Graham stars as Sharks down Broncos
Cronulla showed it does not need Paul Gallen and Todd Carney to impress as it ended an eight-year Lang Park drought with a 26-12 victory over Brisbane on Friday night.by NRL
Cronulla showed it does not need Paul Gallen and Todd Carney to impress as it ended an eight-year Lang Park drought with a 26-12 victory over Brisbane on Friday night.
Wade Graham, playing in Gallen's number 13 jersey, starred for the Sharks as he set up a 16-0 lead in as many minutes at the start of a topsy-turvy and sometimes spiteful clash.
Utility Graham scored one try, set up two others and menaced the Broncos in defence but finished the night on report for a controversial shoulder charge on Josh Hoffman.
Hoffman was not the only casualty from a bruising encounter as Broncos coach Anthony Griffin revealed the health of Jack Reed was also a serious concern.
Griffin told Grandstand that Reed would have scans on a leg injury suffered midway through the first half.
"We're a little bit worried about Jack," Griffin said.
"He's worried about a crack in his fibula so we've got to get some scans on that pretty soon.
"By the time he got to half-time he just couldn't put any pressure on the leg."
Carney's five-eighth replacement Chad Townsend also performed strongly and kicked superbly for two tries as Brisbane's undermanned pack, missing six Queensland Origin forwards, was dominated early.
But it was a 90 metre intercept to winger Nathan Stapleton which ultimately settled the result midway through the second half after the Broncos launched a gutsy comeback to have all the running at 16-12 down.
An Alex Glenn try from a rare tight-head scrum win had given the home side the momentum in front of 26,268 parochial fans, and they continued to hammer the Sharks line.
But Brisbane half-back Peter Wallace, in a game he would rather forget, threw an ill-advised cut-out pass that Stapleton plucked out of the air for an unimpeded run to the line.
Colin Best crossed for two tries and Ben Pomeroy also bagged a four-pointer in the five tries to two victory to move the Sharks to third past the Broncos on the ladder.
Best admitted moving into third place on the ladder was a noteworthy achievement for his team.
"It was a big game for us playing the Broncos on the same points," Best said.
"It was great that we could jump two points in front of them and hopefully we can keep playing like this and finish strong at the back end of the year."
Rubbing salt into the Broncos' wounds, centre Reed (leg) and full-back Hoffman (head knock) finished with serious injury worries after failing to play any part in the second half.
The Sharks had lost their past five matches against the Broncos by an average margin of 22 points and tasted victory just once in 12 trips to Lang Park but they started on fire and took the home side by surprise.
Hoffman suffered his head knock when Graham pulled off a huge in-goal tackle which saw the ball jolted free and pounced on by rival full-back Matthew Wright.
Referee Gavin Badger immediately awarded a try before calling for a video review which saw Graham penalised for his shoulder striking Hoffman's head and the try disallowed.
With a groggy Hoffman replaced soon after, youngster Aaron Whitchurch started the fightback when he scored in his Broncos debut in the 32nd minute.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said he did not think Graham's tackle on Hoffman was worthy of punishment.
"For me it was a good tackle and I think it was more of a head clash," Flanagan said.
"It was probably accidental, if anything."
Sharks captain Jeremy Smith was also placed on report for striking Brendan Gibb.
Cronulla: 26 (C Best 2, W Graham, B Pomeroy, N Stapleton tries; C Townsend 3/5 goals)
Brisbane: 12 (A Whitchurch, A Glenn tries; P Wallace 2/2 goals)
Source: ABC Sport
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