there to be won, especially when they led by 10, with coach Peter Sharp summing up the loss with a simple explanation.
“It is disappointing to be ahead by 10 and not win, its about winning,” Sharp said. “We just made too many mistakes.”
The first half was a tight affair, with the Tigers jumping to a lead, with the Sharks then pegging them back as the teams went to the break separated by just two points.
Both Tigers wingers managed to get on the score sheet, firstly David Nofoaluma, then Pat Richards, with Richards converting the second and following on from an early Sharks penalty, the visitors led 10-2.
The Sharks however were well in the contest and after some concerted pressure were rewarded, Sam Tagataese showing great strength brush aside a collection of would be tacklers to touch down adjacent to the uprights.
Michael Gordon added the extra two points and after 32 minutes the Tigers led 10-8.
In the final minutes of the half the Tigers had a try disallowed, with a Richards runaway brought back after the video referee ruled a Sharks pass had been knocked down and despite their best efforts neither team was able to add to their score before the siren sounded.
The Sharks edged in front early in the second period and it came as no surprise it was the inspirational skipper who was the man to put them in front, Paul Gallen running hard and straight off a well-timed Todd Carney pass.
Gordon kicked the goal and the Sharks had their first lead since the fifth minute at 14-10 in front.
Gallen was in the game again just minutes later, then time showing skill rather than strength, delivering a well-time inside pass to Gordon, with the fullback displaying speed and evasion in a 50 metre run to the try line.
Gordon converted his own try and the Sharks had opened up a handy 10-point lead with still half an hour left in the match.
The Tigers bridged the gap when Corey Patterson ran into a yawning gap in the Sharks defensive line off a perfect Luke Brooks pass and it was game on again at 20-16 to the home side.
On the next set of six the Tigers again attacked to the Sharks left hand side and once more they were rewarded, this time it was Brooks streaking away before finding Chris Lawrence in support.
Lawrence touched down under the uprights, Richards converted and the Tigers had retaken the lead at 22-20 and with still more than a quarter of the match remaining.
The Sharks had opportunities to snatch a late win but a combination of a lack of execution at vital times and determined Tigers defense denied them a victory.
In a losing cause the Sharks had a handful of strong performers, none better than fullback Michael Gordon who was back his brilliant best, skipper Paul Gallen was his typical non-stop self, while Isaac De Gois added plenty of spark when introduced into the game at hooker.
Sam Tagataese, Paul Gallen, Michael Gordon tries, Michael Gordon 4 goals
David Nofoaluma, Pat Richard, Corey Patterson, Chris Lawrence tries, Richards 3 goals
Minute by minute scoring
5 mins – Sharks 2-0 – Gordon goal
20 mins – Tigers 4-2 – Nofoaluma try
27 mins – Tigers 10-2 – Richards try, Richards goal
32 mins – Tigers 10-8 – Tagataese try
48 mins – Sharks 14-10 – Gallen try, Gordon goal
50 mins – Sharks 20-10 – Gordon try, Gordon goal
55 mins – Sharks 20-16 – Patterson try, Richards goal
58 mins – Tigers 22-20 – Lawrence try, Richards goal