The Sharks have completed their pre-season trial preparations with a 30-all draw against the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium.
In what was their second draw in consecutive weeks after finishing 24-all with Manly at Shark Park last Sunday, the Sharks built up a handy advantage before a combination of player substitutions and poor ball security allowed their opponents back into the contest.
Scoring five tries and racing to a 14-point lead pleased Sharks coach Shane Flanagan, although he was less than impressed with the final 30-minutes where his team were forced to defend for extended periods.
The fullback conundrum failed to solve itself as well for the Sharks, with Jack Bird strong in the first half and Ben Barba solid in the second despite his team having just 30 percent of the football.
“In a way it’s a good position to be in (having two players fighting for one place) and we’ll just see how they go in the next couple of weeks of training before deciding on who plays where,” coach Flanagan said.
The Sharks were slow out of the blocks and after repeated pressure the Tigers posted first points through winger David Nofoaluma.
Five eighth Mitch Moses was off target with his conversion attempt and the Tigers led 4-0 after five minutes.
They were in again not long after when Chris Lawrence crossed from short range and when Moses was successful with the kick at goal it was 10-0 Tigers.
The second try seemingly woke the Sharks from their slumber and they marched down field and were then the recipient of a somewhat fortuitous try when Jack Bird picked up the crumbs and scored when winger Justin Hunt spilled a Chad Townsend bomb.
Maloney added the extras and it was 10-6 Tigers.
Now with their tails up the Sharks continued to mount the pressure and it was a perfectly weighted Michael Ennis kick which saw Luke Lewis touchdown.
Again Maloney kicked truly and the Sharks had their first lead at 12-0 in front.
The Sharks scored again after a clever passing movement, with Beale unselfishly passing to Valentine Holmes for the winger to dive over in the north-eastern corner. Maloney slotted the kick from touch it was 18-10 Sharks.
Some less than stellar defense up the middle of the ruck saw the Tigers dash away for a long range try courtesy of Moses but the Sharks would have the last say in the first half when Tagataese proved too big and strong close to the line running onto an Ennis pass.
With the Maloney conversion, his fourth from as many attempts, the Sharks would take an eight-point lead into half time at 24-16 in front.
The Sharks went further ahead when Bird crashed over for his second while playing in the right centre position and another pin point conversion from Maloney made it 30-16 to the Sharks.
From there, with both teams making a number of changes in personnel the home team battled their way back into the contest, first Jordan Rankin, then Kevin Naiqama crossed, before a fumbled kick saw Nofuluma ground the ball for his second of the night.
At 30-all Rankin had a kick to put his team in front with 10 minutes to play but it was waved away, setting up an interesting final period of the match.
The Sharks had a chance to win the game on the last play of the night but a loose Bird pass went to ground and a last gasp victory went begging.
Paul Gallen played the first 28-minutes before Flanagan had seen enough, with the Sharks skipper coming from the field and taking no further part in the game.
From early indications the Sharks came through the game without any major injury problems excepting for a broken rib suffered by Mitch Brown, meaning Flanagan will have a full contingent to choose from come round one in two weeks time.
The Sharks play the Cowboys in round one in Townsville on March 5.
Jack Bird 2, Sam Tagataese, Valentine Holmes, Luke Lewis, tries, James Maloney 5 goals.
drew TIGERS 30
David Nofuluma 2, Kevin Naiqama, Mitchell Moses, Chris Lawrence, Jordan Rankin tries, Moses 2, Rankin goals