The Canberra Raiders fell victim to the high-flying Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks juggernaut in today’s NYC clash, going down 32-6 at GIO Stadium.
The Sharks racked up six tries to one on their way to collecting their fifth win of the season to move to equal first on the competition table.
Raiders coach Brett White altered his line-up for Round 7 after two away games in five days, bringing in Jack Hickson to don the number seven jersey, with Nic Cotric moving to fullback.
Skipper Zac Woolford started from the bench alongside regular starters Daniel Dole and Bailey Hartwig, with Adam Lucas starting in the hooking role.
The home side’s new spine took some time to gel, with the Sharks crossing the line in the sixth minute through an outstretched Ash Nisbet.
Two more tries came in quick succession, after Sharks winger Sione Katoa found himself on the end of an overlap and halfback Rhys Davies collected his own kick to score next to the posts.
As the Sharks raced out to a 16-0 lead, Raiders junior Leon Tupuola was injected into the contest, returning to GIO Stadium in Sharks colours.
Tupuola took the first hit-up from the kick-off, with his former club and junior Raiders teammate Daniel Dole leading the charge in defence. Fresh off pulling off one of the hits of the season last weekend, Dole and Tupuola collided at a rate of knots.
Eight minutes later the Sharks were in again through Josh Tuilagi, stretching the margin to twenty points after 25 minutes.
Woolford provided his side with some enthusiasm in the ruck, darting out of dummy-half to create some go-forward, but it was costly errors that kept the hosts on the back foot.
Faced with the prospect of needing to overcome a twenty point deficit in the second stanza, Canberra were able to mount some pressure in the early going, but ultimately couldn’t pull the trigger when it counted.
The visitors opened the scoring in the second half with front-rower Tupuola crashing over next to the posts. Centre Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga added the extras, giving the Sharks a 26-0 lead with just over 25 minutes remaining.
Some scintillating ball movement saw the Sharks in prime field position once more, before prop forward Jaimin Jolliffe crossed the stripe. Aufaga-Toomaga made no mistakes with the conversion, as the Sharks took a 32-0 lead after 59 minutes.
Backrower Jack Williams broke through the Sharks defensive line to score almost untouched under the posts in the dying seconds of the match to register Canberra’s first points. Zac Woolford added the extras after the siren to cut the final margin to twenty-six.
The Raiders will now look to snap their two-game losing streak in next Saturday’s clash with the ninth-placed Wests Tigers at GIO Stadium.