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Sharks head into finals on the back of Raiders loss

It was strange game, one befitting a match between two teams who were resting a number of their regulars with finals the week following very much front of mind. 

However in the end run a Raiders side with a young and enthusiastic backline and a couple of experienced halves steering them around, would run up a big lead, then hang on and prove too good for Sharks, winning 38-28 to end their regular season with a victory. 

For Cronulla it was a disappointing night, despite showing glimpses of their ability with ball in hand, conceding seven tries wasn't quite good enough as they slipped to a 10th loss to go with 10 wins on the season.  

Following a Sharks error from the Raiders first clearing kick of the night, concerted pressure eventually saw the visitors register first points, Dunamis Lui crashing over from close range. 

The conversion was successful and after five minutes, without the Sharks having a set with the football, the Raiders led 6-0. 

Soon after a strong charge from Braden Hamlin-Uele put his side on the attack and the Sharks would respond, Ronaldo Mulitalo touching down in the south-eastern corner of Jubilee Stadium. 

Kicking into a strong south-westerly Mawene Hiroti couldn't add the extras and it was 6-4 Raiders inside the first 10 minutes of the first half. 

Using the breeze and controlling possession and field position the Canberra team moved back onto the attack and a smart kick from stand in skipper Sam Williams resulted in a try to Nick Cotric wide out. 

With the breeze at his back Williams was on target with his kick at goal and more was to come in the first half for the Raiders, Tom Starling exploiting some weak goal line defence to dive over under the posts, before the hooker would set up the next one, a long break and kick for Williams resulting in Canberra’s fourth four-pointer of the night. 

Williams kept a perfect four from four record with the boot and with still 10 minutes of the opening period remaining it was 24-4 Canberra. 

After a repeat set went their way the Sharks managed to inch closer, Nene MacDonald leaping over his opposite number to claim a Connor Tracey kick, before passing to Briton Nikora to score and after the Hiroti conversion the scoreline at least had some respectability about it at half time at 24-10. 

Following what was likely a spirited half time rev up from coach John Morris the Sharks came out for the second period with plenty of energy, the video referee denying Will Kennedy a try in the opening set, but it would be the Raiders to add to their advantage seven minutes in. 

Another Sharks error gifted their opponents field position, interchange forward Kai O’Donnell ran through a gaping hole in the defensive line to score under the uprights making it 28-10, with the Williams conversion pushing it out to 30-10 and a Sharks side down on experience had it all to do. 

Things went from bad to worse when Matt Frawley brushed past some poor Sharks goal line defence, however then in a positive moment a Kennedy line break put his team on the front foot, with skipper Wade Graham stepping through to score four tackles later. 

Hiroti added the extras and shortly after the Sharks would be in again, on this occasion Sorensen darting out of dummy half before a smart off load put Bryson Goodwin over and with another two points from Hiroti to follow, the game had taken on a different direction at 34-22 with still 20 minutes left on the clock. 

Whatever hopes the Sharks may have had of a miracle comeback were short-lived however, the Sharks failing to clean up the kick off, then it was a short drop out gone wrong which saw Harley Smith-Shields stroll over untouched. 

Despite Williams missing his second conversion of the night at 38-22 it was now a long way back for the Cronulla team.  

Nikora would cross for a second off a short Tracey pass, the Hiroti kick making it 38-28, but as hard as they would try the Sharks couldn't pull off what would have been a remarkable comeback, Canberra holding on for the win in giving themselves an opportunity to finish the year in the top four pending the Parramatta result later in the night. 

While the Sharks rested a number of key personnel, so to did the Raiders, with Morris now having a job ahead if him to lift his side ahead of their week one finals appearance next week. 

Despite their being little to take from the game with both teams fielding teams which will be vastly different to those set to tackle the finals next week, the debut of local boy Daniel Vasquez was a highlight for the Sharks, with Hiroti strong in the centres while also kicking four from five on a difficult night for goal kickers.

Tracey tried hard in the halves and skipper Graham had some quality touches at five eighth to give coach Morris a selection dilemma for next week's finals clash, with Kennedy running for a game-high 178 metres in an enterprising display at fullback.  

Scoring 
4 mins - Lui try, Williams goal - Raiders 6-0

8 mins - Mulitalo try - Raiders 6-4

19 mins - Cotric try, Williams goal - Raiders 12-4

24 mins - Starling try, Williams goal - Raiders 18-4

29 mins - Williams try, Williams goal - Raiders 24-4

34 mins - Nikora try

Half time 

47 mins - O’Donnell try, Williams goal - Raiders 30-10

52 mins - Frawley try - Raiders 34-10

58 mins - Graham try, Hiroti goal - Raiders 34-16

60 mins - Goodwin try, Hiroti goal - Raiders 34-22

62 mins - Smith-Shield try - Raiders 38-22

67 mins - Nikora try, Hiroti goal - Raiders 38-28 

 

SHARKS 28
Briton Nikora 2, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Wade Graham, Bryson Goodwin tries, Mawene Hiroti 4 goals
lost to
RAIDERS 38
Dunamis Lui, Nick Cotric, Tom Starling, Sam Williams, Kai O’Donnell, Matt Frawley, Harley Smith-Shield tries, Sam Williams 5 goals