Tedesco show can't stop Sharks
The Sharks have withstood another masterful James Tedesco performance to outpoint the Tigers 34-26 in a highly entertaining clash at Campbelltown Stadium.
The eight-point win was Cronulla's first at the ground since 2002, and gives them back-to-back wins for the first time in 2016.
Andrew Fifita was outstanding for the visitors, running for 170 metres and producing 30 tackles, while skipper Paul Gallen made 156 metres in a 55-minute stint off the bench.
Tedesco's outstanding start to 2016 looked to have come to a premature end barely one minute into the contest when the Tigers superstar collected the knees of Luke Lewis with his first touch.
Thankfully for the Tigers, Tedesco returned 15 minutes later and made an immediate impact with his first involvement back on the field.
After receiving a pass from Mitch Moses, the Tigers No.1 showed incredible poise to bat the ball on just as Sosaia Feki came in to smash him. Local hero David Nofoaluma was the lucky recipient of the quick hands to get the Tigers on the board.
Having showed off his dexterity, it was time for Tedesco to highlight his footwork. Popping up on the left, the fleet-footed fullback accepted a pass from Brooks before burning Townsend with too much speed to slam the ball down and extend his lead at the top of the NRL try-scorers list.
The Sharks had earlier opened the scoring after Luke Lewis carried Luke Brooks over from close range to give the Sharks a very early 6-0 lead.
A Valentine Holmes interception moments later looked to extend Cronulla's lead, but just like his effort against the Storm on Monday night, the Sharks speedster was cut down by the cover defence.
Even when Tedesco wasn't involved, the Tigers still found ways to cross the stripe. After Dene Halatau went close, Chris Lawrence charged onto a Brooks inside ball and strolled through a gap the size of Sydney Heads to score his first try of the season.
Stunned into action, the Sharks finally hit back 35 minutes after their first four-pointer, and it was certainly worth the wait.
An enterprising play that started in their own half saw the ball go through several pairs of hands, before Holmes streaked down the sideline, drew in the defence and put in a perfectly weighted chip for James Maloney to score his first try in Cronulla colours.
It didn't take long for the Sharks to erase the narrow half-time margin, with Sosaia Feki evading some desperate Moses cover defence to finish off a frenetic passage of play.
A change-over in good position – followed by a penalty on the last tackle – put the Sharks on the attack. Ricky Leutele was somehow denied by a terrific goal-line tackle, but it mattered little.
A kick from Chad Townsend was batted back by Ben Barba into the waiting arms of Chris Heighington who moved it on to Leutele, who gave it to Feki to finish off the fantastic team try, before a Maloney penalty goal moments later gave Cronulla its first lead since the opening stages of the match.
The Sharks should have extended their lead from the following set, but Tedesco showed sensational speed to shut down a Holmes-inspired break before Leutele was denied the following play for obstruction against Paul Gallen.
If the Sharks skipper was upset then, it was nothing compared to what happened next when Tedesco brushed away from Townsend for a second time to score. Gallen claimed he had been prevented from making a tackle, but the try was still awarded.
But it took just three minutes for the returning Sharks skipper to get his revenge, barging over from close range to once again give his side the lead.
A Maloney penalty goal attempt struck the upright but fortuitously went back to Bird, before the Sharks five-eighth nailed another shot at goal two plays later.
The helter-skelter contest continued from the very next set, as the Sharks left edge of Graham, Leutele and Feki combined to put Barba over for what would be the match-sealing try.
Another Maloney penalty goal put the game beyond doubt, before Moses scored a late consolation try courtesy of an interception.
Cronulla Sharks 34 (Luke Lewis, James Maloney, Sosaia Feki, Paul Gallen, Ben Barba tries; James Maloney 7 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 26 (James Tedesco 2, David Nofoaluma, Chris Lawrence, Mitch Moses tries; Mitch Moses 3 goals) at Campbelltown Stadium. Half-time: 16-12 Tigers. Crowd: 12,831. Penalties: 12-7 Sharks