Fifita inspires Sharks to four-game streak with win over Raiders
The injury-ravaged Cronulla Sharks have secured a thrilling 24-16 victory over the Canberra Raiders, with a late Valentine Holmes runaway try securing their sixth win in as many games at GIO Stadium.
Off the back of a mammoth effort from their captain Andrew Fifita - who played the entire 80 minutes - the Sharks overcame the late withdrawal of Paul Gallen to come back after having trailed by eight at half-time.
The loss halts Canberra's momentum. They'd won four of their previous five games but poor end-of-set options came back to haunt them.
The defeat was further compounded by a serious ankle injury suffered by Blake Austin which resulted in him leaving the field just before half-time.
Cronulla looked to have crossed early when Matt Moylan capitalised on an overlap on his right edge only to lose the ball over the line.
Match: Raiders vs Sharks
Venue: GIO Stadium
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Poor ball control placed the Raiders under huge early pressure as the away side looked to have crossed after Valentine Holmes tapped a kick back, only to see desperate defence from Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker holding up Ava Seumanufagai in goal.
Against the run of play, Canberra landed a counter-punch against the Sharks, after Nick Cotric grounded a kick inches inside the dead-ball line after Holmes failed to make the ball dead.
Holmes went from villain to hero minutes later after he returned a Blake Austin 75 metres to score under the posts.
Then, after a glut of possession thanks to poor ball control and penalties from the Raiders, Cronulla elected to take the two points to lead 8-6.
On the back of three straight penalties, Blake Austin surged through the middle of the Sharks defence to score under the posts and make it 12-6. However, in a huge blow for the home side, Austin suffered an ankle injury while scoring and was taken from the field minutes later.
Cronulla had plenty of chances to cut into the lead after the resumption. A sweeping move to the left ended in sadness after Sosaia Feki was found to have dropped the ball while attempting to score a try.
That pain of that missed opportunity didn't last long as Holmes batted back a kick which allowed Jack Williams to score in his NRL debut and cut the Raiders lead back to two points.
A crucial turnover from the Raiders saw Aidan Sezer kick out on the full and the home side again invited the Sharks to search for points.
They did not have to be asked twice, as they took advantage of some tiring defence on the Raiders right edge. Feki made up for his earlier bombed try and the Sharks led 18-16.
James Segeyaro continued to cause havoc around the tiring Raiders defenders, with another scything run setting up what would have been the match-winning try, only to see Andrew Fifita stripped of the ball just before he stretched out to plant it over the line.
News & Notes: Cronulla's Paul Gallen was ruled out pre-game with his ongoing knee injury ... Canberra prop Shannon Boyd played his 100th NRL game ... Former North Queensland Cowboys player Braden Uele made his club debut with the Sharks ... Jack Williams made his NRL debut for the Sharks ... Raiders are away to St George Illawarra at Mudgee next weekend and Cronulla are at home to Canterbury.