The Cronulla Sharks have been victorious 16-14 in tonight's Qualifying Final against the Canberra Raiders
It was a fiery opening to the Qualifying Final in Canberra, with both sides trading early blows at either end of the field.
With both sides trading blows, it was the home side who opening the scoring as hooker Josh Hodgson dummied close the line and split the Sharks defence to go over next to the posts.
Jarrod Croker converted and the score was 6-0.
The Raiders continued to mount pressure on the Sharks defence with much of the play coming down the Raiders’ right-edge.
In what would be one of the most decisive plays of the evening, Wade Graham would come from the field after an attempted tackle on Joey Leilua.
From here, the Sharks gained possession again and worked the ball up toward the Raiders try line however James Maloney’s wide ball went to grass.
Jordan Rapana swooped on the loose pass and would streak away 80m to score for the home side.
The try went to the NRL Bunker for a potential obstruction on Ben Barba however the try was awarded.
Croker would convert and the score was 12-0.
Despite the two early tries, the Sharks would continue to press the Raiders’ line as Chad Townsend forced a repeat set.
The Sharks had quality field position off the next set however Luke Lewis was unable to hold a Townsend short ball and the Raiders were back in possession.
With the ball off the scrum, it was now time for the Raiders to attack and working the ball up to the Sharks’ end of the field were able to force Jack Bird in goal and receive the drop out.
It was an arm wrestle for the remainder of the first half with both sides kicking deep into enemy territory, forcing each other to work it out of their own end.
Not to be outdone though, the Sharks worked it into good field position and Jack Wighton was forced to ground an Ennis grubber in goal.
From the ensuing play, Matt Prior would bust through the line and barge over Wighton at the back.
Maloney converted and the score at the break was 12-6.
The intensity kept up after the restart with both teams offering some big blows in defence.
The Raiders would suffer a major blow after the resumption of play as Josh Hodgson suffered a serious left leg injury after taking a kick in a tackle from team mate Aiden Sezar.
Hodgson would leave the field and his side gained possession the next play after a Maloney grubber went into touch.
The Raiders made their way down field off the back of two Sharks penalties and in the 45th minute Jarrod Croker would take a penalty shot at goal and the score went to 14-6.
With the home side slowly mounting the pressure the Sharks worked the ball deep into the Raiders’ territory with tireless work from Matt Prior.
Luke Lewis came up in possession on the Sharks right edge and dropped a soft grubber into the in goal for Valentine Holmes.
The flying winger would touch down for his 19th try of the season and the Sharks were behind 14-10.
Maloney converted and the score went to 14-12.
With intensity high, the Sharks would continue to pressure the Raiders line.
With Chad Townsend coming from the field, Jack Bird would move into the halves and Gerard Beale to right centre.
The Sharks pepped the Raiders line, forcing two repeat sets and piling on the pressure. It all proved too much for the home side when they gave away a penalty 20m out from their line.
Maloney would add the two points and it the game was all locked up 14-14 with 13 minutes on the clock.
From here, the Cronulla Sharks continued to pressure the home side when again the Raiders gave away a decisive penalty and James Maloney stepped up to the mark.
The five-eight would kick the penalty goal to edge the Sharks ahead 16-14, the score that would finish the game and seal the Cronulla victory.