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Sharks beat Tigers in NRL comeback win

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6 days ago Steve Zemek
Jayson Bukuya of the Sharks © Getty Images Jayson Bukuya of the Sharks

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

The Tigers looked to have put the nail in the Sharks' coffin on Saturday night when Malakai Watene-Zelezniak crossed in the 71st minute to give his side a 22-14 buffer 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 were well below their best, completing 28 of 36 sets and giving away six penalties, however temporarily moved to second spot on the ladder.

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

The joint venture had never lost in six matches when leading at halftime at Shark Park and looked to be in control after Cronulla had been sloppy in the opening 40 minutes.

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

After the Tigers enjoyed a 12-4 halftime lead, they extended their advantage when Jacob Liddle strolled over from dummy-half, making opposite hooker Jayden Brailey and fullback Gerard Beale look ordinary.

Brailey was replaced soon after by Mortimer and he 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 get over the stripe and reduce the deficit to 16-10.

The Sharks were poor in the first half, completing just 13 of 18 sets and conceding the six penalties. However, they took on different look as they started to string together consecutive sets to pull back within two points after Kurt Capewell reached out for his second try of the night.

The Tigers seemed to have the game won when Watene-Zelezniak crossed but they couldn't hold out a Sharks side who finished the game out with superior confidence.

The Tigers' 12-4 halftime lead came via tries to 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.

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