The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

Cronulla bring Holmes the ba­con in thrilling fin­ish

- JAMES HOOPER

CRONULLA’S top-four dream is alive af­ter the Sharks avoided a costly up­set against Par­ra­matta yesterday to claim the club’s first Johnny Man­nah Cup.

It was a roller-coaster ride against a 15-man Eels out­fit and Cronulla needed a late fight­back to seal vic­tory.

The Sharks must up­stage Manly on Sun­day to guar­an­tee a top-four fin­ish.

Largely writ­ten off af­ter drop­ping the open­ing four matches of 2015 and col­lect­ing last year’s wooden spoon, the Sharks are charg­ing.

When the game was on the line, winger Valen­tine Holmes stood up and de­liv­ered the decisive field goal.

“We hung in there and we’ve got that belief there at the mo­ment,” Sharks coach Shane Flana­gan said.

“(Holmes) just loves that stuff. He just gets him­self into po­si­tion and just wants to do it. “He de­mands the ball.” Cronulla led 20-10 at half­time be­fore the Eels came from nowhere at Pirtek Sta­dium.

First came a 48th-minute solo try from prop Daniel Al­varo, who beat five Sharks in a 25m surge, to make it 20-16.

Cronulla kicked a penalty goal to lead 22-16 be­fore the Eels scored through Reece Robin­son to trail by two points.

Luke Kelly nailed the side­line con­ver­sion to level at 22-22 with 18 min­utes left.

Eels hooker Isaac De Gois then spun out of a Michael Gor­don tackle to score a try from close range to hand the Eels a 28-22 lead.

But Sharks winger So­sai Feki scored a long-range try to make it 28-28.

Holmes kicked the field goal to edge the Sharks to a one-point lead be­fore hooker En­nis sealed the away vic­tory with a late try.

“We could have done it a bit eas­ier for the coach but the most im­por­tant thing is we got the two points,” Cronulla cap­tain Paul Gallen said.

Asked about Cronulla’s resur­gence from last year’s wooden spoon, Gallen said: “We don’t have to go back to last year. We’ve had a lot of things go­ing on the past cou­ple of years but it’s done now.

“Last year was a dif­fer­ent team and it’s gone. We started the year slow but we al­ways had belief in our­selves that we’re a good enough side to make the top four.

“I just think we’re get­ting to where we should be.”

Eels coach Brad Arthur lamented how the club had been taught “another hard les­son”.

“We’ve got to learn how to win a game,’’ he said.

‘‘We were in front by six with about 10 min­utes to go and go into a neg­a­tive mind­set.

“We’ve got to learn (to man­age games) and we’ve got to learn fast.”

 ??  ?? BIG PLAY: Valen­tine Holmes af­ter boot­ing a field goal.
BIG PLAY: Valen­tine Holmes af­ter boot­ing a field goal.

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