GERRINGONG’S unbeaten run to start the 2017 Group 7 season has come to end with the reigning premiers going down 26-22 to Shellharbour at Michael Cronin Oval on Saturday afternoon.
In a hard-fought, see-sawing affair, the Sharks prevailed thanks to a late Dylan McGregor try – after the home side had clawed their way back in front after trailing 14-4 at the break.
It was the Sharks who had the better of the opening stages and after earning a repeat set on the Lions’ line, they opened the scoring through centre Ian Catania who strolled over for a 4-nil lead.
That was soon extended when McGregor crashed over for his first of the day, with Matt Carroll’s conversion pushing the lead to 10-nil.
Things were made even worse the Lions with Tim Moore forced from the field after appearing to suffer a broken arm in trying to stop McGregor.
After McGregor’s try, the Lions began to show some spark and break by Ewen McCarroll put them on the attack.
Two plays later rookie centre Toby Gumley-Quine burrowed his way over to bring the score to 10-4.
That would be as close as the Lions would get in the first half with some clever play from a scrum win helping Shellharbour rebuild their 10-point lead.
A long ball from Carroll got exposed Gerringong’s defence and winger Jamie Manukonga raced away to score in the corner to put the score at 14-4.
Unlike the first half, it was Gerringong who came out firing in the second stanza and pegged back Shellharbour’s lead during their first set.
Gumley-Quine and winger Joel Doosey fund some space down the left edge and the Gerringong centre raced away for second.
Jake Taylor’s conversion bought the score to 14-10.
Soon after the Lions again found themselves attacking the Sharks’ line and they soon had their first lead of the game.
Nathan Ford jumped out of dummy-half to cross under the posts and Taylor’s conversion saw the Lions lead at 16-14.
The Lions’ lead wasn’t long lived though, with the Sharks making the most of some great field position after ill-discipline from Gerringong.
Fullback Aaron McLachlan managed to reach out and score from dummy-half deposit the attention of a number of Gerringong defenders and Carroll’s conversion put the visitors back in the lead at 20-16.
With 20 minutes remaining the Lions pulled back in front again.
A short side play on the last tackle got the ball to Corey Mulhall and the Gerringong centre powered his way over the line.
Jake Taylor made easy conversion of the conversion from wider out and the Lions led 22-20.
As time ticked down both sides saw errors begin to creep in, but it was the Sharks who regained composure first.
Back-rower Abraham Attallah put his side on the attack when found some space and McGregor backed up his bust on the next play to barge over for what would be the match winner with a little over five to go.
In the game’s final stages, Gerringong did look like they might at least steal a draw when Brad Davidson cut through, but his pass was knocked down and the Sharks held on.
In an entertaining game, McGregor, Carroll and Attallah all had strong games for Shellharbour, while Michael Brown, Gumley-Quine and Taylor did all they could for Gerringong.