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Sharks beat Tigers in NRL comeback win

NZN 17/06/2017 Steve Zemek

Cronulla staged a stunning NRL comeback to down the Wests Tigers 26-22 in a tight yet forgettable affair on Saturday night at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

The Tigers looked to have secured victory when Malakai Watene-Zelezniak crossed in the 71st minute for a 22-14 lead in front of 11,695 fans.

However, the Sharks scored twice in the final six minutes through Jayson Bukuya and Edrick Lee to snatch a valuable two points without their State of Origin stars including Andrew Fifita, James Maloney and Jack Bird.

The Sharks only completed 28 of 36 sets and gave away seven penalties, however temporarily moved to second spot on the ladder.

The Tigers' sixth loss in a row drops Ivan Cleary's side to last on the ladder, with Newcastle to leapfrog them to 15th due to a bye.

The joint venture had never lost in six matches when leading at halftime at Shark Park.

Despite appearing well on top heading into the final 10 minutes, they failed to hold on. Daniel Mortimer - making his Sharks debut - dabbed a deft grubber in-goal for Bukuya to score the match winner in the 78th.

With a 12-4 halftime lead, the Tigers extended their advantage when Jacob Liddle strolled over from dummy-half, embarrassing opposite hooker Jayden Brailey and fullback Gerard Beale.

Brailey was replaced soon after, and veteran utility Mortimer quickly made his mark, jumping out of dummy-half to help send Beale through a hole and Chad Townsend beat a returning Luke Brooks to score reduce the deficit to 16-10.

The Sharks were poor in the first half, completing just 13 of 18 sets and conceding six penalties. However, stringing together consecutive sets, they pulled back within two points after Kurt Capewell reached out for his second try.

The Tigers seemed to have the game won when Watene-Zelezniak crossed but couldn't hold out the Sharks.

The Tigers' first-half tries were scored by Elijah Taylor and Esan Marsters.

Debutant Matt Eisenhuth was instrumental in setting up Taylor, popping a sublime ball before Marsters crashed over for his first NRL try.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan called his side's performance frustrating, allowing "soft" tries, however was happy to take home two points without his star players.

"There was a little bit of elation that we earned a win at the end but we just made it hard for ourselves continually," Flanagan said.

"And it was stuff that wasn't us. Like (letting in) tries from dummy-half - we haven't done that for a couple of years and, the last couple of weeks, we've just been poor on our own tryline. We'll fix that.

"To get two wins without our Origin players during that Origin period, however you get them, is really important."

Cleary said his side were good until the final 10 minutes but their edge defence and decision making fell apart.

"It doesn't feel too good at the moment for them but that's what's it's about - you can't hope it's going to happen. You've got to take it into your control and sort it out in attack and defence," Cleary said.

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