NRL: Cronulla Sharks slide past Wests Tigersphotos

Sharks slide past Tigers | photos TweetFacebookThe Aaron Woods boo boys again howled at one of Leichhardt’s favourite sons as the Bulldog-in-waiting – taunted with a banner on the very hill he adores – later limped off to inadvertent cheers and is in serious doubt to feature for the Kangaroos on Friday night.

The Tigers’ one-time poster boy trudged up the tunnel with a groin complaint after having his leg wrenched in an awkward first-half tackle, his exit ironically coming to the backdrop of roars as Kevin Naiqama simultaneously dashed over for the Tigers’ first try.

The Cronulla Sharks have continued their undefeated away run this season with a 22-16 win over the Wests Tigers, though there was early controversy over a disallowed try.

Woods was described as “a dog” in a sign unfurled on the Wayne Pearce Hill, Parramatta-bound Mitchell Moses described as “slimy” in another and Luke Brooks “a local hero” in a drama-charged loss against Cronulla on Saturday night.

But the controversy again centred on the Tigers’ skipper Woods – jeered when introduced to the crowd during the warm-up – before he was pinged for a minor infringement on Paul Gallen in the lead-up to a possible James Tedesco try moments before exiting with injury.

Roosters-bound Tedesco himself wasn’t immune to a spell at the Tigers’ spiritual home, failing to return in the second half after a head injury assessment at half-time.

It was a glimpse of what the future will be like for the Tigers without their two highest profile stars, Woods expected to confirm he has officially put pen to paper with the Bulldogs in an interview to be aired on Fox League on Sunday afternoon.

Woods’ potential withdrawal from the Kangaroos side for the Test against New Zealand has given Mal Meninga a mini front-row crisis, given Canberra’s Shannon Boyd – called into the squad for the banned Josh Papalii – was injured in the Raiders’ loss to the Bulldogs earlier on Saturday evening.

But coach Ivan Cleary would be heartened by the Tigers’ resolve. His under-manned team played with their hearts – if not their heads – in a manic second half which was only settled when Cronulla No.7 Chad Townsend produced a moment of magic with 11 minutes remaining.

“We had a lot of very brave boys out there tonight playing injured,” Cleary said. “Once we lost a few troops we were under the pump with interchange. There were some really positive signs there [but] unfortunately all that effort and not two points out of it.”

The normally clinical Sharks again wandered in and out of the game after blasting to an early eight-point lead before Townsend chipped and regathered to put the Sharks ahead for good.

“That’s what good halves do,” Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said. “He backed himself and it was a smart play.

“It’s 50-50 for me. I’m not happy with our performance but I’m happy we got the two points. Good footy teams win ugly now and then.”

Opportunistic Tigers marketers were quick to erect a minibus out the front of Leichhardt with fans encouraged to pose for photos next to a cardboard image of Cleary, who famously told his “big four” they were either on the bus or not when replacing the sacked Jason Taylor.

Little did Cleary bargain on having a few extra passengers than he hoped for.

Tony Williams, himself having taken a back seat since arriving at the Sharks from Canterbury, would have done well to ask Brooks and Moses Suli for tickets please as he burst straight through the Tigers’ future to open his Cronulla account and quickly wipe away Moses’ early penalty goal.

And the Sharks thought they might have found a couple of other passengers on the other fringe when Sosaia Feki crashed over.

But after two controversial incidents involving Woods, the Tigers responded, thanks to Kevin Naiqama and found the lead when Suli made amends to crash over.

Moses’ second-half penalty goal stretched their half-time lead to six points, but Cleary would have been fuming when the Tigers stood motionless as a James Maloney bomb rained down into Wade Graham’s waiting hands for Valentine Holmes to level the scores. And for that lapse they were made to pay by Townsend.

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