While the signs may have been good early when the Sharks jumped out to an 8-0 advantage, from their it was all Canberra as the home team slumped to a 30-12 defeat.
A lop-sided penalty count and far too many errors with the ball in hand contributed to a loss that now will now now have the Sharks under pressure to perform at two away games over the next fortnight.
However, in giving some credit to their opposition, it was a strong performance from a Canberra side desperately scrambling to remain in the race for a top eight berth.
The Sharks opened the scoring when Sosaia Feki finished off a slick passing move in the fifth minute, the try bringing up his 50th four-pointer in the NRL, a fantastic achievement for the NZ Kiwi hopeful.
Valentine Holmes’ conversion attempt was successful from the sideline and the Sharks were ahead 6-0.
The Sharks would be the next to trouble scorers when they worked the ball deep into the Raiders territory on the back of an offside penalty.
With constant hit-ups from the Sharks big men, the Raiders gave away a penalty in the ruck and the Sharks would take the shot at goal.
Holmes made no mistake with the shot at goal and the Sharks were ahead 8-0 after 11 minutes.
On the back of two straight penalties, the Raiders marched their way down field and deep into attacking territory where they would put the Sharks under their first real pressure situation of the evening.
Josh Hodgson scooped the ball up out of dummy half following a play the ball inside the Sharks 10 metre line. The English international dummied to the open side but opted to go down the left and short side where he found a rampaging Josh Papalii who proved too strong for a tackle attempt from Holmes and Chad Townsend.
The Raiders would be on the board after 15 minutes. Jarrod Crocker made no mistake with the conversion attempt and the scores went to 8-6 to the Sharks.
The momentum begun to swing well and truly in the Raiders’ favour with the men from Canberra once again finding themselves deep in Sharks territory.
Pressure was building on the home side and just as it had made the Raiders fold, it too so hit the Sharks, who gave away a penalty right in from of the uprights after Wade Graham was penalised for running Elliot Whitehead off the ball off a Blake Austin kick.
Jarrod Crocker’s penalty shot at goal was successful and the Raiders evened the scores at 8 a piece.
The visitors continued their run of dominance when they made easy metres through the middle of the field once again.
Austin went to the air on his right edge once again and found an Sosaia Feki unmarked however the Sharks winger was unable to hold the ball and Jordan Rapana ended up with the ball and fell over the line for one of the easier tries he’ll score in his career.
The try was referred to the video referee however the Raiders would be awarded the four-pointer.
Crocker’s conversion was successful and the Raiders went ahead 14-8.
Rapana scored his second try of the evening when he crossed over on another short-side play from the Raiders as BJ Leilua opted to run down the short side and pass to his right side partner in Rapana and the Kiwi international was over.
Crocker’s sideline attempt was unsuccessful and the scores would remain 18-8 after 35 minutes.
With minutes to play in the first half, the Raiders sensed their opposition to be on the back foot and pounced when it mattered most. Whitehead was given the ball 30 metres out from the tryline and took the ball to a Paul Gallen and Chris Heighington tackle however found the opportunity to get an offload away to Josh Hodgson who was on the fly on the inside and would scoot 20m to score the Raiders’ fourth try of the evening.
Jarrod Crocker’s conversion from out wide was good and the teams would go into the sheds with Raiders in the lead 24-8.
When the teams returned from the break, neither side was able to break the deadlock with what seemed to be an end to end slog at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The Raiders had possession in the middle of the field however Jack Wighton was unable to hold the pill in the play the ball and the Sharks would be given a scrum feed in their end.
From the scrum Chad Townsend passed to Holmes who found a half gap and was able to offload to Jack Bird who was tearing through on his outside. Quickly succumbing to the Raiders cover defence, Bird was able to get a pass away to Gerard Beale who crossed for his third try of the season.
Valentine Holmes’ conversion attempt was unsuccessful and the Raiders lead was brought back to 12 points at 24-12 after 50 minutes of play.
It was now the Sharks’ turn to put the pressure on as they took the game to Raiders hard and fast.
Leading the charge was skipper Paul Gallen who took a crucial run in midfield before Austin was penalised for raking the ball from Gallen in the tackle. The skipper took a quick tap however was brought down by an offside Josh Papalii. Papalii was sin-binned for the professional foul and the Raiders were down to 12 men.
The Sharks were unable though to convert the good field position and one-man advantage though as Jason Bukuya dropped the ball from the very next play.
In a match which saw the momentum swing like a pendulum, the Raiders get themselves back in the game as Paul Gallen went into a tackle with too much gusto, catching Shannon Boyd high.
The Sharks again let the Raiders back into the match as it was ruled that the Sharks impeded the play the ball and the Canberra side were awarded yet another penalty. Jarrod Crocker took the two points on offer and they went ahead 26-12 after 59 minutes.
The run of penalties continued for the Raiders as Jarrod Crocker hit two consecutive penalty goals to extend his side’s lead to 30-12.
On night where the match officials were hard to please from a Sharks point of view, a late consolation try from Luke Lewis was also denied and the Raiders would go home with the points.
The Sharks will now attempt to regroup ahead of a trip to Brisbane to take on the Broncos next Friday night.
Canberra Raiders 30: (Tries: Rapana (2), Papalii, Hodgson. Goals: Crocker 3/4 convs. 4/4 pens.)
Cronulla Sharks 12: (Feki, Beale. Goals: Holmes 1/2 convs. 1/1 pens.)