Cronulla Sharks got out of jail on Saturday, defeating Wests Tigers 24-22 with a late try by Jason Bukuya to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against a game Tigers team.
The Sharks were as named last Tuesday, while the Tigers made one change, with Esan Marsters starting in the centre, pushing Michael Chee Kam back to the bench.
The Tigers looked looked certain to end a five-game losing streak when Malakai Watene-Zelezniak crossed to give them an eight point lead with tem minutes remaining.
Edrick Lee then touched down for the premiers and Bukuya scored the winner moments later, when he touched down a grubber from debutant Daniel Mortimer, who has recently been linked with a move to Super League.
The Sharks opened the scoring when Lee popped a late offload to Kurt Capewell who crashed over for his first try in the NRL.
The Tigers replied when stand-in skipper Elijah Taylor took a short ball from debutant Matt Eisenhuth to level the scores and Tui Lolohea’s goal gave them the lead.
Esan Marsters then forced his way over from dummy-half to make it 12-4 six minutes from half-time.
In the second half Jacob Liddle scored from dummy-half to extend the Tigers’ lead.
The Sharks replied when Sosaia Feki linked up with Chad Townsend, who shrugged off Luke Brooks’s attempted tackle to touch down.
Capewell scored his second with 18 minutes left on the clock but when Watene-Zelezniak touched down in the left corner Lolohea’s sideline conversion giving the Tigers a crucial eight-point margin late in the game.
But Capewell sent Lee over in the corner before Townsend’s goal cut the gap to two points before Mortimer and Bukuya combined to register Cronulla’s tenth win of the season.
Sharks: 1 Gerard Beale, 2 Sosaia Feki, 3 Kurt Capewell, 4 Ricky Leutele, 5 Edrick Lee, 6 Fa’amanu Brown, 7 Chad Townsend, 8 Sam Tagataese, 9 Jayden Brailey, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Luke Lewis, 12 Jayson Bukuya, 13 Paul Gallen (c); Interchange: 14 Daniel Mortimer, 15 Chris Heighington, 16 Jeremy Latimore, 17 Joseph Paulo.
Tigers: 1 Kevin Naiqama, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Michael Chee-Kam, 4 Moses Suli, 5 Malakai Watene Zelezniak, 6 Tuimoala Lolohea, 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Tim Grant, 9 Matt McIlwrick, 10 Ava Seumanufagai, 11 Sauaso Sue, 12 Kyle Lovett, 13 Elijah Taylor (c); Interchange: 14 Matthew Eisenhuth, 15 JJ Felise, 16 Esan Marsters, 17 Jacob Liddle.
Full coverage of all the weekend’s NRL matches can be found in Monday’s issue of League Express