After arguably the Sharks best 38 minutes of the season, an intercept by their opponents on stroke of half time, then a dubious refereeing call early in the second period, has tipped the tide in favour of the Canberra Raiders in a 32-20 elimination finals result.
The Sharks led 14-6 with half time approaching, only for a George Williams intercept to bring the Raiders closer, before a try to Jack Wighton in the early minutes of the second period, after a decision strenuously argued by Sharks skipper Wade Graham, shifted the momentum which the Cronulla team never managed to reclaim.
Also making the Sharks task a difficult one, they lost hooker Blayke Brailey with an ankle injury, then his replacement Scott Sorensen with a similar injury, making for a disjointed line up for much of the second half.
It was a disappointing end to a season in which the Sharks battled injury to key personnel while also lacking some consistency in their performances across the year.
The Sharks began with plenty of energy and enthusiasm and were unlucky not to post the first try, Chad Townsend denied by the video referee after chasing down his own chip kick, but a penalty for an obstruction in the lead up resulted in a penalty goal and two points for the Sharks.
A Canberra penalty for a high tackle soon after put the home side on the attack and after a break down their right hand side the Raiders would score through the middle on the next play, Joe Tapine brushing aside three Cronulla tacklers to plant the ball down under the uprights.
Jarrod Crocker converted and the Raiders led 6-2 after the opening 11 minutes of the match.
Undeterred the Sharks kept up the intensity, had the better of the field position and would be rewarded for their efforts, Connor Tracey breaking tackles before sending Ronaldo Mulitalo over in the south-eastern corner of GIO Stadium.
Townsend wasn't able to convert however the Sharks had pulled level at 6-all 20 minutes into the contest.
The Raiders kicked out on the full from the ensuing kick off and when they were penalised for a strip on Toby Rudolf, Townsend chipped over the simple kick to put his team back in front.
With the heavy favourites in the Raiders playing nervously and the Sharks on the front foot, an error 10 metres out from the Canberra line would see Brailey swoop, the young hooker dummying past a couple of defenders to plant the ball down adjacent to the posts.
Townsend added the extras and it was the Sharks by eight at 14-6 at the 27 minute mark of the match.
Unfortunately for the Sharks in scoring the try Brailey injured an ankle and was forced from the field, replaced at dummy half by Sorensen.
The Sharks dominance continued but their lead was narrowed very much against the run of play, Williams intercepting a Graham pass on the half way line and running the 50-metres to score and with the unsuccessful Croker conversion attempt the teams went to half time with the Cronulla side up by four at 14-10.
Early in the second period the Sharks were dealt a killer blow, following a penalty referee Atkins allowed Wighton to take a quick tap, seemingly without ever having given the Canberra five eighth the mark, and the try that followed broke the back of the Cronulla side.
Graham argued the point on the contentious call but to no avail, the try and Croker conversion giving the Raiders at 16-14 lead.
Wighton would touch down for a second shortly after, this time spectacularly catching a Williams cross field kick and with the extra two it was 22-14 and while still 30 minutes of the match to go the Sharks now had a mountain to climb if they were hoping to get back into the game.
Williams would add to his teams lead with his second four pointer of the night to push their advantage out further at 28-14, then another Raiders try, this time to Elliott Whitehead who won the race to a Wighton kick, putting the result beyond doubt.
Sione Katoa made it 16 tries on the year with a 90-metre intercept but time had run out on the Sharks challenge and ultimately their season.
The Sharks now bow out of the race for the 2020 title, with Canberra moving on to next weekend and a match against the Sydney Roosters.
6 mins - Townsend goal - Sharks 2-0
10 mins - Tapine try, Croker goal - Raiders 6-2
20 mins - Mulitalo try - 6-all
23 mins - Townsend goal - Sharks 8-6
27 mins - Brailey try, Townsend goal - Sharks 14-6
38 mins - Williams try - Sharks 14-10
46 mins - Wighton try, Croker goal - Raiders 16-14
50 mins - Wighton try, Croker goal - Raider 22-14
58 mins - Williams try, Croker goal - Raiders 28-14
66 mins - Whitehead try - Raiders 32-14
78 mins - Katoa try, Townsend goal - Raiders 32-20
Ronaldo Mulitalo, Blayke Brailey, Sione Katoa tries, Chad Townsend 4 goals
Jack Wighton 2, George Williams 2, Joe Tapine, Elliott Whitehead tries, Jarrid Croker 4 goals