The Toyota Cup Sharks gave up a big second half lead to finish in a 36-all draw with South Sydney at ANX Stadium
Sharks coach James Shepherd would on one hand have been proud of the efforts of a team fielding five Toyota Cup debutants, then on the other hand devastated that his young charges were unable to defend what appeared to be a match-winning lead.
The Sharks led 26-6 at half time, then 36-12 midway through the second half, before giving up four late tries in a 36-all draw with Souths in their round nine match played at ANZ Stadium.
It was an enthusiastic Sharks side which jumped straight on the front foot against a somewhat lethargic South Sydney team in the early exchanges, with Josh Lambert in his first match in the Toyota Cup touching down wide out.
In the next set of six the Sharks crossed for their second try, this time it was Daniel Moroko going over untouched after a clever cut put pass from fullback Kyle Eather.
Despite both conversions being unsuccessful from wide angles the Sharks had a handy 8-0 lead after less than 10 minutes of the match had elapsed.
Souths struck back minutes later after with a well worked play down the short side but the Sharks continued to push forward, with three more first half tries, two to front rower Tyrone Viiga and one to Eather, sent the Sharks to the half time break ahead by 26-6.
The Rabbitohs began the second stanza well enough with a try following a Sharks goal line error, however a second four pointer to Lambert and a long range try to another NYC debutant in Finlay Dibley put the Sharks out to a 36-12 lead and seemingly the two competition points were well in their keeping.
The young Sharks, with an abundance of new faces after coach James Shepherd wielded the axe following last week’s disappointing loss, began to get the wobbles, with Souths mounting a series of attacking raids on the Sharks line.
Two tries down the right hand side, both converted from near touch gave the Rabbitohs hope, before another try near to the uprights, with the extra two points added, brought the margin back to just six with around eight minutes of the match remaining.
The Sharks had seemingly weathered the storm, before a freakish last tackle chip and chase was regathered by half back and captain Luke Keary, who then won the race to the try line in an angled run before diving over in the north eastern corner of ANZ Stadium.
With the fulltime siren having already sounded it was left to Souths hooker Apisai Koroisau to calmly pot the difficult conversion attempt between the sticks to make it 36-all and secure a valuable competition point for his team.
It was a disappointing end to an encouraging performance by the Sharks who seemingly had the victory well and truly in their keeping.
The draw sees the Sharks move into eighth spot on the NYC ladder, and next week they host the side they replaced in eighth, the Melbourne Storm, at Toyota Stadium with kick-off at 12:45pm.