Sharks pull off remarkable comeback to down Canberra

Scott Bailey |

Ronaldo Mulitalo scored two tries as Cronulla roared back to beat Canberra 36-22.
Ronaldo Mulitalo scored two tries as Cronulla roared back to beat Canberra 36-22.

Cronulla have pulled off a remarkable Easter Sunday resurrection, overturning an 18-point deficit to beat Canberra 36-22.

On a bizarre night in Cronulla, a heavily depleted Sharks outfit looked completely out of the game when they fell behind 18-0 early.

Comprehensively beaten by Wests Tigers last week, it looked like more of the same for the Sharks when they coughed up the ball at will early.

But they were able to snap into gear for the final 55 minutes of the match, drawing level by halftime before a Kayal Iro try put them ahead with 20 to play.

The win ensures they will sit on eight points after the opening five rounds, with a bye next week to likely push Craig Fitzgibbon’s men into the top four.

Canberra will be left wondering how they let Sunday night slip away.

While both sides traded errors early, it was the Raiders who looked white-hot in the opening 25 minutes.

Xavier Savage was dangerous with every touch, stepping through four Sharks for one try and putting Canberra on the front foot in the lead-up to another.

Jamal Fogarty was kicking 40-20s, while Danny Levi was picking his moments out of dummy-half as he burrowed over for one try.

But the game swung dramatically on a successful captain’s challenge from the Sharks.

Cronulla looked as if they were going to be defending their own line when Ronaldo Mulitalo spilled the ball in a tackle, only for the bunker to rule Hudson Young had flopped in on the Shark.

From the penalty, Cronulla went downfield and Braydon Trindall was able to slice his way through the Raiders’ right edge with a dummy and turn of speed.

And from there, it was all the Sharks.

Iro put Mulitalo over on the left wing to make it 18-12, and a piece of Blayke Brailey brilliance then ensured Cronulla would be level at the break.

Busting through the middle of the field, the Sharks hooker kicked for winger Sione Katoa and then backed up on the inside to take a long pass and score.

Sione Katoa pulls of a superb tackle on Sebastian Kris.
Sione Katoa pulls of a superb tackle on Sebastian Kris as Cronulla’s defence steps up. (James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS)

The start of the second half was again error-riddled, but it was the Sharks who settled first.

Playing in his second NRL game, Iro put Cronulla ahead when Trindall went across-field and put him into a hole, before Mulitalo made it a 12-point game with 15 minutes to play.

Canberra briefly hit back through James Schiller, but Katoa was able to finish the party with a try on fulltime after a Mulitalo bust.

Making the Sharks’ revival more remarkable was the fact it came without five members of their first-choice starting pack.

With Dale Finucane (eye socket), Toby Rudolf (ankle), Braden Hamlin-Uele (knee), Royce Hunt (calf) and Briton Nikora (suspended) all sidelined, the Sharks somehow grew another leg after going behind 18-0.

There are also lingering concerns for the Raiders, with Zac Hosking already ruled out of next Sunday’s clash with Parramatta after suffering a concussion.