The Sharks and Wests Tigers were neck-and-neck for 60 minutes on Saturday evening before the Tigers ran away with it courtesy of some Benji magic and some terrible Sharks defence, the Tigers recording a 28-16 victory to jump into the top eight.
There was much anticipation leading into this one surrounding the performance of rookie Harry Grant and it took him less than 5 minutes to make his mark, backing up a Luke Brooks tackle break to fall over the line and become an instant favourite among Tigers fans.
The Tigers then scored another try within two minutes and the Sharks were shell shocked early. They advanced the ball around 60 metres from the set after points and put up a bomb which Sharks rookie fullback Will Kennedy couldn't handle. Moses Mbye scooped up the loose ball and got it away to Robert Jennings, who strolled over the line.
The Sharks were able to force a bit of an arm wrestle following that try, keeping the Tigers at bay and getting themselves some quality field position . The Tigers got a penalty, but any pressure they were applying was immediately offset when Aloiai dropped the ball in the tackle. Chad Townsend chanced his arm with a kick downfield on the 4th looking to catch Tigers fullback Adam Doueihi out of position and that's exactly what he did.
Doueihi was forced over the sideline gifting the Sharks great field position and it didn't take them long to capitalise. They spread the ball left and Wade Graham summed up the situation the way only Wade Graham can. His grubber in behind the Tigers defensive line was perfect and Josh Dugan made no mistake with the putdown.
This time it was the Sharks turn to score back to back tries. The Tigers gifted them 7 tackles as soon as they got the ball and the Sharks strolled downfield. They shifted left again and put Josh Dugan in a lot of space 20 metres out and he showed us some of his best form, proving way too strong for the Tigers defence and scoring his second try in 3 minutes.
The momentum was very much with the Sharks for the next 10 or so minutes but they let the Tigers off the hook when a Shaun Johnson cutout ball that would've put Ronald Mullitalo over was ruled to have gone forward.
The Sharks looked certain to score in the 34th minute when a 50/50 play from Wade Graham payed off. He grubbered it from inside his own half and it was picked up by winger Sione Katoa, who put in a kick of his own that found Will Kennedy in field. Kennedy had options both inside and out but opted to go himself, bombing a certain try.
He made up for it about a minute later though when he ran a great line that saw Tigers defender barely able to lay a hand on the Sharks custodian. That play was all she wrote for the first half in terms of scoring, sending the Sharks into the sheds with the lead despite the fast Wests Tigers start.
The teams remained neck and neck for the first 10 or so minutes of the second half and it didn't look like changing until some vintage Benji Marshall passing created something from nothing. In the 53rd minute he threw a huge cutout ball to David Nofoaluma who did very well do link up with back rower Luke Garner on the inside who made no mistake with the finish, however Benji Marshall missed a relatively simple conversion that would've tied things up.
The Tigers got the chance to equalise 8 minutes later through a penalty goal and from there the Sharks effort wasn't really the same. With the game in the balance, the Tigers were able to force a repeat set when some absolutely shocking defence from Sharks players Chad Townsend and Josh Dugan allowed David Nofoaluma to score a try of his own. It cannot be emphasised enough how poor the defence was, there just wasn't an effort to stop him. One of if not the worst effort I've ever seen in my time watching Rugby League. Chad Townsend was taken off the field a short time later.
They sealed the deal with 9 minutes to go through a Josh Aloiai barge-over try. The Tigers had all the momentum and it was well summed up by replacement hooker Billy Walters who turned it inside for the big fella Aloiai to storm over for a rare 4 pointer.
Cronulla had a chance to get back into it inside the final five, but they blew it. On their 3rd consecutive set on the attack Moylan threw a ball into the ankle of Josh Dugan and the Tigers dived on it. The Tigers halves took control, booting it into touch on two separate occasions. The Tigers extended their lead from 10 to 12 with 2 minutes to go and the Sharks' short kickoff didn't go 10. That was all she wrote.
The Sharks will look to get on the board in 2020 next week against the Cowboys in North Queensland while the Tigers will face cellar-dwellers the Titans also in the sunshine state.