Gal’s golden day ends in heartbreaking shootout
Paul Gallen will never forget his last game at Shark Park.
But, geez, nor will Canberra halfback Aidan Sezer - especially after nailing one, two, then three field goals to ruin what was shaping as the most emotional of home ground farewells for the Cronulla skipper.
Unthinkable in the first half, when they conceded the first three tries, the Raiders stormed home in the second to eventually secure a golden point thriller that not only confirmed them a top four finish for the NRL playoffs but the undeniable title of premiership smokey.
Down 12-zip at halftime, the Green Machine rallied with the opening two tries of the second half, through fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and then centre Nick Cotric, to level up with 18 minutes to play.
And from there?
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Well, Raiders halfback Sezer kicked a field goal with 13 minutes to play.
Then Sharks No.7 Chad Townsend, well, he did the same two minutes later.
Then both playmakers doubled down again, albeit in the opposite order, to go into golden point.
Which went the first minutes without a result.
But then ... yep, Sezer won the game with his third field goal.
Can you get too much of Paul Gallen?
Apparently not in the Shire.
Playing his last ever gave at Shark Park, the ageing No.13 was farewelled with not only his image emblazoned on playing jerseys, face masks and posters, but the entire crowd providing a standing ovation to the 38-year-old with 13 minutes gone.
And by the break, all was going to plan.
Cronulla bagging three tries despite playing without No.6 Shaun Johnson, who withdrew minutes before the game after injuring his quad in the warm up.
While replacement Kyle Flanagan had a strong game for the Shire club, especially given he was called in just three, maybe four minutes from kick off, his inability to nail a conversion - missing all three attempts at goal - proved costly.
The Sharks were also left to rue a near try to centre Josh Morris, who grounded the ball on the ingoal sideline after a grubber kick by Flanagan.
SHARKS TO STAY
On a day where The Sunday Telegraph revealed broadcaster Channel Nine's proposal to relocate a Sydney club to Brisbane, the Sharkies went and showcased plenty of reasons for staying - with a sold out Shark Park farewelling legends, announcing Generation Next and overall producing an NRL thriller.
For the home side, Morris was outstanding, playing the second 40 minutes at fullback after starting No.1 Josh Dugan failed a halftime HIA.
Elsewhere, rookie winger Ronaldo Mulitalo bagged a double, halfback Townsend was in everything while props Matt Prior and Aaron Woods produced strong performances up front.
Kyle Flanagan woke up Sunday morning with no game to play and the future of his Cronulla Sharks being questioned.
But rugby league ... well, funny game, right?
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Called into the Sharkies backline only minutes before kick off, when Johnson injured his quad, the 20-year-old playmaker proved strong over the opening 40 minutes, playing a key hand in two tries and almost grubbering for a third to J-Moz.
Oh, yeah ... the kid also showed the NRL exactly what the future of this club could look for.
Flanagan helped set up a pair of tries for Mulitalo, the first after 17 minutes when he threw a beautiful long ball that was then tipped on by makeshift centre Kurt Capewell.
Then two minutes from the break, the late inclusion was at it again, this time popping a beautiful offload after being whacked by Canberra centre Jarrod Croker, which was then passed on by halfback Chad Townsend.
CANBERRA 15 (N Cotric C Nicoll-Klokstad tries J Croker 2 goals A Sezer 3 field goals) bt CRONULLA 14 (R Mulitalo 2 J Brailey tries C Townsend 2 field goals) in extra time at PointsBet Stadium. Referee: Gerard Sutton, PhilHenderson. Crowd: 18,985