Graham inspires Sharks win over Broncos
Cronulla-Sutherland have consolidated their place within the NRL top four after an enthralling 26-12 victory over the Brisbane Broncos.
Cronulla led from beginning to end, thanks mainly to the work of 21-year-old Wade Graham. The skillful backrower exerted his influence on all facets of the game and was dominant in both attack and defence.
Colin Best opened the scoring in the sixth minute. Halfback Jeff Robson continued his recent run of form, with a deft kick forcing a goal-line drop out. Graham’s influence in the the try was unquestionable – his sleight of hand sending the veteran centre over for his first of two tries.
Graham proved his value once more just three minutes later, cleaning up a dead ball before advancing it 20 metres from an optional restart. The run set the tone for the remaining five tackles, with Cronulla advancing the ball further up field into a genuine attacking position.
Stand-in pivot Chad Townsend then turned provider, a clever attacking kick towards the posts resulting in a try for Graham himself. The wily number six converted the try adjacent to the uprights to extend Cronulla’s lead to 10 after just 12 minutes.
The attacking flourish looked relentlessness early on and Pomeroy was the beneficiary after another Townsend bomb, scoring in the corner to further the lead to 16.
Graham also contributed with strong defence, this was illustrated in the 18th minute with a bone-crunching tackle on Broncos’ fullback Hoffman. The custodian turned over possession in-goal, before Matt Wright forced the ball in what looked to be the Sharks’ fourth try.
Referee Gavin Badger appeared to point to the spot before sending the play upstairs. Graham was found guilty of a high shot and placed on report. The momentum certainly swung as a result, Brisbane looking the more energetic of the sides in the following exchanges.
The resulting penalty ensured the home side would begin their next set in an attacking position. Brisbane continued to pepper the opposition goal-line, with England-born centre Jack Reed held up in goal by Isaac Gordon.
Graham remained in the thick of the action for the entirety of the match, his big shots in defence spurring the Cronulla forwards into action.
Brisbane continued to forge down field on the back of penalties and Cronulla mistakes, holding possession for four consecutive sets. The pressure overwhelmed the Sharks outside backs; a poor defensive read from Pomeroy enabling Aaron Whitchurch to cross eight minutes out from half-time.
The Sharks retreated to the Suncorp Stadium sheds holding a 16-6 lead.
Broncos captain Alex Glenn capitalised upon a scrum win against the feed to score the Broncos second, minimising the deficit to just four points.
Cronulla then failed to return the ball into play upon the restart, kicking out on the full and handing Brisbane a penalty from the centre of half way.
The situation appeared ominous for the visitors, Brisbane hammered the goal-line defence yet failed to penetrate. Defence turned into attack for the Sharks, however, as Peter Wallace threw an intercept to Nathan Stapleton, who ran 90 metres to score.
Graham’s presence continued to be felt in the latter stages of the encounter, forcing a drop out before later defusing a mid field bomb to ensure the Cronulla win. The youngster capped off the Gallen-like performance by finishing the match as it started – laying on a try for Colin Best to finish the scoring at 26 points to 12.
Cronulla will now have a nine day break, welcoming back Origin stars Paul Gallen and Todd Carney before the round 18 clash with the Roosters. The win sees the Sharks climb to outright third and all-but seal a place in the 2012 finals series.
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