A vintage Paul Gallen performance has inspired Cronulla to a 24-16 victory over the Wests Tigers.
The eight-point victory saw the Sharks climb back to their place just outside the NRL’s top four.
Just over 13,000 fans braved the wet, cold and windy conditions in the shire as Cronulla launched a spirited second half fightback to chase down the Tigers on the back of a classic Gallen effort.
The 36-year-old shows no signs of slowing down. Gallen ran for almost 200 metres, made more than 40 tackles, had a try assist and scored the try that turned the game back Cronulla’s way.
Cronulla welcomed back Valentine Holmes from State of Origin duty with Queensland, with the fullback’s inclusion the only change from the Sharks team beaten by South Sydney last weekend.
The Tigers had a number of changes, with the absence of Benji Marshall with a calf strain allowing Josh Reynolds to start as five-eighth, with the former NSW No.6 named as captain.
The sides traded penalty goals before the Tigers crossed for the first try.
Soft Sharks defence on their own goal line saw Elijah Taylor cross from dummy half to give the visitors a 10-2 lead.
The Tigers saw back-rower Michael Chee-Kam sent to the sin bin eight minutes before half-time after he failed to retreat 10 metres as Wade Graham took a quick tap close to the Tigers’ line.
Cronulla couldn’t reduce the deficit before half-time and needed a quick response after the break. With the game meandering along, Gallen took it upon himself to turn the tide.
With nothing seemingly on 15 metres out from the Tigers’ line, Gallen charged, fighting and struggling as he carried four defenders with him before slamming the ball down over the line.
It was a try few other players in the game could have scored and it lifted the Sharks. And he was at it again moments later.
With the Tigers on the attack, Luke Brooks attempted a banana kick back on the inside from out near the left touch line.
Gallen dropped back to field the kick then held up a pass to put Holmes through a gap. Similar to the try he scored for Queensland on Wednesday night, Holmes raced 80 metres to slide over under the posts to give Cronulla a 14-10 lead.
With that Gallen took a well-deserved rest. As if proof of the confidence generated by Gallen’s 10-minute push, the Sharks stormed down field and earned a repeat set on the back of a penalty.
From the ensuing set, Matt Moylan floated a cut out pass onto the chest of Edrick Lee who slipped down the left touchline to score out wide.
But just when they looked like they might go on with the job, Cronulla allowed the Tigers back into the game.
Chris Lawrence beat Chad Townsend on the inside to break Cronulla’s line and found Tuimoala Lolohea backing up to slide over next to the posts.
But Cronulla would finally seal victory five minutes from full-time with a sublime solo effort from Jesse Ramien.
The young centre, who will play for Newcastle next season, broke the Tigers line 30 metres out, skipped out of another tackle before rounding Lolohea to touch down.
Cronulla Sharks 24 (Paul Gallen, Valentine Holmes, Edrick Lee, Jesse Ramien tries. Chad Townsend three goals)
Wests Tigers 16 (Elijah Taylor, Tuimoala Lolohea tries. Esan Marsters four goals)
at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Woolooware
Leader man of the match: Paul Gallen (Sharks)
Sharks’ next three: Broncos (home), Warriors (away), BYE