Raiders nightmare repeats as Sharks storm home
LIKE the re-run of a Halloween horror movie, Canberra's nightmare run in close games copped another battering after injury-ravaged Cronulla came from behind to win 24-16.
Going into yesterday's game without big guns Wade Graham, Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Josh Dugan, the Sharks produced a gutsy second half to claw back from a 16-8 half-time deficit.
It was Cronulla's fourth consecutive win and moves them to 12 competition points, safely in the top eight.
It was the least experienced side the Sharks have fielded since round 26, 2014 and for that reason alone it will go down as one of their bravest and best wins.
Canberra looked to be cruising at the break but just seemed to stop playing football while the Sharks turned it up a gear, fighting back with two second-half tries.
The Raiders have only themselves to blame for the position they find themselves in.
Yesterday's defeat comes on the back of similar second-half collapses against Gold Coast, Newcastle and the Warriors to start the season.
Cronulla rake James Segeyaro had a huge impact when he came on in the second half, causing havoc from dummy half.
He set up one try with a clever grubber kick that Valentine Holmes batted back for debutant Jack Williams.
And Segeyaro and Holmes then combined for another try in the dying minutes to lock up a brave win.
Holmes finished with a double after an 80-metre runaway try in the first half.
It was a performance sure to push his claims for selection on the left wing for Queensland in his shootout with Darius Boyd and Corey Oates.
Stand-in skipper Andrew Fifita also had a mighty performance in the absence of so much forward depth, running for 133m and making an astonishing 51 tackles.
Canberra's attack in the second half was awful after starting the match with so much promise.
Adding to coach Ricky Stuart's woes, the Raiders will be sweating on scans after Blake Austin was forced off midway through the first half with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury.
The five-eighth twisted awkwardly in a tackle while scoring and will be a huge loss if he is unable to play against St George Illawarra on Sunday.
Canberra went to the break with a eight-point lead on the back of two tries to one.
Nick Cotric opened the scoring with an opportunistic try that Holmes gifted him. With Holmes willing a kick dead, Cotric pounced and Jarrod Croker's sideline conversion gave the home team a 6-0 lead.
Holmes quickly made up for his mistake, this time fielding a towering Austin bomb and cutting straight through on an 80-metre dash to the tryline.
A penalty goal to Chad Townsend pushed the Sharks ahead 8-6 midway through the first half.
Austin put the Raiders back in front when he exploded through a hole off some lovely soft hands from Josh Papalii.
Croker extended the Raiders lead to 16-8 with a penalty goal just before the break.
But the second half was a complete turnaround, with the Sharks running the Raiders ragged with Segeyaro leading the onslaught.
CRONULLA 24 (V Holmes 2 S Feki J Williams tries C Townsend 4 goals) bt CANBERRA 16 (B Austin N Cotric tries J Croker 4 goals) at GIO Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins, Henry Perenara. Crowd: 11,047