A brave Wests Tigers side have gone down fighting 22-16 to the defending premiers Cronulla Sharks in a tight Round 9 affair at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday night.
After clawing their way back from a 10-2 deficit to lead 14-10 at the break, it was Sharks playmaker Chad Townsend who broke the deadlock with a superb solo try with 10 to go.
Battling bravely without James Tedesco (concussion) and Aaron Woods (groin), Wests Tigers were unable to come up with the winning play late in the match as the Sharks held on to win.
The home side looked to have gotten the match off to the perfect start when David Nofoaluma grubbered through for himself after just three minutes of play, but a desperate kick at the ball from Valentine Holmes saved the day for the visitors.
A penalty off the ball for Wests Tigers after eight minutes not only negated a strong carry from Holmes, it gave the home side the chance to take an early lead, with Mitchell Moses making no mistake from in front to give his side a 2-0 advantage.
Making his first appearance in Sharks colours in place of the injured Luke Lewis, it was Tony Williams who grabbed the first try of the night after 10 minutes — bursting his way through some flimsy defence on the right edge to score his first try of the year.
James Maloney had no problems converting, giving the visitors a early 6-2 lead.
After a mistake in the play the ball from Wests Tigers on their line line, Cronulla quickly extended their lead through Sosaia Feki, who did well to stay in as he planted it down.
Maloney’s missed conversion left the Sharks’ lead at 10-2 after 17 minutes of play.
Wests Tigers were dealt a blow when Aaron Woods was helped from the field with injury midway through the first half, but they didn’t let it show, as Luke Brooks took on the line with speed before popping a pass for Kevin Naiqama to score in the corner!
Moses was unable to convert from out wide, cutting the Sharks’ lead to 10-6.
Talented teenager Moses Suli would level the match with seven minutes remaining in the half when he proved too strong for the Sharks defence, planting it down for the second try of his career. And after missing his first kick from a similar position, Moses made no mistake this time around, converting to put the hosts back in front, 12-10.
After a swinging arm from Maloney on Tedesco saw the fullback forced off for the remainder of the match for concussion, Moses showed a cool head to convert from 30m out on the stroke of half-time to give the home side a 14-10 advantage at the break.
A tight start to the second half saw both sides survive close calls from the Bunker, before a third penalty goal to Moses for an infringement in the tackle took the score to 16-10.
It didn’t take long for Cronulla to hit back, however, with Wade Graham’s pass finding Holmes, who dove under the posts to level the match at 16-all after 58 minutes.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 69th minute when Chad Townsend showed great touch to kick and regather, scoring next to the posts to give Maloney an easy conversion and give the visitors the lead again — holding a 22-16 advantage late in the piece.
Wests Tigers were unable to bridge the gap in the final minutes as poor last tackle options and execution saw the Sharks hold on to a six-point win in the end.
Cronulla Sharks 22 (Williams, Feki, Holmes, Townsend tries; Maloney 2/3 goals) def. Wests Tigers 16 (Naiqama, Suli tries; Moses 4/5 goals) at Leichhardt Oval