NSW Cup premiers Cronulla have defeated Wests Tigers 20-12 in what can only be described as a game that got away for Paul Fletcher’s men.
Both sides came into the Round 2 match after first up wins to start the season.
After trading early blows, Wests Tigers struck first when Tim Simona scored easily on his return from injury. Playing at left centre, Simona turned on the pace and produced a nice fend to score from close range.
Missing first choice goal kicker Blake Austin, who had travelled to the Gold Coast as 18th man for the NRL side, Jack Madden stepped up to take the conversion, but couldn’t add the extras.
Wests Tigers led 4-0 after seven minutes of play.
Wests Tigers continued to look the more likely, but we’re unable to finish the variety of chances they were creating.
Cronulla made them pay in the 25th minute when winger Junior Kirosome was left to score an easy try, claiming a nice cross field kick from Ben Roberts who had sucked the defence in.
Nathan Stapleton converted nicely from the sideline to give Cronulla the lead after 25 minutes.
The Sharks had the run of the play after that try, but Wests Tigers showed good defence to repel repeated attacks.
Marika Koroibete showed his pace to score from close range after a nice back line play and a final pass from fullback Kurtis Rowe.
Jack Madden converted nicely from the sideline and Wests Tigers would lead 10-6 with four minutes remaining in the first half.
Cronulla had had the majority of field position in the first half, but Wests Tigers looked the more likely to capitalise on their opportunities, even allowing for plenty of poor execution at crucial moments.
It looked like Wests Tigers’ NRL players Simona and Koroibete would give their side the touch of class to go into the break leading, but Junior Roqica came up with a cheeky chip kick for himself to create a try for Kurt Mann.
Mann was able to cross untouched after taking a pass from his second rower, who would surely have surprised even himself with the play.
Stapleton missed his conversion, leaving the scores tied 10-all going into halftime.
Wests Tigers came out of the blocks better than Cronulla, hitting harder in defence and making metres with ease, but again were struggling with executing for a try.
When Cronulla finally had their share of possession, they managed numerous repeat sets on the Wests Tigers line, courtesy of penalties.
They almost went ahead, but the referee saved Wests Tigers, ruling a forward pass after Cronulla had crossed.
Wests Tigers were gifted two points, which Jack Madden duly claimed after Cronulla’s Slade Griffin was penalised for attacking Nathan Waters’ legs while he was kicking.
That gave Wests Tigers a 12-10 advantage with 20 minutes remaining on the clock.
Cronulla then laid siege to the Wests Tigers defensive line, which looked like holding firm. It eventually took a kick to break the resistance, Kurt Mann latching onto a grubber kick.
Stapleton converted that try, giving Cronulla a 16-12 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Wests Tigers were showing some courageous on line defence, but they were finally cracked just before the end when Ben Roberts showed too much class to roll the ball into the in goal, Kirosome touching down for his second of the afternoon.
Stapleton missed the conversion, leaving the final score 20-12 in favour of Cronulla.