Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
19 hours ago
A rare sunny Sunday has produced a thriller at Leichhardt Oval, with Tigers prevailing in golden point 17 points to 16 in front of a packed house of 19,762.
The stands were heaving at Leichhardt with the anticipation of a new season and the Tigers fan hoping for a strong start to the season. They were rewarded three minutes into the contest when Beau Ryan crossed and Marshall converted to make it 6-0.
After some early jitters, Cronulla found their way into the contest also finding their short passing game from Smith and Tupou to send returning hooker Isaac De Gois over for the first Sharks try of 2012.
Tigers continued to capitise on errors by the Sharks when talisman five eight Benji Marshall stepped his way to the line, opening the Sharks defense like a tin can. His try and conversion giving us the halftime scoreline of 12-4 to the home side.
Cronulla had a scare when Matt Utai nearly danced his way to the tryline. They needed their newest star to fire if they were to get back into the contest and Carney obliged.
He drew in several defenders and gave a great pass to Best who spun past Ayshford to get Cronulla within four points at 12-8 with plenty of time to play.
For the go ahead points, it was all Carney as he repeated the efforts of Marshall earlier to level proceedings then converted it to take the lead.
Wests knew they needed something to stop the momentum and had several chances spurned which could have sealed the contest much earlier. Cronulla though capitialised on a penalty to extend their lead by two, forcing Wests to score and convert for the win.
You can't keep the Tigers at bay forever though, spreading it from left to right finally getting it to winger Beau Ryan who kicked for himself, beating Todd Carney to the punch to make it 16 all again.
Marshall couldn't ice the cake and into extra time we went.
Carney could've been the hero when the kick-off hit the crossbar and rebounded to Fifita. Carney tried the early field goal and was denied.
From a penalty, Wests drove upfield for Maestro Marshall to conduct another late victory.
It isn't all good news for the Tigers though, rookie fullback James Tedesco's season might be over after injuring his knee returning a ball.
Wests Tigers 17 defeated Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 16
National Rugby League - Round 1 - Sunday March 4, 2012 2:00pm
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
Referee: Jared Maxwell and Chris James
Video Referee: Steve Clark
Touch Judges: Jason Walsh and Henry Perenara
Halftime: Wests Tigers 12 Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 4
Wests Tigers (17)
Tries: Benji Marshall, Beau Ryan (2)
Field Goals: Benji Marshall (1/1)
Conversions: Benji Marshall (2/3)
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks (16)
Tries: Todd Carney, Colin Best, Isaac De Gois
Conversions: Todd Carney (1/3)
Penalty Goals: Todd Carney (1/1)
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Welcome to a sun drenched Leichhardt Oval where the Wests Tigers will open their season, hosting the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks with high profile recruit, Todd Carney.
Two changes for Cronulla; John Williams in for Stewart Mills and Jason Bukuya on he bench for Mark Tafua. Tigers 1-17.
1 min: We have kick off and a penalty, for a strip on first tackle.
3 min: TRY
Tigers have their first points for 2012 and it's to Beau Ryan. He pounced on a ball which wasn't cleaned up by Nathan Gardener. Marshall converts his first of the year as well.
Wests Tigers 6-0
5 min: Benji Marshall is collected as he kicks the ball and it's out on the full.
5 min: Ben Ross takes a charging hit up but he forgets about holding the ball, releasing the pressure.
7 min: Fortunate call for the Sharks there off a towering bomb from Marshall. The ball is deemed to have gone back from Wright and knocked on by the Tigers.
9 min: Beau Ryan is rewarded for struggling in the tackle with a penalty but Asyhford spills it.
11 min: Sharks go close twice through Gallen but they loop a few passes wide and it's spilt by Gardener.
13 min: Another towering bomb by Marshall is spilled by the Sharks back three. Prime opportunity here.
14 min: Early season rust though sees the ball hit the ground and Cronulla will ruck it away.
17 min: TRY
Cronulla run it through Smith and Tupou with short passing at the line before getting it to De Gois who finds the tryline. Not a first conversion attempt for Todd Carney to remember as it goes wide.
Wests Tigers 6-4
20 min: Cronulla are steaming downfield and almost have a second try but it goes begging on last tackle.
21 min: Tigers will take control of the ball here after a quick drinks break. Nathan Gardener did well to catch the bomb but is crunched by Utai then next tackle, it's knocked on by Matthew Wright.
22 min: Bit lucky there by the Tigers it looked that it was rolled forward by Galloway but De Gois is pinged for offside.
24 min: TRY
Sharks left too much of a gap in their defense and Marshall just stepped through them to give the Tigers their second. Marshall again converts to make it an eight point lead.
Wests Tigers 12-4
25 min: Simple error again by the Sharks, this time by Gardener trying to scoot from dummy half. Tigers will take over from the halfway.
27 min: Farah to Marshall who goes inside to Tedesco who slices through but is brought down by Pomeroy. His pass to Lawrence is judged to have gone forward.
28 min: Forward from dummy half by Isaac De Gois, Cronulla just can't get anything going currently.
30 min: The sniper is in the house and has taken out poor James Tedesco who has stepped and just fallen like a sack of potatoes.
31 min: Three or four show and go's by Ayshford but in the end, he's shown the sideline at full force. He then tries to get up fighting but Maxwell calms things down.
32 min: Offside Grout, another penalty Sharks.
34 min: Wade Graham throws an impossible ball to Gallen who can't handle it.
35 min: Things unraveling a bit in the dying embers of the first half.
39 min: Marshall tries to run it on fifth but his pass goes astray and Ellis is wrapped up. More injury woes for the Tigers with Moltzen clutching at his wrist.
40 min: Tom Humble gives the Tigers one more chance at points in this half but a Marshall cut out to Ryan see's the winger step on the sideline and that will be halftime.
41 min: Both teams have made their way back onto the field. Tigers kick us off, for the second half.
41 min: Paul Gallen with the uncharacteristic error from his own half.
43 min: Long ball to Ayshford but he spills it.
46 min: Tigers try to go down the short side but it floats over the touch line.
Checking if twinkle toes Utai didn't step out.
49 min: NO TRY! Massive cut out to Utai who tip toes down the sideline but he unfortunately touches the sideline which denies him.
50 min: Sharks looking dangerous with runners making inroads into the Tigers defense but a spill by Carney quells the excitement.
51 min: Momentum seems to be swinging here, Adam Blair pinged for an offside penalty.
53 min: TRY
Carney takes it to the line, drawing in defenders then passes to Best who juggles it but gathers, swivels and get the Sharks within four points. Todd Carney with this conversion, swings it wide to the left.
Wests Tigers 12-8
56 min: Some real razzle dazzle tunnel ball from the Tigers there to keep it alive on fifth but it is knocked on
57 min: Sharks really stepping up now, penalty against the Tigers has them in position to at least tie the game.
60 min: TRY
The pressure toils on the Tigers. Carney finds a gaping hole, steps through it and might have given Cronulla the lead. The easier conversion is slotted and here comes Cronulla.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 14-12
62 min: Surging runs by Utai and the forwards has the Tigers on a roll but Robbie Farah can't accept an offload from Ellis and it breaks down.
63 min: Ouch, an old fashioned coathanger by Beau Ryan catches Gardener but to his credit, he apologises straight away. Ryan is spoken to and put onto report. Penalty Sharks.
64 min: Colin Best bursts through the line and is caught short of the line, he couldn't resist extending the arms and making it a double movement.
67 min: Tigers get six again after Jeremy Smith plays at a Benji Marshall kick. Meanwhile Wade Graham is being assisted off the field and Nathan Gardener has cramp.
68 min: Third tackle kick by Marshall finds Beau Ryan with the need to just touch down to score but he spills it.
70 min: Tigers attacking again but Benji spills it trying something on fifth.
74 min: PENALTY GOAL
Sharks opt for a penalty goal, to waste time and force the Tigers to convert to win. Carney nails it.
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 16-12
Beau Ryan could have scored the match winner himself, checking the putdown.
78 min: TRY
Tigers keeping it alive, goes to Ryan who is hugging the touchline, so he kicks for himself and wins the race then scores to level the game. Marshall steps up to win the game with this kick but it curled left and away.
80 min: Carney tries something magical in the last second but it's knocked on. EXTRA TIME coming.
Tigers won the coin toss and deferred. Cronulla will kick off.
81 min: Here we go and the kick-off comes off the crossbar. Penalty Tigers, Cronulla offside.
82 min: FIELD GOAL
Tigers roll up field and Benji Marshall slots the field goal then celebrates.
Wests Tigers 17-16