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Johnson answers Sharks goal kicking SOS without practice

Shaun Johnson has reclaimed the Cronulla tee in a season when goalkicking threatened to cost the Sharks a finals berth, but only because Chad Townsend was struggling for breath at Leichhardt.

Johnson enjoyed a strong return to fitness and form as Cronulla kept their campaign alive by beating Wests Tigers 25-8 on their fabled home track.

The victory ensures the Sharks take on Manly next Saturday night - despite losing no less than five games this year where they scored more tries than their opponents.

Johnson's first shot at goal had coach John Morris thinking "here we go again" as the Kiwi international shanked an early conversion attempt into the upright, his first kick in weeks due to his ongoing quad issues.

Kyle Flanagan's three missed attempts last week proved critical in a tight loss to Canberra, and Townsend had been pencilled in to take kicking duties right up until Briton Nikora's opening try in the 19th minute.

Match Highlights: Wests Tigers v Sharks

"I wasn’t planning on kicking today, but once I was out there I think the competitiveness got the better of me," Johnson said.

"Chad actually had done a lot of work leading into that first goal kick. I said, ‘You sweet?’ He was still trying to get his breath back.

"He was honestly gassed. I said, 'chuck it here, bro’. He said, ‘are you sure?’ I said, ‘yeah, give it here’. Then I missed it and thought, ‘f---, Chad probably should have kicked it’.

Episode 28 - Finals schedule confirmed

"The criticism you cop … I take it with a grain of salt. I feel like I’m the best kicker in the club and I’ll always put my hand up to do that role.

"I’m glad, especially in that second half, having not kicked for a couple of weeks to see a few go over."

Along with four from five off the tee, Johnson's combination with Townsend at the scrum base clicked from the outset, the former forcing two drop-outs with his short kicking game and the latter a critical 40-20 early in the contest.

But captain Paul Gallen stole the show with the first field goal of his career, rubbing salt into the Tigers wounds with a cheeky one-pointer in the 78th minute.

"I actually do kick field goals a fair bit at training," Gallen grinned afterwards.

"I actually do. The boys know it too. They always say, ‘you can’t strike them at training’. But I nailed that one.

"I asked Chaddy [Townsend], ‘can I kick a field goal?’ He said, ‘bloody oath’. The message had just got to Jayden [Brailey]. Chaddy was yelling, ‘hit Gal, hit Gal’.

"He couldn’t find me. I could see on his face he started laughing when he turned around and saw me. Thankfully I got it."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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