NRL MATCH REPORT | Sharks v Tigers
The Cronulla Sharks have scored a convincing 40 points to 18 victory over the Wests Tigers.
The 22-point win comes at just the right time for Shane Flanagan and his men, who return to fifth place on the NRL ladder - pending results at the weekend.
The Sharks got off to an enterprising start against the Tigers, and playing with plenty of early flair, Michael Ennis took a quick tap from a penalty and set off down field with the intent to do damage.
Supported by fellow veteran Luke Lewis, the Sharks steamed down field before Jack Bird was taken down at the end of the play.
And just moments later, those three men combined again as Luke Lewis crossed for his 10th try of the season, and the first of the afternoon for his side.
Up 6-0 and deep on the attack once more, the hosts earned a penalty and opted to extend their margin to eight.
Playing a brand of footy that had the Remondis crowd excited, the Sharks again looked likely to score after Wade Graham forced a one-on-one strip from Tigers skipper Robbie Farah.
But unable to convert position into more points, Luke Brooks scooped upon a Sharks error and ran 90 metres to go within inches of opening the Tigers’ account.
Brought down only by the speed and determination of Valentine Holmes, Brooks would play the ball, and on the play following the bust the Tigers would score thanks to Tim Simona.
Pat Richards made no mistake from the Northern side of the ground, in reducing the side’s deficit to two.
Not to be deterred by the conceit of points, the Sharks persisted in their attack and found more success when Ennis worked down a short side.
Ennis combined with Ricky Leutele, who then found Sosaia Feki, who crossed for his 5th try of 2015. Michael Gordon added the extras, and kicking into a strong breeze, extended the side’s lead to eight.
Gordon was starring in both attack and defence, and after several key runs with the ball, found a magical escape out of the in goal that Houdini himself would have be proud of.
Gordon combined with Lewis to see the side out of trouble and into good field position, and the side capitalised on the play moments later when Ennis darted over from dummy-half to score.
‘Flash’ maintained his perfect record with the boot heading into the break, as the Sharks took a 20-6 lead back into the sheds.
Upon the resumption the Sharks went about continuing their run and went in to score when Valentine Holmes finished off a well-worked backline move.
Gordon couldn’t add the extras from the sideline, but the Sharks would receive the ball back for another set from the prevailing kick-off.
Or so they should have.
Pat Richards’ towering torpedo work off the tee earned his side a drop out, and the momentum of the match seemed to swing for the large part in the moments thereafter.
After leading by 18, the Sharks’ margin was reduced to just six following tries to Martin Taupau and Curtis Sironen, and the game was brought back to life.
The experienced-Ennis went about arresting the game’s momentum back in favour of the side – and did so – in earning a penalty when he caught the Tigers’ markers adjacent to the ruck.
After a run of poor finishes to their sets, the Sharks earned a slice of luck, and Holmes turned a half-chance into six points as he collected a loose ball and streaked away to score.
Back on top and in control of the match in the final stages, the Sharks went about re-asserting their claims for a top four finish, when Wade Graham crossed for a four-pointer with seven minutes to play.
But a Sharks side intent on scoring points were not done with yet.
After some razzle-dazzle play where Holmes looked likely to run in his third try of the afternoon, the 20-year-old linked with fellow young gun Jack Bird who sent Michael Gordon packing for four more points.
On an afternoon where the Sharks were placed under plenty of pressure in the latter stages, the hosts would go on to round out a 40 points to 18 victory, in front of 15,738 fans at the Remondis Stadium.
CRONULLA SHARKS - 40 (TRIES: Lewis, Feki, Ennis, Holmes (2), Graham, Gordon | GOALS: Gordon (6/8)
def. WESTS TIGERS - 18 (TRIES: Simona, Taupau, Sironen | GOALS: Richards (3/3))