It was a messy affair at Shark Park, with both sides doing their best to lose this game in front of a disappointing 8,000 locals – a stop start affair, with few expansive moments – the Raiders winning 24-14.
The Cronulla side were crippled by injuries and suspension, but considering the setbacks they had suffered, the showing was certainly commendable.
On top of early season injuries to Ben Ross and Brett Kearney, the likes of Jack Afamasaga, Paul Gallen, Misi Taulapapa and Kade Snowden were all unavailable for tonights home game.
Taking the field for the first time on the NRL stage were Johnny Mannah and Matthew Wright.
After tonights loss, coach Stuart chose to praise his side – steering away from the verbal battering he handed out last week.
Cronulla started strong, surprisingly with confidence – however a good majority of possession and field position only saw a single try to David Simmons in the first quarter of the match.
With the team desperately needing support, Cronulla fans continue to shy away from Shark Park – a much healthier crowd was needed to dig their team out night. Continued poor gate takings surely must be putting additional pressure on dwindling finances.
The early dominance of the Sharks in this match was overtaken before half time, with Terry Campese igniting to lay on a try for Jarred Croker. The Green Machine finding points prior to the break.
The Sharks regrouped early in the second, again scoring through Simmons off a nice ball from Mitch Brown.
But without their big names in the defensive line, the Sharks were let down through poor misreads. Allowing the Raiders to run in soft tries from short range, hookers Flanagan and Tongue scurrying over to score tries.
The simple tries would have broken the backs of Cronulla tonight. They were extremely soft given the rigidness of Sharks defence lines in recent times.
The Sharks rallied late, but a long range try to Terry Campese put the game beyond doubt after Tongue pounced on a lost Sharks ball to send Campese on his length of the field run to score.The Raiders weren’t at their best tonight, but did enough to win. Some poor play from Adrian Purtell gifted the Sharks some of their points and without these points the scoreline would have flattered the men from the ACT much more.
New coach David Furner would have been stoked to get the points, winning ugly is still a win. Terry Campese continues to play at his peak, again his decision making was good – picking the right times to run or pass.
New faces Duggan and Croker continue their learning process and could prove even more valuable for the Raiders at the back end of this season.