Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
The Cronulla Sharks have secured the final place in the top eight after defeating the Wests Tigers 25-8 in a do-or-die encounter at Leichardt Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Played before a sell-out crowd of 19,491 supporters, the Sharks clinched seventh position courtesy of a dynamic opening to the second half to set up an elimination final clash against the Sea Eagles at Lottoland next week.
In a remarkable build up to the match, Tigers legend Robbie Farah was a shock inclusion - less than a month after breaking his tibia - after fullback Corey Thompson suffered an achilles strain in the warm up.
As a result of the euphoria generated around Leichardt Oval following Farah's inclusion, the home side started strongly with makeshift fullback Paul Momirovski opening the scoring via a penalty goal (5th minute) next to the posts.
Coming close to responding through rookie speedster Ronaldo Mulitalo, the Sharks struck back through Briton Nikora (20th minute) following an audacious 40/20 by Chad Townsend to put the visitors on the front foot.
With both teams exchanging sets and the crowd letting their feelings known - especially towards former Tigers captain Aaron Woods - Momirovski levelled the scores at 4-all with his second penalty goal (35th minute).
Taking a fortuitous 6-4 lead to the change of ends, Shaun Johnson put the visitors ahead following an incorrect play the ball from David Nofoaluma close to the Tigers' goal line.
Coming out of the sheds with an attacking focus in mind, three tries inside the opening ten minutes saw the Sharks establish a unassailable 24-4 lead courtesy of four-pointers to Josh Morris (44th minute) and a double to Sosaia Feki (47th and 50th minutes).
Needing to find a spark to keep their finals fire alive, Luke Brooks sent Luke Garner (60th minute) on a rampaging run to reduce the margin to 24-8 with a quarter of the match remaining.
Taking advantage of the lack of composure shown by their opponents, the Sharks iced the result with captain Paul Gallen (79th minute) nailing the first field goal of his career on the stroke of fulltime to seal the 25-8 win.
As a result of the win Cronulla captain Paul Gallen will become the fourth oldest player to feature in first grade next weekend, while the illustrious career of Tigers legend Robbie Farah draws to a close after 303 NRL appearances - including a club record 277 for the Wests Tigers.
Next week, the Sharks face an elimination final against the Sea Eagles at Lottoland, while the Tigers will begin preparations for 2020 after finishing the season one win shy of the play-offs.
Wests Tigers 8 - Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 25
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
Halftime Score: Wests Tigers 4 Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 6
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Aaron Woods
2 points - Briton Nikora
1 points - Shaun Johnson
WESTS TIGERS (8)
Tries: Luke Garner
Conversions: Paul Momirovski (0/1)
Penalty Goals: Paul Momirovski (2/2)
CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS (25)
Tries: Briton Nikora, Josh Morris, Sosaia Feki (2)
Field Goals: Paul Gallen (1/1)
Conversions: Shaun Johnson (3/4)
Penalty Goals: Shaun Johnson (1/1)