Cronulla have scored 24 unanswered points for a remarkable 24-22 comeback NRL win over the Brisbane Broncos.
After five weeks, four losses and 324 playing minutes, Cronulla’s NRL point-scoring drought is over.
And so too is their five-match losing streak after a miraculous second-half comeback win over Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
Down 22-0 with 27 minutes left, the Sharks broke their shackles with four unanswered tries for a thrilling 24-22 victory in front of 24,285 stunned Brisbane fans.
It was unheralded winger Jacob Gagan who stopped the rot, and sparked the comeback, latching on to a Todd Carney cross-kick in what appeared a mere consolation try at the time.
But when it rains it pours for cellar-dwellers Cronulla.
Paul Gallen and Carney then also crossed in a 10-minute blitz that had them just four down with 15 minutes to play.
Although Broncos halfback Ben Hunt did his best to cap a superb individual display by closing down the game, a Dale Copley fumble handed the Sharks the two points.
Copley rose high to claim a Jeff Robson bomb on his goal-line but lost it as he fell to the surface, giving rival winger Sosaia Feki a gift match-winner.
While Gallen and his men were jubilant on fulltime, it was a match the Broncos can feel they threw away after taking their foot off the Sharks’ throat.
The returns of Gallen, Luke Lewis and halfback Robson did little to change Cronulla’s fortunes in the first half when Hunt ran amok.
Cronulla, whose previous last try came on May 17 against Wests Tigers, and had since leaked 86 points, tried all they could with midfield grubbers and 12 off-loads but again lacked the precision and composure.
In that time, Hunt clinically set up all three Broncos tries for a 16-0 halftime lead.
The much-improved halfback put Daniel Vidot over in the 15th minute with a superb cut-out pass down the short side which was a sign of things to come.
Another well-weighted cut-out saw Alex Glenn bust through some flimsy defence.
The third came from a right-foot step and then offload on the line for Dave Hala to dive over for just his second NRL try.
Hala didn’t have to wait long for his third as he crossed two minutes after the resumption, but from there the sixth-placed Broncos rested on their laurels and were punished.
Relieved Cronulla coach Peter Sharp half joked he saw his coaching tenure coming to a swift end when the Broncos crossed for their fourth try.
“I won’t see 9.30pm, that’s what I was thinking,” he smiled. “But it (that thought) went back as we scored every try.
“I really didn’t think we were that bad all night, we had a couple of D (defensive) lapses.
“I thought for the first time in a long while we just built some pressure (in the second half) and got a reasonable share of possession.
Under fire after Gallen questioned his commitment at the start of the week, Sharp praised his skipper’s leadership on and off the field.
“The leadership shown by the captain this week was outstanding from my point of view,” he said.
“He really led from the front in all areas, and it was magnificent. That’s what great players do.
“How he spoke to the players, how he conducted himself, how he ran things.”
Broncos coach Anthony Griffin was dumbfounded by the second-half turnaround.
“Possession and bounce of the ball, anything that could happen, just did in that last 25 minutes,” he said.
“Unfortunately we threw a lot of hard work from that first 55.
“We had 10 sets in the second half, I’ve never seen a half like it where you only get 10 sets of ball.”
Skipper Justin Hodges said the Sharks’ confidence grew with their drought-breaking try and it was tough to stop their momentum.
“That’s what happens in footy, sometimes you give a team a sniff and the rest is history.”