So close but no cigar for the Sharks

Round 26
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 24 v Canberra Raiders 26
at Toyota Park
Referee: Steven Clark

Match Summary:

The Canberra Raiders have held on for a hard-fought 26-24 victory over the Cronulla Sharks at Toyota Park tonight, in a game that almost set a new NRL record for the biggest comeback in a match.

The Raiders completely dominated the first half to lead 26-0 at the break, and appeared to have the Sharks totally at their mercy. Alan Tongue scored the first try in only the 5th minute, and Simon Woolford followed up 15 minutes later as the Raiders took advantage of some very ineffective Sharks defence. Two quickfire tries to Todd Carney before the break opened up the 26 point lead, and a massacre seemed to be well and truly on the cards.

Whatever embattled Sharks coach Stuart Raper was able to say to his under-fire troops at halftime should be bottled. Two Sharks tries within the first 10 minutes of the second half gave an improbable sniff of victory, but the game was well and truly on following a 59th minute try for Brett Kearney immediately followed by a second try for Luke Covell. Suddenly the Sharks only trailed by two points, and all the momentum was well and truly with the Shire boys.

The last ten minutes featured some desperate finals-like defence from the Raiders, which will be the only positive they can take out of their second half performance. The match reached its climax when an 80th minute penalty against Queensland centre Adam Mogg for interfering with a Sharks runner off the ball handed sharp-shooter Luke Covell a chance to level the scores with a relatively easy kick.

Despite having 4 conversions (including 2 from the sideline) under his belt, Covell was unable to land the kick - and a very relieved Canberra side clung to their two-point victory.

The Sharks have now played their final match for 2006, and finish the year sitting on 10 consecutive losses. Their team showed plenty of ticker to come within a sniff of victory, but whether that is enough to save their coach from further scrutiny remains to be seen. This victory for the Raiders will see them finish the regular season in 7th spot, meaning a match-up against the Bulldogs next weekend is on the cards.

Cronulla Sutherland Sharks: 24
Tries: Luke Covell(2), Brett Kearney, Ben Pomeroy
Goals: Luke Covell 4/5
Canberra Raiders: 26
Tries: Todd Carney(2), Alan Tongue, Simon Woolford
Goals: Clinton Schifcofske 5/5

Crowd: 9,289

By the Clock:
Welcome to Toyota Park for tonights clash between the Cronulla Sharks and the visiting Canberra Raiders.

A win for the Raiders will move them out of the dreaded 8th position, so there's definitely some incentive for them here tonight. The Sharks (and especially coach Stuart Raper) will be looking for a much needed win to finish the season on a positive note.

KICKOFF - We're underway!

4 min: Phil Graham does very well to clean up a fumble from a teammate and run the ball out of his own in-goal. An offside penalty then hands the Raiders an easy ride upfield.

5 min: TRY Canberra Raiders
A nice offload close to the line from Phil Graham puts Alan Tongue into a huge gap, and he strolls across for an easy try. Simple but effective play from the Raiders.
Clinton Schifcofske slips over as he kicks the conversion, but it still goes through!
Raiders 6-0

10 min: PENALTY GOAL Canberra Raiders
Brett Kimmorley is penalised for interference on a Raiders chaser. From 10 metres out, Clinton Schifcofske opts for the two points instead of keeping the pressure on.
Raiders 8-0

11 min: Brett Kimmorley redeems himself somewhat as his restart bounces over the dead-ball line - but from the line dropout, the Sharks drop the ball on the first tackle.

13 min: A very high Raiders bomb is well claimed by Darren Albert. The Raiders are dominating possession at the moment.

16 min: From a scrum win, Brett Kimmorley throws a pass to absolutely nobody. The Sharks recover, but they're looking pretty dusty tonight.

18 min: The Sharks suddenly spark up, thanks to a Lance Thompson half-break. Nigel Vagana goes close to scoring on the last tackle, but is pulled down just a couple of metres short.

20 min: TRY Canberra Raiders
A penalty for a high tackle hands the Raiders a full set right on the Sharks line. From there, Simon Woolford is able to take advantage of some pretty slack marker defence to squeeze through for a try. There's a hint of a double-movement, but Steve Clark awards the try straight away.
Clinton Schifcofske adds the extras.
Raiders 14-0

25 min: The Sharks rustiness flares up again as Lance Thompson is forced to kick on the last tackle. Meanwhile, Alan Tongue has clocked up his 1000th tackle for the season.

28 min: A fumble from Adam Mogg (thanks to some strong Sharks defence) hands a scrum to Cronulla only 15 metres out from the Raiders line.

30 min: Mitch Brown goes pretty close to scoring in the corner, but is denied by some good Raiders defence.

35 min: TRY Canberra Raiders
Yet another Sharks penalty deep within their own half hands excellent field position to the Raiders. This time, Todd Carney is able to put on a neat little step and slide through almost untouched and claim a try.
Clinton Schifcofske converts.
Raiders 20-0

37 min: TRY Canberra Raiders
And it keeps getting worse! Todd Carney scores his second try, taking a simple short pass from Simon Woolford and diving under the posts for an embarrasingly easy try.
Clinton Schifcofske kicks another two points.
Raiders 26-0

HALFTIME: Cronulla Sharks 0 Canberra Raiders 26

Unfortunately for the Sharks home crowd, it appears their team may have gone into hibernation a week too early. The Raiders are playing their usual brand of effective football, and could easily rack up a half-century at this rate tonight.

The second half is underway!

41 min: The Raiders have travelled 90 metres upfield on their first set. It looks like it's going to be a long second half for the Sharkies fans.

45 min: Lincoln Withers looks to have suffered a hand injury, but he's staying on the field.

46 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
The Sharks are finally on the board! Adam Dykes runs the ball to the line and slips a nice pass to Ben Pomeroy to open their account tonight.
Luke Covell adds the extras.
Raiders 26-6

49 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
A high Adam Dykes bomb is fumbled by Craig Frawley, and Luke Covell is on hand to clean up the scraps and dot down in the corner. Could the impossible be on the cards??
From out wide, Covell slots the conversion beautifully.
Raiders 26-12

51 min: The Sharks make a meal of the kick-off, handing possession back to the Raiders.

54 min: The Sharks are lining up for their third consecutive line drop-out as the Raiders look to turn the screws.

55 min: Steve Clark seems to have officially lost his marbles, ruling a fair pass backwards from Troy Thompson as a lost ball.

59 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Kevin Kingston spots a huge hole up the middle of the ruck and darts twenty metres upfield. Brett Kearney backs him up to receive the pass and score under the posts.
Luke Covell converts, and we've got a game on our hands!
Raiders 26-18

64 min: VIDEO REF - possible Sharks try ...

64 min: TRY Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Some sparkling play from the Sharks here! Adam Dykes pops a chip kick over to the corner, and Luke Covell claims a good catch and scores just before the dead ball line.
Covell nails another sideline conversion.
Raiders 26-24

68 min: VIDEO REF - possible Raiders try ...

68 min: NO TRY Canberra Raiders
Phil Graham went bloody close to scoring right in the corner, but after plenty of looks the video ref rules that he had lost the ball short of the line.

70 min: Ben Pomeroy drops a pass out wide just as the Sharks were looking dangerous once more.

71 min: Second half completion rates so far - Sharks 11/16, Raiders 5/14. Sharks on attack once more.

73 min: The game is being played entirely in the Raiders half for now, but the Sharks can't quite crack the line.

75 min: Craig Frawley takes a great catch on his own line to deny the Sharks a good scoring opportunity.

76 min: The Raiders try to run the ball on the last tackle within their own half, but Todd Carney's pass is called forward.

79 min: A huge Brett Kimmorley bomb is spilled by Craig Frawley - but a touch judge has come on and a penalty is awarded to the Sharks instead. Luke Covell is about to have a shot at goal from 20 metres out to level the scores.

80 min: ATTEMPTED PENALTY GOAL Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Covell misses the kick!! Canberra escape, but only just.
Raiders 26-24

FULLTIME: Cronulla Sharks 24 Canberra Raiders 26

Despite almost pulling off a comeback of record proportions, the Sharks will finish 2006 with 10 straight losses. The Canberra Raiders finish the regular season in 7th spot, and will face the Bulldogs in the finals next Saturday night.

----------------------------------------- players of the match:
3 - Todd Carney (Raiders)
2 - Kevin Kingston (Sharks)
1 - Phillip Graham (Raiders)