Roosters 14 Sharks 14
The Sharks Ricky Leutele goes over the line to score for Cronulla. Photo: Brendan Esposito
They were teammates last week but last night, their duel against each other was the key to their respective sides' fortunes. Cronulla five-eighth Todd Carney and Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce shared the spoils - as well as a host of missed field-goal attempts.
Carney, playing against his old club Sydney Roosters, came up with the good and the not so good, as did his friend Pearce. Which is probably why, after 90 minutes, the teams could not be split.
Sharks, Roosters share the spoils
The Sharks and Roosters played out a 14 all draw at Toyota Stadium. Pictures by Brendan Esposito. Selected images available from www.fairfaxsyndication.com. Follow us at http://twitter.com/photosSMH. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Pearce started and ended the match well, taking the match into extra time with a late flourish, while Carney was consistent throughout. Yet neither could find the winning point in the golden-point period.
The way both players fluffed their field-goal attempts in extra time gave this contest a ''neither side deserved to lose, but neither really deserved to win either'' feel.
Much of the interest in the contest came down to who was off the field rather than on it. The Sharks lost a host of players in the days and even hours leading into the contest, including skipper Paul Gallen, who faces three weeks on the sidelines with a hernia problem. Combine that with the absence of Jeremy Smith, Jayson Bukuya, Isaac Gordon and Colin Best, and the Sharks were a rather depleted outfit.
Mitchell Pearce from the Roosters looks to offload. Photo: Brendan Esposito
The Roosters, though, were missing their own skipper, Braith Anasta.
On top of that, both clubs had been part of a circus of speculation yesterday: the Roosters surrounding the future of Sonny Bill Williams; the Sharks around Penrith's Luke Lewis.
That said, the on-field stuff was entertaining. While many claimed after Origin III that Pearce wasn't cut out for life in sky blue, the way he started suggested he was in the mood to make a point against the sky blue.
After six minutes, he held up the ball just long enough for centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall to split the Cronulla defence and score. But alas, Pearce followed that up by missing Ricky Leutele badly to allow the Sharks centre to score.
There is backing up after Origin, and there is backing up twice.
Carney, of course, was also backing up, and he was also producing some highlights. On the half-hour, his ball put centre Ben Pomeroy over, while a late penalty goal extended the lead just before the break.
Carney wasn't the only catalyst for ill feeling between the two camps. Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves ironed out fellow front-rower Ben Ross, who failed to take further part in the proceedings. Waerea-Hargreaves was placed on report, which should give the debate over shoulder contact with the head a few extra days of newsprint space. Later in the first half, Pomeroy showed courage by taking on Roosters monster Mose Masoe.
Most of the big calls went against the Roosters. In fact, all the penalties did for a time; the Sharks were given five, without conceding one, in the first half.
That said, the Roosters' fortune started to turn when they were running the other direction. In the second half, video referee Paul Simpkins denied Sharks forward Wade Graham a try, after replays showed a few millimetres of separation between his arm and the football after he chased Jeff Robson's kick. Roosters winger Joseph Leilua scored just four minutes later to take the Roosters back to within two points.
But the Roosters' ill-discipline cost them again; with just 16 minutes remaining, Waerea-Hargreaves was reported for a second time after a high tackle on Robson, and Carney was gifted two more points. He polished off the performance with a 73rd-minute penalty goal, after Masoe was placed on report for driving into the legs of Sharks prop Bryce Gibbs.
In the end, the boots of the playmakers failed them when it counted. Honours were shared.
CRONULLA 14 (R Leutele, B Pomeroy tries; T Carney 3 goals) drew SYDNEY ROOSTERS 14 (A Guerra, S Kenny-Dowall, J Leilua tries; D Mortimer goal) after golden-point extra time at Toyota Stadium. Referees: Jared Maxwell, Chris James. Crowd: 13,139.