Canberra Raiders 20
Tries: Lee (23, 63), Papalii (43)
Goals: Crocker 4/5
Cronulla Sharks 21
Tries: Holmes (7), Leutele (19), A. Fifita (51)
Goals: Gordon 4/5
Field goal: Holmes
Paul Gallen won’t forget his 250th NRL appearance in a hurry, as Cronulla Sharks sealed a dramatic golden point victory over Canberra Raiders to boost their top eight aspirations.
Canberra thought they had won it after Jarrod Crocker’s 74th minute penalty goal put the hosts in front for the first time in the match, only for Michael Gordon to send the game into extra time with a penalty of his own on the hooter.
Valentine Holmes then snatched the two points with his field-goal to seal the Sharks’ fifth away victory of the season in a milestone game for their captain Gallen.
The hosts came up with the first chance of the afternoon when Blake Austin broke the line but his pass to Joesph Leilua was wayward and put down by the new recruit.
Almost immediately afterwards the Sharks opened the scoring after they marched up the other end of the field off the back of a penalty and an unlikely try assist came in the form of Luke Lewis, as the back rower’s cut out ball sent over Valentine Holmes in the corner. Gordon converted from out wide.
Back-to-back penalties then gave the visitors an easy shot at goal, which Gordon took to extend the lead to 8-0.
Cronulla were on top and they extended their lead 19 minutes in when fast hands on the left edge saw Gordon find Ricky Leutele, with the centre forcing his way over for an unconverted try on his 50th appearance.
Four minutes later the hosts were off the mark as Jack Wighton’s kick was knocked on by the Sharks before he regathered possession and found Edrick Lee in space out wide, with the wing man picking up a simple try.
Both sides threatened in the remainder of the half but couldn’t find a way over, as the visitors took a 12-4 lead into the sheds.
The Green Machine posted the first points of the second period just three minutes after the restart after a great effort to put Gordon in touch gave the home side a scrum 25 metres out. A couple of tackles later Austin found Josh Papalii with a short ball and the back rower spun over before planting the ball down across the whitewash, with Jarrod Crocker converting.
Cronulla hit back eight minutes later though as Andrew Fifita’s impressive try scoring record of late continued, as the front rower burst onto Michael Ennis’ flat ball to reach out and touch down over the whitewash. Gordon’s conversion took the lead to eight points.
Holmes was denied a second after the video ref ruled Lewis to have knocked on in the build-up to him crossing but his opposite number Lee picked up his double 63 minutes in when he pounced on Josh Hodgson’s grubber. Crocker again converted to make it a two point game.
Hodgson then came up with a great play to pull off a one-on-one strip to give Canberra possession deep within the Sharks’ half before a penalty handed Crocker a simple opportunity to level the scores, which he took with nine minutes remaining.
The hosts took the lead three minutes later for the first time in the contest, as a contentious call deemed Chris Heighington to have stripped the ball from Hodgson’s grasp and Crocker added another penalty goal to put his side ahead 20-18.
In a dramatic end to the game Fifita thought he had won the game only for the video referee to overrule the on-field decision and claim he didn’t ground the ball. Cronulla were awarded a penalty thought as he was judged to have been tackled without the ball and Gordon sent the game to golden point with a penalty on the hooter.
If they felt hard done by it was all forgotten three minutes into extra time as Holmes slotted a field goal to take home the two points in a 21-20 victory for the Sharks.
NothingButRL Man of the Match: Andrew Fifita. The front rower punched holes in the Canberra defence time and time again, racking up over 200 run metres and 26 tackles. The big man also picked up a try and was unlucky to have a second ruled out.