The Sharks just held off the fast-finishing Eels, as the Warriors and Raiders also celebrated triumphs on Saturday.
Sharks survive late Eels’ push to win in the Shire
The loss of Wade Graham to a worrying hamstring injury has soured Cronulla’s heart-stopping 22-20 defeat of Parramatta at home on Saturday night.
The Eels were on the cusp of what would have been one of the great modern comebacks after posting three tries in the final five minutes through David Gower, Michael Jennings and Mitchell Moses.
Moses had a conversion attempt after the siren to even the scores but it sailed left of the uprights.
The Eels were rarely in the match in the second half, due to some horrible ball control, but set up a grandstand finish before having their two-game winning streak snapped.
Graham left the field in just the 27th minute after reaggravating the left hamstring problem, which kept him out the last fortnight.
With Luke Lewis (calf) and Paul Gallen (knee) out it is not only the last thing the Sharks needed, but also puts the New South Wales back rower in doubt for the June 6 State of Origin series opener.
The Sharks shook off a nervous final few minutes to notch their third victory on the bounce and vault into the top eight for the first time this year.
With his fellow senior forwards forced to watch on, Andrew Fifita was inspirational with 165 metres and 30 tackles in a 70-minute effort.
After Sosaia Feki bagged a double in the first 27 minutes, Valentine Holmes cannoned through a hole to put Chad Townsend over to make it 16-4 at the break.
The Sharks sealed the two points seven minutes after half-time with a set play down the short side, which saw Edrick Lee stroll over to make it 20-4.
For the Eels, the loss leaves them languishing in last spot and extinguishes the optimism that rose to the surface after two wins in their previous two outings.
Injury-hit Warriors outclass Tigers
Simon Mannering (L) and Isaiah Papali’i of the Warriors meet the hit-up of Corey Thompson. (AAP: David Rowland)
The Warriors have reasserted their NRL credentials with an emphatic 26-4 win over Wests Tigers in Auckland but the result may have come at a heavy cost.
Bouncing back from last week’s 50-10 humiliation at the hands of Melbourne, the hosts on Saturday night handed the Tigers their third straight loss and their biggest defeat of the season.
Dampening any major celebrations was the sight of key playmakers Issac Luke (arm/shoulder) and Shaun Johnson (leg) escorted from the field in the second half.
That veteran hooker Luke was even playing was remarkable given the club had initially said his knee injury suffered against the Storm required a four-week break.
His replacement, Karl Lawton, made the most of his first game for the club, darting over for two late tries to cap a compelling team display.
The result means the Warriors are assured of finishing round nine in second place with a 7-2 record, while the Tigers (5-4) will slip from fifth to a mid-table berth.
The Tigers’ previous losses had been by two points but they were a distinct second best on Saturday, with their cause not helped by two players spending time in the sin-bin.
The Warriors capitalised on their man advantage on both occasions, through respective tries to winger Ken Maumalo and Johnson.
Maumalo scored down the vacant flank through a perfectly floated pass from the excellent Blake Green, while Johnson started and finished a sweeping 60-metre try down his team’s potent right edge.
Competition leading try scorer David Fusitu’a was first on the scoresheet for the Warriors, giving him 11 for the season.
Fusitu’a was bowled out of the way when equally hulking opposite Mahe Fonua crossed to leave the Tigers trailing 12-4 at the break.
Raiders defeat undermanned Titans
Canberra’s Jack Wighton (R) tries to palm off the tackle of Gold Coast’s Ash Taylor. (AAP: Lukas Coch)
Queensland State of Origin hopeful Jai Arrow has been taken to hospital with abdominal and rib pain in the Gold Coast’s 32-18 loss to the Raiders at Canberra Stadium.
Arrow was hurt trying to tackle Junior Paulo early in the Titans’ fourth straight loss, as they finished with just one man on the bench at the end of their horror trip to the nation’s capital.
He walked from the field with the assistance of trainers, but vomited at half-time after a fitness test and was later seen in an ambulance.
Queensland prop Jarrod Wallace also left the field early with illness and did not return, while bench forward Keegan Hipgrave was later taken from the field with a concussion test.
It came as potential Titans recruit Shannon Boyd left an early impression on his likely new club, starring in the 14-point win for Canberra.
A day after Titans coach Garth Brennan declared his interest in the former Kangaroos prop, the Titans could have desperately done with his power as he staved off a potential Gold Coast comeback.
After the Raiders gave up an 18-0 lead to the Titans in the opening round, they would have been nervous after their 20-0 half-time lead was reduced to 20-12 just eight minutes into the second term.
But it was then Boyd came into his own, as he pushed his way over from close to the line to extend the gap to 14 with 25 minutes to play.
He then put the Raiders in the position for their next try from the ensuing kick-off, when he busted downfield from his own end to put Canberra in the position for Jordan Rapana to later score.
Canberra captain Jarrod Croker also scored 12 points in the win, as he extended his record to 14 tries in 18 games against the Titans – the most of any player against the club in history.