Raiders 24 Sharks 36
CANBERRA - A Brett Kimmorley masterclass and 20-point haul from maligned winger Luke Covell propelled Cronulla to a spirited 36-24 NRL win over Canberra at Canberra Stadium last night.
With Kimmorley and Covell to the fore, the Sharks rallied from 12-0 down after just quarter of an hour to pile on six tries to four to consolidate their position in the all-important top four with their fifth straight victory.
Kimmorley was in brilliant touch, turning back the clock with a vintage kicking, passing and running display to not only carve up the Raiders but perhaps leave Sharks fans wondering why coach Ricky Stuart offloaded the former State of Origin and Test star to the Bulldogs next season.
The veteran No.7 had a hand or foot in three of Cronulla's six tries and clinched victory with a wonderful show of vision and skill to set up the match-sealing four-pointer for Ben Pomeroy in the 71st minute.
Covell contributed 20 points from a tryscoring double - including one spectacular second-half effort when he soared high to reel in a Brett Seymour cross-field kick before swivelling mid-air and somehow grounding the ball before taking out the corner post - plus six goals from six attempts.
Dropped a month ago by Stuart and in danger of also being cut at the end of the season, Covell has hit back to score eight tries in his last five games for the Sharks, whose priceless win last night was their fourth in a row in the national capital.
The comeback victory - all the more impressive in the absence of bruise brothers Greg Bird and Paul Gallen - was just the tonic for the third-placed Sharks, who can now put their feet up and pick up another two competition points next week for the bye.
The Raiders' loss was furthered soured by winger Misi Taulapapa's apparent off the ball hit on Canberra skipper Alan Tongue.
Tongue was eventually forced from the ground in the 46th minute with a rib injury and will likely spend some time out of the game while second rower Joe Picker was taken from the field early in the second half with what looked like an ankle injury.
Raiders coach Neil Henry may also find himself in some bother after launching an attack on referee Sean Hampstead and video referee Graeme West in the post-match press conference.
"Sean Hampstead has had problems with officiating the ruck all year and (referee's boss) Robert Finch would acknowledge that and I think he's still got huge problems with that area of his game," Henry said.
Asked if Hampstead was up to first grade standard, Henry said: "I just think he, as a referee, is way off the mark."
He also questioned why Taulapapa had not been put on report.
"Even though I wasn't real happy with how it was officiated out there I'll give Cronulla a fair bit of credit," he said.
Sharks mentor Ricky Stuart paid tribute to Covell, saying his return to form was welcome.
"We've missed his consistency in the goal kicking but tonight was a very, very good effort in regards to those conditions.
"He is playing some good footy at the moment and it's lovely to see him get his boot back on."