Rock bottom and left Sharkbroken
THE Sharks broke the hearts of the young Wests Tigers, snatching an unlikely 24-22 victory in the dying stages of their clash last night.
The Tigers looked destined for victory at Southern Cross Group Stadium as they enjoyed the lead for the bulk of the match. But two tries in the final six minutes to the home side enabled them to snap a troubling home record and hand the Tigers their sixth consecutive defeat – a streak which started against the Sharks in round nine.
Interchange hooker Daniel Mortimer proved the hero in his club debut. A last-play Mortimer grubber on the short side created just enough space for Jayson Bukuya to slide through to score with two minutes left on the clock.
The loss sends the Tigers to the bottom of the ladder, behind Newcastle. But they deserved better, as their young cubs showed some fighting spirit.
Centre Kurt Capewell scored two tries and laid on another in another strong performance for the Sharks in what was a dis- jointed attacking effort. The Tigers were served well by their rookies Matt Eisenhuth and Esan Marsters.
Tigers prop Ava Seumanufagai was sin-binned after five minutes when he infringed on Paul Gallen’s quick penalty tap.
Cronulla had to wait until Seumanufagai returned before they scored their first try via Kurt Capewell. The versatile centre finished off a late pass by winger Edrick Lee to cross after 19 minutes. The Tigers struck after taking advantage of their first repeat set of the game, when Naiqama produced a line drop-out. Eisenhuth fed a short
ball to allow Elijah Taylor to poke through the Cronulla line to score and give the Tigers a two-point lead after 28 minutes. The Tigers scored again before halftime via Marsters with the Tigers taking a 12-4 lead at the break.
A halftime rev up for the Sharks proved little difference when their trademark goal-line defence crumbled. Hooker Jacob Liddle crossed for an easy try seven minutes into the second half to extend the Tigers’ lead to 12. Cronulla showed some fight when Chad Townsend raced away five minutes later to leave them trailing by a converted try.
Capewell scored his second try with Townsend’s missed conversion keeping the Sharks two behind. The Tigers looked to have secured the shock victory when a Naiqama cut-out pass found an unmarked Malakai Watene-Zelezniak to score in the cor
ner, giv- ing them a 22-14 lead with just nine minutes left.
But the hosts were not done, showing why they are the defending premiers. The Tigers could do little to finish off the fast finishing Sharks as Lee and Bukuya scored to snatch a come-from-behind win.
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan felt his side could jag the win if they gained some momentum. “We left it late,” he said. “I thought we were always coming but that last try they scored I thought it might have put a stop to it. It was a frustrating game from the start. I know we had a lot of changes but we just couldn’t get any consistency in our football. It was set for set and we let some real soft tries in.
“We made it hard for ourselves. There were stuff that wasn’t us, tries from dummy half.
“The last couple of weeks we’ve been poor defending our tryline. To have two wins without our Origin players is really important.”
CRONULLA 24 (K Capewell 2 J Bukuya E Lee C Townsend tries C Townsend 2 goals) bt WESTS
TIGERS 22 (J Liddle E Marsters E Taylor M Watene-Zelezniak tries T Lolohea 3 goals) at Southern Cross Group
Stadium. Crowd: 11,695.
Sharks centre Kurt Capewell scores the first of his two tries in the win over the Tigers. Picture: Mark Evans