Ricky Stuart praised his Canberra players after they saw off Cronulla 22-12 to almost certainly consign the Sharks to the NRL wooden spoon.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart was full of praise for his players after they came from behind to see off Cronulla in a game dubbed ‘Spoon Bowl’ on Sunday at Remondis Stadium.
In a low quality game befitting of two teams running last and second-last on the ladder, the Raiders won 22-12 to create a two-point buffer between them and the beleaguered Sharks.
The Sharks, who were without 17 top-line players due to injuries and ASADA suspensions, led 6-0 at halftime through Sosaia Feki with a team largely made up of rookie players.
But the Raiders, inspired by the Brisbane-bound Anthony Milford, scored four second-half tries to chalk up their sixth win of a difficult first season for Stuart.
“We knew it would be a slog and a grind and anyone who thinks we were going to come here and win by 30 wasn’t on the money,” Stuart said.
“We had to dig deep in this game because there is not a lot of confidence in our team at the moment in terms of past results yet we had to come here as favourites with everyone telling us we’d win so easily.
“I have a great group of blokes in there who are doing their best.
“It’s been a long, arduous season … and I am just happy for my group of players that we got two points.
Sharks stand-in coach James Shepherd was forced to prepare the side amid the backdrop of the long-running ASADA probe of the club’s 2011 supplement program coming to a conclusion with bans for five players.
Shepherd said it was a difficult situation for the club to deal with but was full of praise for the manner in which his young side had dealt with the adversity.
“The effort was good for an inexperienced team but we didn’t take our chances,” Shepherd said.
“The second half was disappointing as we didn’t complete as well as we needed to.
“But for the young boys, it’s their dream to play NRL and they were ready to go. As for the other guys it wasn’t really talked about. We just got on with the job.”
Experienced halfback Jeff Robson said he would be delighted when the season was over and admitted the ASADA turmoil and the crippling injury list had taken its toll on the team.
“It was difficult to prepare, it’s been a long year and there is still two games to go,” Robson said.
“It’s been dragging on for a long time. It feels like an eternity especially when the team is not winning.
“I’ve never seen injuries like it … and I’ve been around a while.”
Stuart, who spent three seasons in charge of the Sharks, said he felt sympathy for his former club.
“It’s a good club and the adversity they had would have been so difficult for the playing group,” he said.
“There’s a lot of pride and spirit in those young players there and I feel sorry for them for what they’ve had to endure over the last 12 months.”