Cronulla’s season from hell looks certain to end with the NRL wooden spoon after they went down 22-12 to fellow strugglers Canberra on Sunday.
In a game dubbed as “Spoon Bowl” with the losers likely to finish in 16th and last spot, a spirited home crowd at Remondis Stadium were unable to roar their side home and prevent a club-record seventh successive home defeat.
The inexperienced Sharks had 17 first-grade players missing due to injury and ASADA suspensions.
In a first half that resembled two bald men fighting over a comb with neither side playing like they wanted the win, the Sharks finished with a 51 per cent completion rate and the Raiders a woeful 49 per cent.
Both team butchered good opportunities with Raiders winger Edrick Lee fumbling the ball with the tryline at his mercy and Sharks flyer Ricky Leutele dropping the ball on the second tackle deep in Raiders territory.
But just when it looked as if the game would be scoreless at halftime, Cronulla broke the deadlock four minutes before the break.
A burst from Blake Ayshford caught the Raiders’ defence napping and his kick forward was pounced upon by Sosaia Feki with Michael Gordon kicking the extras.
Ricky Stuart’s side were much improved after the break with Brisbane-bound Anthony Milford, the one class player on display, seizing control for the Green Machine by scoring two tries and setting up two more.
Matt McIlwrick was in the right place at the right time to dive on a perfectly-flighted kick from Milford.
Cronulla had a great opportunity to hit back following a sweeping crossfield move, but centre Jonathan Wright, under no pressure, somehow dropped the ball two metres from the line.
Boosted by the let-off, Jarrod Croker put his side in front after scampering over from a Milford pass before the young Queenslander acrobatically dived onto a Jack Wighton kick to score.
The Sharks pressed forward and were rewarded with a try from prop Tim Robinson.
Jeff Robson and Gordon were integral in the build-up and Robinson crashed over from close range.
But Milford had the final word with his second four-pointer 10 minutes from time to seal a much-needed win for Stuart and the Raiders.