A rampant second half by the Cronulla Sharks, in which the visitors crossed for five tries, has seen the Canberra Raiders go down 42-16 at GIO Stadium in front of a crowd of 15,807 on Saturday night.
Having fallen to the Sharks in Canberra in the opening week of last year’s finals series, tonight’s rematch fared as nothing less than a grudge match.
The undertones of that grudge ricocheted throughout the arena as boos for Cronulla captain Paul Gallen flooded the stadium as he hurtled onto the field.
The Raiders’ kicking game pressurised the Sharks early, particularly in the form of a deft Blake Austin punt that forced a goal-line drop-out five minutes into the clash.
The Sharks would be first to hit the scoreboard, though, when five-eighth James Maloney banged over a penalty goal in the 14th minute.
A slick series of passes at the other end of the park then resulted in fullback Jack Wighton slicing through on the left edge for the Raiders’ first four-pointer 17 minutes in.
Centre Ricky Leutele then bustled over moments later before Maloney added the extras to hand the Sharks an 8-4 lead.
The deficit then grew to 12-4 when second-rower Wade Graham burst onto a James Maloney short-ball to dive over in the 32nd minute.
However, as was the case last week, finding themselves on the wrong end of both possession and penalties did not deter the Raiders, the Green Machine soon finding the white line itself.
Austin dealt the blow, fooling the visitors’ defence with a beguiling dummy before bursting through the line to set up an unmarked Jordan Rapana on the right edge.
Halfback Aidan Sezer slotted the conversion from the sideline as the Raiders moved within two points to head into half-time trailing 12-10.
The hosts weren’t able to restart proceedings in the fashion they had finished the first half, conceding an early penalty goal.
Hooker Jayden Brailey then crossed moments later and Maloney converted as the Sharks pocketed a 20-10 lead.
From there the floodgates opened, the visitors running in another four tries to give the Raiders plenty to work on moving forward.
The Raiders are now set to host the Wests Tigers next Sunday afternoon as they again chase their first win of the 2017 season.
POST MATCH COVERAGE