Rock bot­tom and left Shark­bro­ken

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NRL - SOUTH­ERN CROSS GROUP STA­DIUM

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

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