Match Report: NRL Trial vs. Sharks

Match Report: NRL Trial vs. Sharks
NRL Trial game at Campbelltown Stadium. West Tigers v Cronulla Sharks 20/2/16. Shows Chris Lawrence try. Digital Image by Chris Lane @NRL.

Wests Tigers have fought back to claim a well-deserved 30-30 draw with the Cronulla Sharks in Saturday’s NRL trial match at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.

Jack Bird had the chance to be the hero in the final minute, but came up with an error just metres out from the Tigers’ line with Valentine Holmes unmarked on his outside. 

James Tedesco set up a number of tries for the hosts, while James Maloney and Chad Townsend controlled the game well for the visitors. 

Maloney was held up over the line by Aaron Woods in the early stages before Wests went on the attack after receiving back-to-back penalties, with David Nofoaluma finishing off some slick hands from Mitch Moses and Tedesco to score in the corner. 

More ill-discipline from the Sharks cost them, with Chris Lawrence swooping on a well-weighted Jack Littlejohn grubber to extend the lead.

The visitors didn’t have to wait long to respond, with a towering kick from new recruit Chad Townsend spilled by Justin Hunt. Bird swooped on the loose ball to score after 15 mins to cut the gap to four. 

A pinpoint Chad Townsend kick earned his side a repeat set, and the Sharks capitalised on the extra possession, taking the lead through veteran Luke Lewis. Just as he did all of last year, Michael Ennis did the damage, grubbering from dummy-half to set up his flying back-rower to score under the posts. Maloney’s conversion gave the visitors a 12-10 lead after 23 minutes. 

The Sharks were desperately unlucky not to extend their lead moments later, with a Maloney grubber hitting the post to deny skipper Paul Gallen an easy four pointer. 

The upright’s intervention delayed the inevitable, with an audacious Andrew Fifita offload eventually finding its way to Valentine Holmes to score in the corner.

After conceding 18 quick points, the home side hit back in what would turn out to be the try of the night.

Robbie Farah scooted from dummy-half, offloading to a flying Tedesco, who drew in Bird before finding Moses to finish off the 60-metre effort. 

Bird put down a high kick late in the half, but recovered quickly to help increase Cronulla’s lead. The energetic fullback latched onto superb inside pass from Wade Graham to almost slice through for his second.

Three plays later, Ennis found a hard-running Sam Tagatese with a bullet cut-out pass close to the line to push the lead out to eight at the main break. 

Ben Barba entered the fray in the second half, shifting Bird to the centres. Both men made an immediate impact, with Barba shutting down a break by the Tigers, before Bird crossed for his second after a good run from Feki. 

Cronulla almost cracked them again, but a Barba kick return came unstuck when he forced a pass that didn’t need to be thrown. 

The Tigers needed a lift, and found one through their kicking game. Three line drop-outs in quick succession each led to tries, incredibly drawing scores level with 10 minutes to play.

James Tedesco threw the final pass for tries to Jordan Rankin and Naiqama, before former Manly halfback Jack Littlejohn set up Nofoaluma for his second of the night with another deft kick early in the count. 

Andrew Fifita fell victim to the referees’ crackdown on incorrect play the balls with five minutes left but the Tigers couldn’t make him pay, instead coming up with an error to gift the Sharks field position. 

Bird did well to get around his man, but couldn’t deliver the ball in greasy conditions that would have won his side the game at the death. 

Wests Tigers 30 (Nofoaluma 2, Lawrence, Naiqama, Moses, Rankin tries; Moses 2/3, Rankin 1/3 goals) drew Cronulla 30 (Bird 2, Lewis, Holmes, Tagatese tries; Maloney 5/5 goals)

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Match Report: NRL Trial vs. Sharks

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