The hopes of the Wests Tigers causing an upset at CommBank Stadium were dashed by a controversial decision that denied them a crucial second-half try. After suffering a humiliating 74-0 defeat against the Cowboys just five days earlier, the Tigers were determined to avoid being embarrassed for two consecutive weeks. Trailing 18-12 approaching the hour mark, they believed they had scored when Tommy Talau came down with a Brandon Wakeham kick. However, the Bunker overturned the try, ruling that Talau had lost the ball into the arm of Sharks captain Nicho Hynes.
The Tigers were left stunned by the decision, with David Klemmer even questioning the referee, Todd Smith, asking if they could challenge it. Phil Gould, in the Nine commentary box, expressed his disagreement with the decision, stating, “That’s been a try for 100 years.” He also questioned why the “fun police” felt the need to intervene and stop the try.
The Sharks took advantage of the momentum shift and quickly scored through Jesse Ramien in the next set. Tigers coach Tim Sheens, who has experienced several incorrect refereeing decisions this season, labeled the Talau try decision as a “tough call.” He also mentioned that he would review other incidents, such as Hynes’ second-half try to determine if there was a double movement and whether Sione Katoa had dropped the ball for the final try.
After their heavy defeat against the Cowboys, Sheens was seeking a response from his team, and he certainly got one. Despite losing the game, Sheens recognised the effort put in by his players and acknowledged that the Tigers had challenged a strong Cronulla team. He emphasised that losing a game differs from being beaten and expressed satisfaction with his team’s performance.
The disappointing crowd turnout at CommBank Stadium reflected the Tigers‘ lackluster display in Townsville. The official attendance was recorded as 9,215, but it appeared as if only half of that number had shown up. The Tigers now need to regroup as they prepare for their upcoming match against the Newcastle Knights.
Unfortunately, the Tigers will be without Luke Brooks and Api Koroisau, both of whom are still a few weeks away from returning due to injury. In addition, five-eighth Daine Laurie was also ruled out before the Cronulla game due to a quad injury. His replacement, Will Smith, made his club debut and provided a beautiful cutout ball that led to Talau’s first try. Despite leveling the scores just before half-time with a try from Shawn Blore, the Tigers were ultimately outclassed by Cronulla, who emerged victorious with a 36-12 scoreline.
Coach Craig Fitzgibbon dismissed any notion that Cronulla had underestimated the Tigers, emphasizing that every club has a sense of pride and that he expected a response from the Tigers after their previous loss. He acknowledged that the Sharks need to maintain consistency and cannot afford to defeat teams they should beat to secure their place in the top eight.
Looking ahead, it is uncertain if the Sharks will be able to replicate the same performance in their next game against the New Zealand Warriors. The Sharks have a reputation for defeating lower-ranked teams but struggling against top contenders. Fitzgibbon acknowledged the need for improvement and emphasised the importance of not undermining themselves in matches against perceived top-eight teams.