Sharks come from behind to score gritty win

Showing courage to respond and fight back from a half time deficit, while at the same time displaying the depth of talent at their disposal with five of their most experienced players sitting on the sideline, the Sharks have scored a gritty 24-16 win over the Canberra Raiders.

The Sharks had two debutants, Captain Andrew Fifita pushed through 80-minutes despite not training all week with a knee problem, while one error notwithstanding, Valentine Holmes was brilliant at the back, with all 17 players for an outstanding Cronulla win.

And while the final margin of eight points may have seemed somewhat comfortable, the game was anything but that, the Holmes match-winner not coming until the 79th minute of the match.

The Sharks had two early chances, the first when Matt Moylan was cut down with an outstanding cover tackle with the the line in sight, the second when Ava Seumanufagai was held up over the line, but it would be the Raiders who were first to score.

The points came via a situation that probably should have been defused, Holmes letting the ball bounce, only for young Raider Nick Cotric to ground it for a try centimetres in from the dead ball line.

Jarod Crocker converted from wide out and the Raiders led 6-0 after the opening nine minutes of the match.

Rather than be discouraged by his early error Holmes rebounded almost immediately, catching a Aiden Seizer bomb at the end of Canberra's ensuing set of six, before beating the chasing pack, then running 70-metres to touchdown under the uprights.

Chad Townsend chipped over the simple kick and it was 6-all.

The injection of rookie Jack Williams into the game had immediate effect, the back rower jolting the ball free from his Raiders opponent and three tackles later a Sharks penalty goal to Townsend would give them their first lead at 8-6 at the 24 minute mark of the first half.

Momentum would quickly shift and go the other way, this time in favour of the Raiders and after three penalties in succession Canberra five eighth Blake Austin sliced through, touching down under the uprights to put his team back on top.

Crocker added the extras and it was 12-8 to Canberra with 11 to go until the break.

A poor end to the Sharks next set put the home team on the attack once more and when the Cronulla side  were caught inside the 10, another penalty allowed Croker to to kick his team to a six point lead. Yet another two points for a similar indiscretion would send the teams to half time with the Raiders leading 16-8.

The second half began with the teams going set for set in the opening 10 minutes and in a big moment in the game the Sharks appeared to have bridged the gap, Sosaia Feki diving over in the corner, however after going to the video it was revealed that the winger had fumbled the ball in attempting to put it down and the Raiders had dodged a bullet.

Responding positively despite the no-try setback, the Sharks capitalised on a Canberra error and marched back down the field and when a James Segeyaro grubber on the last play was fielded by Holmes, the fullback passing inside for debutant Williams to cross, it was the visitors to c;aw their way back into the contest.

Townsend was again on target and it was a two-point game at 16-14 with still 25 minutes of the match remaining.

Playing with seemingly more energy and enthusiasm than that of their opponents, the Sharks kept pushing and with 13 to go would retake the lead, Feki making no mistake this time, finding the line after running onto a clever Joseph Paulo cut out pass.

Townsend couldn't convert but the Sharks had their noses in front at 18-16. 

A Segeyaro line break almost sealed the result, then Fifita had the chance to ice it only to have the ball knocked from his grasp just a metre from the line with four to go, setting up another frantic finish.

An error from dummy half gave the Raiders the ball at half way and two minutes to do something with it however the Sharks would keep their recent winning streak in Canberra intact,  Segeyaro intercepting a Raiders off-load, dashing downfield, then finding Holmes in support, the Cronulla number one sprinting the final 50-metres to score in the south-western corner, right under their nose and to the delight of the travelling Sharks fans.

Townsend put the finishing touches on the win with the sideline conversion after the siren and the Sharks had scored a crucial eight point win to consolidate their position inside the top eight.

Coach Shane Flanagan later labelled it the bravest win of the 2018 season to date, while at the same time emphasising the importance of the two competition points, coming despite his team being decimated by injury.

The Sharks had numerous outstanding contributors, none better than Fifita in the middle and Holmes at fullback. Segeyaro added his special brand of attacking flair when he entered the game with 25 minutes to go, while Williams and fellow first-gamer Braden Uele both did their jobs for the Sharks to a high standard.

The next assignment for the Sharks is a home game next Sunday against the Bulldogs, with Gallen, Bukuya and possibly Wade Graham in line to return.

SHARKS 24

Valentine Holmes 2, Sosaia Feki, Jack Williams tries, Chad Townsend 4 goals

beat 

CANBERRA 16