The Canberra Raiders put on a dominant second-half performance, led by Jack Wighton, to overcome the Cronulla Sharks 32-20 and progress to the second week of finals.
After limping into the finals in eighth position many people thought the Sharks were simply making up the numbers in the 2020 finals series.
But for the first 35 minutes of the game, it looked like the Sharks were going to cause a major upset against the Raiders in Canberra.
The Sharks led 14 – 6 and looked well on top of the Raiders, but a George Williams intercept try just before halftime reduced the lead to just four points and completely swung the momentum of the game.
The Sharks opened the scoring with a Chad Townsend penalty goal.
Only moments later the Raiders responded with a try through Joseph Tapine.
Tapine took advantage of some slack defence, shrugging off three defenders, to score under the posts.
Jarred Croker converted the try.
The Sharks controlled possession and field position for the next period of the game and were able to take advantage through Ronaldo Mulitalo.
Connor Tracey bamboozled the Raiders defence, skipping away from two defenders before throwing a dummy to open up Mulitalo who scored in the corner.
Townsend couldn’t convert from the sideline. Although minutes later he made amends when the Sharks elected to take a penalty goal.
The Raiders put themselves under pressure through errors and penalties.
Blayke Brailey was able to take advantage when Elliott Whitehead dropped it cold in front of the posts.
Townsend converted to push the lead out to eight points.
The Sharks were then hot on the attack again when Wiliams took an intercept to run the length of the field to score for the Raiders.
It was Wighton who sparked the Raiders to a dominant second-half performance with two tries and a try assist.
He caught the Sharks napping when he took a quick tap to burst his way over for his first try.
He then took a brilliant catch off a George Williams bomb to score his second try of the match only moments later.
Wighton then returned the favour when he set up a try for Williams to put the game out of reach for the Sharks.
Wighton was allowed too much space to run by the Sharks and found Williams right at the line to put him over under the posts.
The Sharks were able to score a consolation try through Sione Katoa in the final moments of the match but it wasn’t enough to save their season.
The Raiders will take confidence from their second-half performance as they look to build momentum for their finals campaign against the Roosters.
NRL News Player of the Game
3 – Jack Wighton
2 – George Williams
1 – Elliott Whitehead