Caught in a shark net: Brett Morris. Photo: Adam McLean
Is there nothing Andrew Fifita can't do after the giant prop showed the skills of a halfback and the pace of an outside back to keep Cronulla's top four hopes alive with a match winning try in the dying seconds against St George Illawarra.
With the Sharks in danger of missing the play-offs after a mistake ridden performance at WIN Stadium, Fifita toed ahead a Todd Carney kick that rebounded off rookie Dragons winger Charly Runciman and beat Jason Nightingale to the ball with less than a minute remaining.
Jack de Belin is upended. Photo: Adam McLean
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Nightingale, Morris(2)||Tries||3||Tries||4||Players||Pomeroy, De Gois, Ryan, Fifita|
|Players||Stanley 3/3 (100%)||Conversions||3||Conversions||3||Players||Carney 3/4 (75%)|
|Players||Penalty goals||0||Penalty goals||0||Players|
|Players||Fien 0/1 (0%)||Field goals||0||Field goals||0||Players|
Cronulla trailed 18-16 at the time after Carney missed just his third attempt at goal this season following a controversial Beau Ryan try six minutes from fulltime.
The Sharks win ended a 24-year hoodoo in Wollongong and send St George Illawarra fans in the 11,853 crowd to the exits wondering how their side had lost after leading 18-6 until midway through the second half.
The Dragons were clearly the better team but Cronulla showed great character to snatch victory after competing just 21 of their 40 sets of possession.
On that form, the Sharks would be considered no threat for the premiership but they remain in contention of a top four finish if Newcastle beat Melbourne at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
More importantly, a loss would have given the Knights the opportunity to leapfrog Cronulla into sixth position if they were to win and leave the Sharks in danger of missing the play-offs altogether.
Gold Coast and Canberra are just two points behind them and those teams will be joined by the Warriors if they beat Penrith in Auckland on Sunday.
With matches against Sydney Roosters, North Queensland Cowboys and the Canberra Raiders, Cronulla do not have an easy draw and could ill afford to blow the opportunity they were presented with at WIN Stadium. However, until Fifita's stunning try little had gone right for the Sharks as they committed handling errors, kicked out on the full and bombed tries.
For the Dragons, it was almost a case of no Josh Dugan, no worries as Nightingale slotted into the fullback role with ease to put the Dragons in a commanding position early by scoring a try and laying on another for Brett Morris in the opening seven minutes.
If St George Illawarra had won it would have been their first victory since Dugan joined the club in round 10 and that looked likely when Morris scored again.
Trailing 18-6 at halftime, Cronulla never seemed likely to recover and but Isaac De Gois's 57th minute try gave them a hope and when Ryan crossed off a Jason Bukuya kick they were back in the game.
CRONULLA 22 (I De Gois A Fifita B Pomeroy B Ryan tries T Carney 3 goals) bt ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 18 (B Morris 2 J Nightingale tries C Stanley 3 goals) at WIN Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins, Luke Phillips. Crowd: 11,853.
Twitter - @BradWalterSMH