Despite having the support of Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the crowd, the Cronulla Sharks have put in a dismal performance as they fell to a 30-16 defeat against the Sydney Roosters in front of 13,470 fans at Pointsbet Stadium.
A first half riddled with errors and brain snaps was what both sides bought to the contest. The Roosters could only manage to complete one of their first four sets with the Sharks not being much better. Cronulla appeared to have crossed for the first potential points of the half, but were rejected by the Bunker after a ruling against Sosaia Feki who had knocked on in the kick contest.
The visitors were the ones to open the scoring when Cooper Cronk got the opening four points, supporting Luke Keary on a break through the middle and the halfback scored untouched. The Sharks then got their own opportunities to attack but their general play was awful with errors, forward passes and giving away an intercept.
The worst moment of the half for the home team came right on the stroke of half time when Shaun Johnson had a brain snap, kicking straight from an attacking scrum inside the Roosters half. The kick was not expected by any of the other Sharks player and the Roosters cleaned it up. The turnover in possession was going to hurt the Sharks even more when on the stroke of the half-time siren, Luke Keary kicked cross-field inside his own half and found Latrell Mitchell on the chest who raced away untouched to give the Roosters a 12-0 lead at the change of ends.
The momentum had swung big time with the Roosters starting the second half on fire, running in three tries inside the first 10 minutes after play resumed. The first came when Mitchell ran hard at the line and drew the defence in before finding James Tedesco who dashed over. The came when the Sharks defence was left grabbing air on the back of a strong charge at the line by captain Boyd Cordner. The third try of the sequence for the Tricolours was one that could be put down to nothing less than a miracle, Matt Ikuvalu somehow keeping his feet off the sideline and his body off the ground to score a try when everybody thought he had gone into touch.
The Eastern Suburbs side looked to have scored a certain try when Angus Crichton charged through space after a Luke Keary kick, only to make what could be described as the worst attempt at grounding in recent memory. The knock-on that was ruled gave the Sharks a reprieve and they were able to finally take advantage.
Cronulla added back to back tries to get themsleves off the mark, the first coming through Josh Morris who got an acre of space after a defensive error from Cooper Cronk. The second came when they ran from right to left and used the space they got by Joey Manu charging in, and Shaun Johnson got across the stripe for the 4 pointer. The Sharks finished the game off with a third try when Jack Williams picked up an offload from Matt Prior and scored relatively easily near the posts. The Townsend conversion finished the night for the Sharks with a 30-16 defeat.
Next weekend, both sides have massive games with differing contexts, the Sharks will take on the Panthers on Thursday night, whilst the Roosters travel to AAMI Park for a grand final rematch against the Melbourne Storm on Friday night.