In a potential pre-cursor to the opening match in the finals, the Cronulla Sharks welcomed Canberra Raiders to Netstrata Jubilee Stadium to round off the regular season for both sides.
The Raiders opened the scores in the fourth minute, as they starved Cronulla of the ball.
A short ball from Tom Starling to Dunamis Lui was all it took for the big man to crash over in his third carry of the set.
The Sharks hit straight back just a few minutes later as Ronaldo Mulitalo looked to power over Nick Cotric on the left edge.
Despite a valiant effort from the Raiders man, Mulitalo was deemed to have grounded the ball.
In the 15th minute, A kick from Matt Frawley looked to drifting over the dead-ball line, but Harley Smith-Shields did his best to tap the ball back into the field of play for Semi Valemei who grounded the ball.
However, Smith-Shields’ left knee was over the line before he managed to get the ball back.
However, a kick from Sam Williams on the right-edge did bring a score for the Raiders as Nick Cotric raced ahead to ground the loose ball.
A third Canberra try came 10-minutes later following a long break from Tom Starling.
After quick play-the-ball short of the line by Hudson Young allowed Starling to pick up from the ruck and burrow over.
In the Raiders very next set, Starling made another break through the middle of the park, before chipping over the top of Will Kennedy for Sam Williams to chase onto and score under the posts.
With five minutes to go until the break, a kick from Connor Tracey was claimed by Nene Macdonald, who tapped the ball back to Briton Nikora, and the second-rower ran around to score the Sharks second.
HALF-TIME: Cronulla Sharks 10-24 Canberra Raiders
The Sharks started the brighter in the second half, as a kick from Will Kendedy bounced awkwardly by Aaron Cook, which was then cleaned back up by Kennedy to touch down.
However, the ball made contact with Bryson Goodwin and then back onto Cook and the try was therefore disallowed.
A few minutes later, the Raiders extended their lead with another try straight through the middle.
Kai O’Donnell collected the ball at first receiver and ran at the inside shoulder of Andrew Fifita how didn’t react and allowed the young forward to cross.
With half an hour to go, Canberra turned on the style as they scored again.
Matt Frawley, on his first game since his return to the NRL, stepped back inside off his left foot, and through a weak Sharks defensive line.
Despite a 24-point deficit, Cronulla kicked back into gear just before the hour mark, after a long run from Kennedy.
Wade Graham, filling the number six jersey, took the ball to the line, and used his good footwork to get past Corey Harawira-Naera from a standing start before accelerating and then using his strength to get over the line.
The fightback was on as the Sharks attacked the short side through Scott Sorensen, but the loose-forward managed to get an offload out to Goodwin who ducked under Cook for the try.
Straight from the kick-off, Sorensen was trapped inside his own in-goal area.
A short drop-out from Wade Graham was claimed by Smith-Shields on the left-edge and walked over untouched for his first NRL-try.
The try-fest continued, this time with the Sharks hitting back.
Tracey attacked the line before pushing the ball to Nikora who crashed over Tom Starling and over the line.
With eight minutes to go, Ashley Klein picked up an ankle knock after tripping over in retreat, meaning Jared Maxwell came in to replace his colleague.
The Sharks nearly pulled another score back with five minutes, as Braydon Trindall looked to twist and turn his way over, but Harawira-Naera was penalised for intentionally getting involved in the play from an offside position and was sin-binned.
The Raiders managed to hold out though, and picked up the victory.
FULL-TIME: Cronulla Sharks 28-38 Canberra Raiders
Kennedy, Macdonald, Hiroti, Goodwin, Mulitalo, Graham, Tracey, Hamlin-Uele, Trindall, Woods, Nikora, Wilton, Sorensen
Interchanges: Williams, Fifita, Magoulias, Vasquez
Tries: Mulitalo, Nikora (2), Graham, Goodwin
Goals: Hiroti (4/5)
Cook, Valemei, Timoko, Smith-Shields, Cotric, Frawley, Williams, Lui, Starling, Soliola, Young, Harawira-Naera, Havili
Interchanges: O’Donnell, Sutton, Medlyn, Subloo
Tries: Lui, Cotric, Starling, Williams, O’Donnell, Frawley, Smith-Shields
Goals: Williams (5/7)
Referee: A. Klein
Touch Judges: T. Smith, P. Hendersom
Video Referee: J. Maxwell
Image Source: @NRL (twitter)