todd carney Rabbitohs v Sharks Photo: John Veage
Slipepry customer: Nathan Gardner steps inside. Photo: John Veage
Anthony Tupou takes the ball into contact. Photo: John Veage
MATCH STATS/AS IT HAPPENED
Still smarting from his Origin axing Todd Carney fought back in style leading his Cronulla side to their fourth straight win in a match where Queensland interchange player Ben Te’o limped from the field late in the first half.
With Kurt Gidley ruled out of the first Origin, Carney threw his name up for a NSW recall after a match-winning performance. Possible replacement John Sutton didn’t finish the game, leaving the field with concussion in the final 15 minutes.
In sloppy conditions, Carney was the difference in a willing encounter where the Sharks toppled the top of the table South Sydney 14-12 at Sharks Stadium, minus Blues duo Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis who withdrew with injury. They were missing in-form fullback Michael Gordon too, in what was Cronulla’s most impressive performance of the season.
It was an uncharacteristically ill-disciplined performance from South Sydney who gave up an 11-3 penalty count and made 11 errors in a game where Carney kicked his team to victory less than 24 hours after being dumped from the NSW team in favour of Roosters five-eighth James Maloney. And his South Sydney counterpart Adam Reynolds almost matched Carney, placing immediate pressure on the first-time halves pairing of Maloney and Mitchell Pearce and, perhaps for the first time in Queensland’s seven year domination, NSW have a back-up halves pairing that is Origin ready.
While the rain poured down for the entire first-half, it was a high quality game between two strong forward packs, despite a handful of simple dropped ball. It was Souths who struggled in the wet conditions more than the home side, with unforced errors crippling their chances of sustaining pressure. Souths could have further problems with Sam and George Burgess on report for separate first-half incidents. George tackled Cronulla fullback Nathan Gardner with a high shot while Sam joined his brother for a crusher tackle on Andrew Fifita.
Te’o threw a scare throughout the Maroons camp after he limped from the field late in the first half. While the NRL integrity unit investigates claims that he assaulted a woman last month, it was a cork to his shin that looked to have threatened his Origin spot before he returned midway through the second half.
While Carney directed the Sharks around it was teammate Fifita who led from the front. The hulking prop justified his NSW selection, and put aside the distraction of being called to make his Origin debut and having to play despite knowing he was in the team, with a barnstorming performance playing 65 minutes broken only by half-time after starting from the interchange bench.
Cronulla struck first through hooker John Morris, before a well-timed Reynolds bomb was spilt by Sharks winger Sosaia Feki handing the Rabbitohs their first real attacking chance and they capitalised. A wide backline shift saw Bryson Goodwin score in the corner against his former club.
As Reynolds’ boot had done earlier, Carney’s right foot laid on the next points. An early tackle grubber bounced off John Sutton with Jayson Bukuya scoring to give Cronulla a 12-6 half-time lead.
Not to be outdone, Reynolds spotted Cronulla half Jeff Robson and launched Sam Burgess at his fellow No. 7. Initially Robson answered the challenge with a grass-cutting tackle on the big English forward but when Reynolds sent Burgess at him following a repeat set, Robson couldn’t contain him to level the score before a Carney penalty goal proved the difference.
CRONULLA 14 (J Bukuya J Morris tries T Carney 3 goals) bt SOUTH SYDNEY 12 (S Burgess B Goodwin tries A Reynolds 2 goals) at Sharks Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins, Brett Suttor. Crowd: 12,243.
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