A second half comeback from the Cronulla Sharks has seen them down Wests Tigers 24-16 in wet and windy conditions today at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
It was a strong defensive performance in the first half from Wests Tigers that would see the visitors lead at the break, but Ivan Cleary's side were unable to go on with the job in the second half — Cronulla crossing for three tries in the space of 10 minutes to take the lead and pave the way for a tight victory.
The loss sees Wests Tigers remain on the edge of the top eight after 14 rounds of the competition, with the chance to bounce back next Sunday when they take on the Canberra Raiders at Campbelltown.
2018 Match Highlights: Rd.14, Sharks vs. Wests Tigers
As the rain settled in right on kickoff, it was Luke Lewis who looked to have put first points on the board when he raced through on a grubber from Chad Townsend, only to knock it on in the put-down.
That would give Wests Tigers a seven-tackle set and the chance to work the ball down field, posting first points of the day after just six minutes with a penalty goal in front to Esan Marsters.
Cronulla would level soon after with a penalty goal of their own, before Marsters would once again restore Wests Tigers slender advantage with his second penalty goal inside the opening 15 minutes.
Off the back of a good attacking spell from the visitors, Elijah Taylor would extend Wests Tigers lead when he crashed over from dummy half for his first try of the year with Marsters converting to give Wests Tigers a 10-2 lead after 25 minutes.
A desperate try-saver from Matt Eisenhuth on Wade Graham would see the visitors' lead remain at eight points, but a controversial decision from the officials would see Michael Chee Kam sent to the sin bin, despite the utility appearing to be nowhere near the quick tap and subsequent run from Graham.
Down a man, Wests Tigers would show tremendous goal-line resolve to hold on throughout the final stages of the half, heading to the sheds at Southern Cross Group Stadium with their eight-point lead in tact.
It was another controversial decision that would pave the way for the Sharks to get back in to the contest, with a fresh set of six on the visitors line allowing Paul Gallen to crash his way over just after the break.
The Sharks captain would then incredibly record a try assist to go along with his try — an inside ball to Valentine Holmes on his own 10m that would see the fullback race the length of the field to score.
Two simple conversions in the space of five minutes for Townsend would give the Sharks a 14-10 lead.
Full of running, the home side would make it three tries in the space of 10 minutes to extend their lead further — this time the left edge of Matt Moylan and Edrick Lee combining to put the winger over.
Townsend was unable to convert from out wide, however, leaving the Sharks' lead at 18-10.
Wests Tigers would refuse to go away and just like they did last week against the Sydney Roosters, found a way to claw their way back in to the contest with just over 15 minutes remaining in the match.
A charging run from Chris Lawrence would put the veteran backrower in the back field, before drawing Holmes perfectly to send Tuimoala Lolohea over untouched just to the left of the uprights.
Marsters' conversion would cut the hosts lead to just two points entering the final stages of the match.
With the visitors desperately looking for a late winner, it would be a solo try from Jesse Ramien four minutes from time that sealed the win for Cronulla, with Townsend converting to take score to 24-16.
Cronulla Sharks 24 (Gallen, Holmes, Lee, Ramien tries; Townsend 4/5 goals) def. Wests Tigers 16 (Taylor, Lolohea tries; Marsters 4/4 goals) at Southern Cross Group Stadium