By Nathan Beuman at Belmore Sports Ground
The Cronulla Sharks have returned to their winning ways, knocking off Mounties 22-20 in a tight contest at Belmore Sports Ground.
Despite a rather even matchup that saw both sides score four tries, it was Mounties inability to turn four points into six which cost them in the dying stages of the game.
It was the right edge combination of Jeremy Hawkins and Bill Tupou that resulted in first points for the visitors, with Hawkins drawing the defender in before passing it off to Tupou on the wing, who got the ball down via his outstretched right arm.
Mitch Cornish’s replacement Matt Place assumed the kicking duties for Mounties, missing on his first attempt from the sideline, leaving the score at 4-0 after just five minutes.
Some poor aerial defense from the Sharks resulted in more points for Mounties moments later, when Place put in a kick for Bill Tupou, who came down with the ball before getting it over the strip.
From an identical position, Place was again unable to convert, keeping their opposition well and truly in the game.
Cronulla broke their scoring drought in the 20th minute when five-eight Ben Hampson put Sione Masima into a gap, before the 21 year old shrugged off the fullback to score next to the uprights, leaving Holdsworth with an easy conversion.
Mounties would not be outdone though, with replacement hooker Reece Goldsmith darting out of dummy half to score and extend the visitors lead out to 14-6 following Place’s first successful conversion of the evening eight minutes shy of the break.
The Sharks opened the scoring in the second stanza when Tupou Sopaga put his second row partner Masima in for his second try of the evening, before Holdsworth converted to bring Cronulla to within two points with still 35 minutes to play.
Some very sloppy defense in the middle third of the field saw the Sharks take their first lead of the game in the 57th minute when Hampton ran straight up the middle, breaking three tackles to get to the line and put Cronulla up 18-14 after Holdsworth drilled the conversion clear of the train tracks at the northern end of the ground.
Interchange player Rodney Coates provided more points for Mounties, when he carried two defenders to the line to level the scores up, before Place added the extras to give his side a two point lead with just over ten minutes remaining.
Masima quickly repaid his teammates for his double, pouncing on a midfield bomb that was allowed to bounce by Mounties, before getting the pass away to fullback Nathan Gardner who went over in the left hand corner.
Holdsworth was unable to find the uprights, leaving Cronulla only two points up with five minutes remaining.
When the Sharks gave away a penalty for lying on the man trying to play the ball with only two minutes remaining, Mounties looked certain to lock the scores up a 22 a piece, but Place kick from 30 metres out and directly in front missed to the left of the upright, snapping Mounties two game winning streak.
Mounties will be looking to bounce back when they host Manly on Saturday while the Sharks head to Ringrose on Sunday for what looks a mouth watering clash.
Cronulla Sharks 22 (S Masima 2, B Hampton, N Gardner tries; D Holdsworth 3 goals) def. Mounties 20 (B Tupou, J Hawkins, R Goldsmith, R Coates tries; M Place 2 goals) at Belmore Sports Ground.