Mitch Bourke reviews Canberra’s free-flowing win over Cronulla. Here’s how the game went.
|3rd||Try Dunamis Lui (Raiders)||Raiders 4-0|
|4th||Goal Sam Williams (Raiders)||Raiders 6-0|
|7th||Try Ronaldo Mulitalo (Sharks)||Raiders 6-4|
|19th||Try Nick Cotric (Raiders)||Raiders 10-4|
|20th||Goal Sam Williams (Raiders)||Raiders 12-4|
|23rd||Try Tom Starling (Raiders)||Raiders 16-4|
|24th||Goal Sam Williams (Raiders)||Raiders 18-4|
|27th||Try Sam Williams (Raiders)||Raiders 22-4|
|28th||Goal Sam Williams (Raiders)||Raiders 24-4|
|34th||Try Briton Nikora (Sharks)||Raiders 24-8|
|36th||Goal Mawene Hiroti (Sharks)||Raiders 24-10|
|45th||Try Kai O’Donnell (Raiders)||Raiders 28-10|
|47th||Goal Sam Williams (Raiders)||Raiders 30-10|
|50th||Try Matt Frawley (Raiders)||Raiders 34-10|
|55th||Try Wade Graham (Raiders)||Raiders 34-14|
|57th||Goal Mawene Hiroti (Sharks)||Raiders 34-16|
|60th||Try Bryson Goodwin (Sharks)||Raiders 34-20|
|61st||Goal Mawene Hiroti (Sharks)||Raiders 34-22|
|62nd||Try Harley Smith-Shields (Raiders)||Raiders 38-22|
|66th||Try Briton Nikora (Sharks)||Raiders 38-26|
|67th||Goal Mawene Hiroti (Sharks)||Raiders 38-28|
|74th||Corey Harawira-Naera (Raiders) – SIN BIN||Raiders 38-28|
There was a host of unfamiliar faces – Cronulla making eight changes from their side last week and Canberra nine – but the standard didn’t falter as we were treated to a fast and free-flowing affair.
Ricky Stuart’s baby Raiders assumed control of the contest from the early stages: a concerning sign for the Sharks, who are yet to beat a top-eight side despite suiting up for finals next week.
Benefitting from youth and hunger, Canberra wanted it more than Cronulla, made evident through their at-times suffocating pressure and simple will to be involved.
Dunamis Lui finished with a career-best 156 metres, and his bruising carries set the tone for his inexperienced troops, running for 55 metres inside the first five minutes and muscling over the stripe with his fifth carry. The Raiders hadn’t even been forced to lay a tackle, courtesy of Ronaldo Mulitalo dropping the ball cold, and debut skipper Sam Williams forcing a drop-out.
Multialo made amends for his early error, hitting back with a brilliant one-on-one try against Nick Cotric, the Steeden finding the goal-line after what seemed an eternity.
Replicating his rested namesake (George), Sam Williams’ pinpoint grubber to the back corner of the in-goal sat perfectly for an unmanned Cotric to slide onto, extending Canberra’s lead to eight.
Finishing what he started with a 40-metre run, Tom Starling caught the markers off-guard from dummy half and burrowed under Braden Hamlin-Uele for the Raiders’ third try.
Having scored the last try, Starling set one up, this time slicing through Cronulla’s line before placing an instinctive on-the-run chip into the path of Sam Williams to score.
The Sharks breathed life into the contest with half-time looming: Nene MacDonald flying to get first hands on Connor Tracey’s chip and scooping it out to Briton Nikora, which saw Cronulla trail 24-10 at the break.
Clearly looking to hit the finals with a fit and firing list, Stuart wouldn’t have been impressed with a nasty thumb gash to Harley Smith-Shields, sustained after sliding into the dangerously close barrier, and a knee injury to Ryan Sutton, who didn’t continue.
The Sharks came out swinging and threatened to wrestle back the momentum, with William Kennedy having a try disallowed, but it was Canberra’s Kai O’Donnell who drew the half’s first blood with his first NRL try, piercing through the sloppy Cronulla defence.
Playing his first game in two years, Matt Frawley got his name on the scoresheet, bouncing off two Sharks defenders and all the way to the in-goal.
Starting at five-eighth, Wade Graham looked to snap his 14-match losing streak from that position, stepping and powering his way to the in-goal from a standing start 20 metres out.
Making it two tries in four minutes, Scott Sorensen took a tackle then flicked the ball out to Bryson Goodwin who didn’t need an invitation to score.
Threatening a comeback, Cronulla did themselves no favours. After letting the kick-off bounce, Jack Williams was set upon in the in-goal, they then attempted to go short on the ensuing drop-out and the ball landed in Smith-Shields’ lap, who was able to cross the stripe untouched.
With the game now a try-fest, Connor Tracey’s double-pump sent Nikora over for his double to keep the Sharks in the game, trailing by 10.
An ad-lib phase with multiple kicks saw Cronulla force a repeat set, and Braydon Trindall nearly scored. You could argue he would’ve scored without the illegal assistance from Corey Harawira-Naera, which saw him sent to the bin, and Canberra were forced to close out the game with 12 men.
The Sharks finished strongly, but the Raiders’ young defence held on in a pleasing result for Ricky Stuart, considering the calibre of talent he had sidelined.
Depending on the result of tonight’s Tigers-Eels game, these two could face off again in an elimination final next week, albeit with some different looking line-ups.
Playing his 95th NRL game, Sam Williams got the call up to captain Canberra in his first game of the season. After his handy grubber set up Nick Cotric, he was able to finish off Tom Starling’s work and get a try of his own. It was a nice touch on an individually special night and a deserving reward for the hard-working 29 year old. He also kicked five goals from seven attempts.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks: 1. William Kennedy, 2. Nene Macdonald, 3. Mawene Hiroti, 20. Bryson Goodwin, 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 6. Wade Graham, 7. Connor Tracey, 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele, 19. Braydon Trindall, 10. Aaron Woods, 11. Briton Nikora, 17. Teig Wilton, 14. Scott Sorensen. Interchange: 15. Jack Williams, 16. Andrew Fifita, 18. Billy Magoulias, 21. Daniel Vasquez.
Canberra Raiders: 1. Adam Cook, 2. Semi Valemei, 3. Matthew Timoko, 4. Harley Smith-Shields, 5. Nick Cotric, 6. Matt Frawley, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Dunamis Lui, 9. Tom Starling, 10. Iosia Soliola, 11. Hudson Young, 12. Corey Harawira-Naera, 13, Siliva Havili. Interchange: 14. Kai O’Donnell, 15. Ryan Sutton, 16. Darby Medlyn, 17. Jarrett Subloo.