AAP Rugby

Wests Tigers compound Sharks woes in NRL

By AAP Newswire

Cronulla coach John Morris has refused to use the Bronson Xerri drugs scandal as an excuse for his side's demoralising 28-16 loss to the Wests Tigers.

The NRL was rocked this week when Xerri was provisionally stood down for testing positive to a cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs.

And the Sharks' nightmare week continued at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday as they were held scoreless in the second period to leave them without a win from their opening three games.

Compounding the pain for Morris is a suspected hamstring injury to halfback Chad Townsend, though the coach wasn't in the mood for excuses.

"If you'd asked me at halftime if it (Xerri) was a disruption, it wasn't a cause for concern. I felt we'd been pretty good actually during the week," Morris said.

"Unfortunately 18-0 in the second half was where the game was lost.

"That stuff wasn't a result of what happened off the field for us. It was just too many guys who weren't at their best today."

For the Tigers, the victory lifts them into the top eight to seventh spot, and they could even jump as high as sixth ahead of next week's clash with Gold Coast.

Cronulla appeared on their way to overcoming their dramatic week when they surged to a 16-10 halftime lead off the back of two Josh Dugan tries.

But a Luke Garner try and Benji Marshall penalty goal levelled the scores with 20 minutes to go, before the Sharks fell behind on a horror defensive play.

Tigers winger David Nofoaluma retrieved a routine line dropout on the 40-metre line before waltzing through a shoddy effort from Townsend and Dugan to score.

Townsend limped from the ground soon after clutching at his hamstring.

Tigers prop Josh Aloiai sealed their second victory of the season when he barged over from close range in the 70th minute.

The Sharks got off to a slow start without their speed merchant in Xerri, conceding two tries inside the opening seven minutes.

First it was loan signing Harry Grant crossing for the first try of his career, before Robert Jennings was the recipient of a successful captain's challenge.

The referee incorrectly ruled last tackle, giving the Tigers one more play to bomb for Jennings to give his team a useful lead.

The Sharks got back on track primarily through star-studded left edge, where skipper Wade Graham set up back-to-back tries for Dugan.

His second levelled the scores in the 19th minute, before a Will Kennedy four-pointer gave Cronulla a six-point halftime advantage.

Tigers coach Michael Maguire credited the turnaround to his team being able to fix up their defensive frailties on the edge.

"We were getting beat on the edges and that's where the boys changed and adapted to what was being thrown at them," he said.

"The edges sorted that out and then we were able to get a little bit of better field position, which allowed us to put pressure back on Cronulla."