Cronulla’s goal-kicking problems have reared their head again in 2021 with the Sharks copping a heartbreaking 12-10 loss to Canberra in Kogarah on Sunday night.
Chad Townsend has taken over kicking duties while Shaun Johnson is sidelined, with the Sharks halfback missing three of four shots at goal including two to level the game in the final minutes.
The Sharks had rallied against a terrible 67 per cent completion rate to fight their way back into the match and a penalty with one minute left on the clock gave them the perfect chance to send the game into golden point.
However, Townsend’s poor night with the boot was the difference in what was a scrappy affair for both sides in Wade Graham’s 250th NRL game.
The Raiders had dominated the match with ball control and high possession until it all fell apart in the final 20 minutes.
Two first-half tries had Canberra in the lead as the Sharks struggled to hold onto the ball, but the home side took things to a new level to chase down the game.
The Raiders were sloppy in attack, turning the ball over several times on the line before a penalty with eight minutes on the clock gave the Sharks the chance they needed.
Wingers Bailey Simonsson and Ronaldo Mulitalo launched to compete for a bomb but neither took hold of it, leaving the loose ball free for Josh Dugan to pounce and score.
Townsend missed the conversion to level the scores from the sideline, and later missed a penalty kick on fulltime to take the game to golden point.
Conversions have been a problem in the past for the Sharks.
In 2019 they lost at least five games where they had scored more tries than their opponent.
Will Kennedy continued his audition to claim the Sharks’ No.1 jersey full-time with his third try in two weeks when he cleaned up a neat grubber kick from Townsend 55 minutes in.
The 23-year-old has a lock on the job for at least another six weeks, but will force coach John Morris to make a decision once Johnson returns from an achilles injury.
The star half is expected to return by round eight or nine, with regular fullback Matt Moylan filling in at five-eighth.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Kris put further pressure on coach Ricky Stuart to find a place for him in the side when Jarrod Croker returns with another confident performance on the left edge.
The 22-year-old linked with his winger Jordan Rapana to drive Kennedy in goal and force a line drop out midway through the first half and then scored on the ensuing set.
Croker is due back from a shoulder injury as soon as next week but Stuart has previously said he will not rush the skipper back into the side.
A short ball from hooker Josh Hodgson to Hudson Young gave the Raiders a 12-0 at halftime and they were able to hang on as the Sharks raced home.
Meanwhile, with Jesse Ramien suspended for another fortnight, Morris may need to lean on his centre depth.
Ramien’s replacement Marwene Hiroti was taken from the field early in the second half although it’s not clear whether he was hooked or injured.