A forward pass call just 90 seconds from full time has denied Sharks victory in their season opener against Souths at ANZ Stadium.
Showing admirable fighting qualities to remain in the game and give themselves a chance at victory in the dying moments, the Sharks unfortunately fell just short, Souths hanging on for a 22-18 victory.
While both sides committed far too many errors, the Sharks in the first half, Souths late in the game, it came down to a three-on-two for the Cronulla side which could easily have given them victory, however the last pass from club debutant Connor Tracey to Josh Morris was called forward by the on-field officials.
It was a tough call, but probably a correct one, with the Sharks letting slip what could have been a memorable comeback win.
The Sharks were first on the board when Aaron Woods earned a ruck penalty, Shaun Johnson kicking the goal to make it 2-0, but it would be the Rabbitohs who managed to get across the line for the opening try, Adam Reynolds sneaking through close to the posts.
The Souths halfback and captain kicked the conversion and it was 6-2 to the home side 13 minutes into the match.
This time it was Woods conceding the penalty for a high shot as Souths kicked away to lead 8-2, then yet another holding down infringement saw Reynolds kick his team out to a 10-2 advantage.
Making far too many errors, seven coming in the first half alone, the Sharks had to battle hard and they were rewarded for their resilience 32 minutes into the match, Wade Graham running into a yawning gap to score Cronulla’s first try of the 2020 season.
Johnson was able to add the extras, and with a Souths a man down due to the sin-binning of James Roberts, the Sharks had their tails up.
On the stroke of half time however it was Souths who would again jump away to an eight point lead, Campbell Graham touching down in the south-eastern corner of ANZ Stadium as the siren was sounding in the background.
Reynolds kicked the conversion from the touchline and the Rabbitohs enjoyed a handy 16-8 lead at the break.
Another error early in the second period put the Sharks under pressure and when a sixth tackle kick from Cody Walker rebounded into the hands of Ethan Lowe, the back rower touching down, it was 22-8 Souths and the Cronulla side had it all to do.
Johnson created some space on the left flank soon after and with a try to the Sharks on offer the ball was spilled, but undeterred the Kiwi international tried his luck on the other side of the field, this time his cut out pass to Sione Katoa found the mark with the winger touching down wide out.
The conversion attempt from a wide angle was successful and the Sharks had a glimmer of hope at 22-14 behind with still 17 minutes left on the clock.
That optimism intensified when Katoa was in again on the back of a slick backline movement, Will Kennedy throwing the last pass for the Sharks winger to plant the ball down in spectacular fashion just centimetres from the corner post.
Johnson couldn't convert but it was game on at 22-18 Rabbits with 14 minutes of the match remaining.
With penalties going their way and Souths now guilty of not respecting possession, the Sharks had their chances as the result was in the balance until the final minutes, the forward pass call crucial in denying what would have been a gutsy comeback win.
Katoa was outstanding for the Sharks on the right wing, Toby Rudolf enjoyed an encouraging debut match, with Johnson having a number of good touches and was dangerous with the ball.
Sione Katoa 2, Wade Graham tries,
Shaun Johnson 3 goals
Campbell Graham, Ethan Lowe, Adam Reynolds tries, Reynolds 5 goals
Crowd - 6,235