It took an 80th minute score for Sydney Roosters to seal a victory at Cronulla. They lead the game 12-2 after 28 minutes but the Sharks rallied and brought the game back to 14-14.
A late Michael Gordon penalty goal ensured the Roosters’ spot in this season’s top four, while the Sharks drop down the ladder and face the possibility of an elimination final in a fortnight.
1 Roosters win despite drastic fade
The Roosters looked determined to give the game away but the boys from the eastern suburbs of Sydney came out on top.
The result comes despite an almost diabolical second half that was filled with handling errors, penalties and poor kicking. They bombed two chances to ice the game and repeatedly invited Cronulla into their half, ending the game with 15 errors.
Captain Boyd Cordner was inspirational and their defence was resolute, keeping them in the grind until the death. But they’ll have to improve on their discipline if they’re to challenge for the title. They faded after 30 minutes in their loss to Manly in round 22 and couldn't put an 80-minute performance together against the Tigers a fortnight ago too.
2 Execution costs Cronulla dearly
The Roosters gave Cronulla enough ball to win the game but the Sharks just couldn’t get it right in attack. They looked threatening on the edges but passes continually went to ground to halt their progress and allowed the Roosters to recover.
James Maloney came up with a perfect kick for Valentine Holmes to score towards the end of the first half and started the second half with another accurate kick to earn a repeat set. But from there it was mostly disappointment for the Sharks’ playmaker. He wasted seven tackle sets on four occasions with poor kicks that released the pressure on the Roosters.
Maloney put Luke Lewis, the Sharks’ best player on the night, over for the equalising try but if he wants to lead his side deep into the finals, he will need to be more clinical.
3 Pearce and Keary searching for consistency
Mitchell Pearce and Luke Keary are another two who need to find some consistency in their game. Pearce was instrumental in earning a 12-2 lead inside the opening 30 minutes. He got Blake Ferguson on the outside of his man for a line break before an inside ball gave Isaac Liu enough space to barge over for their first try.
Pearce and Keary also linked well in the lead up to Ferguson’s try but it all went a bit wayward from there. Pearce’s kick out on the full from the set after that was a turning point and allowed the Sharks to finish the half the stronger.
Keary threatened on several occasions in the second half and broke through the line to create an opportunity to extend their lead but his pass fell forward before he ended the game in the sinbin. There was some great play from the Roosters’ halves but it didn't come often enough.
4 Sharks still short of Premiership form
The Sharks just aren’t clicking as they would hope to be at this point of the season.
After being dominated in the opening half hour, they fought their way back into the game but a lot of that can be attributed to the Roosters’ ill-discipline. They executed poorly and their general organisation doesn’t have the look of a side who can go all the way to the first weekend in October.
Following a missed field goal by Pearce, the Sharks came up with a clunky set where they were bunched around the ball. They barely made it into the Roosters’ half and it ended with Chad Townsend dropping the ball before he could have his own shot at a field goal. The Roosters won the game from the following set.
5 Cronulla's top four struggle
This loss sees Cronulla fall to fifth and they could drop down further if the Panthers win on Sunday.
The Sharks looked like they would cruise to a top four finish during the first half of the season but they have only won three of their last seven.
Cronulla need results to go their way while a trip to a resurgent Newcastle side will be another test of their mindset leading into the finals, where they will most likely face a sudden death match up in week one.
What were your highlights from the Roosters' narrow win over the Sharks? Let us know in the comments below.
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