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Sharks remain winless against top-eight sides as youthful Raiders hold on

Updated: Apr 8, 2021

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 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.

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 at that stage, courtesy of Ronaldo Mulitalo dropping the ball cold, and debut skipper Sam Williams forcing a drop-out.

Mulitalo 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.

Cotric pounces

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 Williams to score, who was not only captaining his first game but playing his first game of the season.

Williams finished with a try and try assist

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 who saw Cronulla trail 10-24 at the break.

Clearly looking to hit 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 knee injury Ryan Sutton, who didn't continue.

The Sharks came out swinging in the second-half and threatened to wrestle back the momentum, William Kennedy having a try disallowed, but it was Canberra's Kai O'Donnell who drew the half's first blood with first NRL try, piercing through a 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.

On the verge of 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 Briton Nikora over for his double to keep the Sharks in the game, trailing by 10.

An ad-lib phase with multiple kicks saw Cronulla eventually force a repeat set, and Braydon Trindall nearly scored. You could argue he would've without the illegal assistance from Corey Harawira-Naera, who was sent to the bin as a result, Canberra 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 different looking line-ups.



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