NRL 2021: Sharks outmuscle Broncos to keep finals dream alive
The Sharks are back in eighth position on the ladder and control their own finals destiny after a comeback 24-16 win over the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium. With club legend Andrew Fifita on the sideline after recovering from surgery on a fractured larynx the Cronulla side epitomised the courage the 2016 premiership winner has shown.
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Coach Josh Hannay said Fifita’s presence was a huge lift to the team.
“He realises we are a young group and while he can’t be out there physically contributing, just an arm around the young guys and a little word of advice before the game is (inspiring),” Hannay said.
“Andrew has done some wonderful things for the club and the players really look up to him.”
Cronulla will be sweating on the match review committee’s ruling on a high and late shot by centre Jesse Ramien on Herbie Farnworth which was picked up by the bunker.
The Sharks will also be hoping that the Storm do them a favour and rest their stars for the final round match when the two sides clash on Friday night on the Gold Coast.
“There is some chat that they will rest some players but our motto for some time has been that if we win we control our destiny,” Hannay said.
Cronulla, equal on 22 points with the Raiders but with a better points differential, may have to win that clash to book a place in the play-offs.
Cronulla, trailing 10-4, scored twice while Thomas Flegler was in the sin-bin in the first half to set up the win with Will Kennedy, Braydon Trindall and Briton Nikora all on song.
The Broncos lost Brendan Piakura to the bin in the second half for a late shot on Trindall as the Sharks started to get the jitters and blow try scoring chances, but they hung on with traditional Sharks grit and determination.
“We weren’t great tonight but we were great with our attitude and tough in the tough parts,” Hannay said.
“I think we do [deserve to play finals]. Nothing has been gifted to us.”
The magic of fullback Kennedy has been a feature of the Sharks play this year and the tyro fullback set up an acrobatic Sione Katoa for the opening try.
The Broncos fought to the lead and the Sharks needed something and they got a break when Flegler was binned for a high shot on Jack Williams. The brute strength of Jesse Ramien to get the ball down with four defenders grappling with him was the spark the Sharks needed.
The Sharks will have to be far better to beat Melbourne but they were desperate. A try saver by Matt Moylan on Selwyn Cobbo late on was critical in getting them home. Moylan’s defence was superb at the death and inspired his side to hang on. It was the sign of a team that wanted to play finals footy and did everything to give themselves a chance.
The Broncos also had TC Robati put on report for a crusher tackle on Trindall.
When the Sharks run out at CBUS Super Stadium next Friday night against the Storm they will have their destiny in their own hands. They will know the result of the Raiders v Roosters game the previous evening. The Sharks have the better for and against with -24. The Raiders have a points differential of -73. Two points further back on the ladder the Titans (-47) have a better points differential than Canberra but will have to beat the Warriors well on Sunday and hope the Sharks and Raiders both lose. Any which way, the battle for eighth spot will not be decided until the final round.
Good things have happened around Kennedy this year and this clash was no different. He leads most of the Sharks attacking statistics and took his line break assists to 22 for the year. His rapport with halfback Trindall has been a factor in the Sharks remaining in the finals hunt. Kennedy’s chase pressure on Cobbo when the game was on the line saved a try and showcased his desperation and effort.
“He has gotten to the point where we are not just talking about a guy in good form. We are talking about a really good player,” Hannay said.
The Sharks went left, to right and back to the left to score a critical try on the cusp of halftime that ignited their finals hopes when Flegler was in the bin. Kennedy got hammered and threw a brilliant tip-on pass to Katoa who ran 50 metres diagonally from his right wing to link with Connor Tracey.
Originally published as NRL 2021: Sharks outmuscle Broncos to keep finals dream alive
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