Tigers rout Sharks to end season on a high

Three tries in ten minutes after halftime have delivered the Wests Tigers a face-saving 26-10 win over the Sharks at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday afternoon to close out one of the most tumultuous periods in the club's history.

Austin staying at Leichhardt: Potter
Valentine Holmes not yet a first grader
Potter still in dark over future
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Having trailed a gallant Sharks side 10-4 at the break, four-pointers to Bodene Thompson, Blake Austin and Curtis Sironen between the 45th and 55th minutes brought the hardy 5,112 black and gold faithful to life and delivered their first win in six outings.

After another week of miserable squalor and persistent rain, Sydney's weather offered a handy little metaphor for the summation of the Tigers' and Sharks' seasons to the philosophical and the copywriter on deadline alike.

The sun broke through five minutes before kickoff only to be replaced by a dogged drizzle for the majority of proceedings beneath heavy cloud, much like the two club's 2014 campaigns. The end is here, but the clouds remain.

The ASADA scandal still lingers around Cronulla, and the uncertainty over Shane Flanagan's future remains, while Mick Potter could still be left perusing the want-ads tomorrow with the newly-appointed independent directors on the Tigers board no sure things to hand him a clipboard for 2015.

For now though Potter can join his charges in singing their victory song at least one more time. For Cronulla, they can again hold their heads high after a first half double to 19-year-old winger Valentine Holmes had them sniffing a consolation win of their own, despite having 17 regular first graders unavailable through injury and suspension.

The Tigers made all the running early and found their just rewards in the eighth minute when Mitchell Moses won the race to a Robbie Farah grubber for a 4-0 lead.

But Moses, standing on the try line rather than dead ball line, then undid all his good work when a misjudgement allowed the ensuing kick-off to bounce dead, and when Holmes crossed untouched in the corner almost immediately after, scores were back level after 13 minutes.

A litany of errors from both sides – the Sharks had contributed seven and the Tigers four by the 27 minute mark – saw the contest swing from end to end without the scorers being troubled, the visitors in particular guilty of squandering a number of long gallops downfield through shoddy hands.

After hammering the Tigers line for the majority of the back end of the opening 40 minutes, the Sharks hit the front for the first time when Holmes flew high for his second over the top of Blake Austin from a Daniel Holdsworth kick.

The right boot of Holdsworth again turned provider, with only Austin's own right hoof denying Michael Gordon a try after he looked to have won the race to a towering bomb that was allowed to bounce by the Tigers, ensuring the Sharks went into the sheds up by only a converted despite occupying Tigers territory for much of the contest. 

Moses was denied by the video ref due to a back-bat that travelled forward three minutes after the break, but two minutes later Thompson barged his way over from dummy-half to draw the Tigers level. 

As he had done twice already in the first half with clutch defensive plays, Austin again foiled the Sharks when they looked dangerous, swooping on an errant offload and then running 75 metres down the touchline to push the Tigers ahead, and when Sironen barrelled over from close range soon after the Tigers stretched them out to a 20-10 lead.

With Austin forced from the field by an ankle injury with 20 minutes to play, Cronulla hooker Michael Lichaa was denied after replays revealed he had touched down on a Holdsworth grubber from an offside position, before Thompson's second try for the afternoon sounded the death knell for the Sharks.

The sixth straight defeat for the Sharks leaves them with just five wins to show for their year, the second fewest they've recorded in a season alongside 2009 and 1969 campaigns that are also best forgotten for Cronulla fans.

Wests Tigers 26 (B Thompson 2, M Moses, B Austin, C Sironen tries; B Austin 2, C Sironen goals) defeated Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 10 (V Holmes 2 tries; M Gordon goal) at Leichhardt Oval. Crowd: 5,112.