By Nathan Beuman
The Cronulla Sharks have showed why they are the team to beat in season 2014, with a gutsy 20-12 victory over the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium.
With both David Fifita and Michael Lichaa being called up to first grade, the Sharks relied heavily on the play of experienced halfback Ben Roberts, who played a part in three of Cronulla’s four tries.
Poor discipline cost the visitors early, when Tim Simona marked his return from injury with a fend on Josh Portlock, before scampering away and scoring in the left hand corner in the sixth minute. Stand in goal kicker Jack Madden was unable to convert from the sideline.
Marika Koroibete almost had his side’s second try within the opening 20 minutes, but was denied by a swarming Sharks defence led by Nathan Stapleton, bundling the big Fijian into touch.
Cronulla chalked up their first points of the afternoon in the 23rd minute, courtesy of a Ben Roberts kick over the top to an unmarked Junior Kirisome, who waltzed in untouched. The successful Nathan Stapleton conversion from the touchline gave the Sharks a handy 6-4 lead.
The Tigers once again took advantage of good field position thanks to back to back penalties, when a cutout pass from fullback Kurtis Rowe found its target in the form of a flying Marika Koroibete, who made his way over, putting the joint venture up 10-6 with five minutes to go in the half. Jack Madden’s conversion from just inside the touchline was successful, giving the home side a 10-6 lead.
Junior Moors proved he is a man of many talents on the stroke of half time, with a chip over the top to Cronulla fullback Kurt Mann, who was able to bat it back to a waiting Moors, before crashing his way over to lock up the scores up at 10 apiece.
With points at a premium, the Tigers decided to cash in on a penalty for a late hit on the kicker by Slade Griffin, opting to take the two points via the boot of Jack Madden, putting the home side up 12-10 with a quarter of the game to go.
With time winding down, the Sharks opted to chance their hand, turning down a gift two points to level the scores. Kurt Mann proved that would be the right decision, when he pounced on a Ben Roberts grubber kick in the in goal to put Cronulla up 16-12 with ten minutes remaining, following the successful conversion by Nathan Stapleton.
Just as the heavens started to open up in the dying minutes, so did the Wests Tigers defensive line, with Junior Kirisome crossing for his second try of the afternoon off the boot of Ben Roberts, putting the Sharks up 20-12.
While Cronulla coach Tony Herman was disappointed in his side conceding 14 penalties, he spoke highly of Ben Roberts performance.
“He is a quality footballer. I thought that when we were tired, particularly early in the game, he closed the game down for us, finding touch and giving our forwards a bit of a rest.”
This weekend the Sharks will host the Cutters at Remondis while the Tigers head up to Wyong to face the Roos.
Cronulla Sharks 20 (J Kirisome 2, K Mann, J Moors tries; N Stapleton 2 goals) def. Wests Tigers 12 (M Koroibete, T Simona tries; J Madden 2 goals) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.