Cronulla beat the Raiders 44-22 at Canberra Stadium with an impressive display in front of 12,227 fans. Smart football by the Sharks saw them take away the 2 points from what is usually considered a tough road trip.With a try being scored almost every 5 minutes, the high scoring and entertaining game would have been some consolation for Raiders fans who sure weren’t smiling at the scoreboard. Whilst the Raiders displayed plenty of enthusiasm and their will could not be faulted, it was their errors that cost them. Previously considered a bottom 8 side, Cronulla, and Canberra games of the past would have been expected to have a few errors. But the difference between the two-sides is Cronulla are now showing a consistency, discipline and attitude that reflects the teams they are positioned with on the ladder, Melbourne, Broncos etc. Cronulla made errors, but they made them in position on the field where they could afford to. And when Canberra made errors, Cronulla made them pay.
From the first set Cronulla had, a routine quickly began to develop, Canberra would make an error in attack and turnover the ball or give away a penalty defensively providing the Sharks with enough field position to score or force a line drop-out, all leading to Cronulla dominating possession with the ball in their hands 61% of the time.
The sharks first 3 tries came from repeat sets, gained by forcing goal line drop outs. Gallen, Carney and De Gois kicks’ all put the ball in-goal. 3 minutes in, Gallen showed his mixed bag of skills kicking a grubber to force the first. Fresh out of a Country Jersey and smelling one tinged with sky blue, Todd Carney's first of two, try-scoring cross-field kick's allowed Pomeroy and Crocker to contest the ball with Pomeroy coming away from the juggled contest to plant the ball over the try-line. Carney converted his try assist.Canberra initially hit back when Josh McCrone scored off a Sam Williams kick in the 9th minute, but it was Cronulla who took advantage with Williams and Bukuya finishing off Carney and De Gois’s drop-out forcing kicks to have the sharks leading 16-6 after 25 minutes.
After 27 minutes Canberra finally received their first penalty. Running with an inkling of momentum, Canberra persisted and their enthusiasm was rewarded when Josh McCrone strolled over running through a gap. Croker converted easily.
They continued the try-following set with exciting play offloading on a number of occasions to gain good field position but another forward pass cost them an opportunity. Minutes later, Paul Gallen slowly ran at the line and put Jeremy Smith through an easy hole, who ran 20m and passed to John Morris when approached by Dugan. Morris finished the run off scoring under the sticks.Cronulla’s errors weren’t costing them tries, Canberra’s were, and again Cronulla capitalised on Canberra’s failure to maintain possession by forcing their way up-field to score a 5th try through a leaping Stewart Mills. Mills’ effort came off a 2nd successful Carney cross-field kick.
Trailing 28-12, 2 minutes into the 2nd half, Canberra were offloading like Parra of 09’ and almost hit back early when their quick passing led to Dugan kicking for Croker, but he failed to ground the ball.The routine continued in the 2nd half with Cronulla earning a number of repeat sets, through Raiders errors and quality kick-chases that forced drop outs. Canberra weren’t lying down with Dugan tirelessly scrambling at the back trying to return the ball. Desperately trying to ease pressure on his team, Dugan was continually kicking 55-65m drop outs, but nothing was enough with the sharks attack becoming seemingly perpetual. Only a Cronulla error on an attempted put-down saved the Raiders.
Eventually the errors, and work rate caught up and Jeff Robson scored his first try for the Sharks when he ran through a tired Raiders defensive line in the 50th minute. 2 minutes after Robson’s run, the routine continued when the Sharks got a penalty off their return set, raced up field and John Williams ran one in the left corner. Leading 38-12 after Carney’s conversion the Sharks were lucky not score again with Jason Bukuya denied a try via an obstruction.
The raiders hit back in the 59th minute when a straight Sam Williams kick from 10m out was jumped on by a parallel-running Dugan.Had a few things gone the Raiders way, the game could have been much closer which was proven when Sam Williams 40-20 attempt was called out on the full only by a few blades of grass, reflecting the Raiders day. Providing the sharks with good field position, they pushed on up-field and sure enough, Collin Best strolled over to put the sharks in front 42-18 after Carney’s conversion.
Cronulla’s clinical performance was optimised when they bailed Canberra winger Blake Fergusson over the sideline in the 77th minute, when they could have given up leading by 26 points.A late freakish try to Reece Robinson gave some joy to the home fans when he showed his soccer skills to chip the ball back infield after it looked destined to go over the sideline.
'From the couch' - Max.