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Sharks defend call to take goal with Roosters on ropes


Cronulla have defended a decision to take a penalty goal against a 12-man Sydney Roosters side while James Tedesco was in the sin-bin.

With the Sharks leading 10-6 and Tedesco still in the bin for another 90 seconds, Cronulla opted to take a simple two points from a penalty in front of goal in Saturday's elimination final.

It gave Cronulla a 12-6 lead, but allowed the Roosters to regroup with Tedesco back on the field when play resumed.

The Roosters then levelled the score through a try off a rebounded grubberkick later in the second half, before Sam Walker kicked them to a 13-12 victory.

The decision to take the penalty shot was criticised by the likes of Greg Alexander, who believed the Sharks had let the Roosters off the ropes while down to 12 men.

But retiring captain Wade Graham was insistent the move appeared the right one.

"Finals games, it comes down to margins," Graham said.

"If we don't kick that goal we're losing 12-10 anyway.

"A six-point lead is good. We should have been good enough to defend six."

Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon also backed the call.

"We were debating it in the box, but Tedesco only had about 50 seconds left or something like that," Fitzgibbon said.

"So if it ends up a scrap there and you don't get points, he's straight back on to get them out of trouble there.

"Wade's right - a converted try ahead in what was looking like a real slugfest should have been enough."

Fitzgibbon, though, would not cop the suggestion his team didn't capitalise well enough with Tedesco off the field.

After scoring early in the period through Ronaldo Mulitalo, one try went begging when Blayke Brailey dropped it over the line.

Another chance was missed when Jesse Ramien put a ball down 10 metres out on the last tackle, before a third break was cut down in the lead up to the penalty goal.

"We asked a few questions. They they scrambled pretty well," Fitzgibbon said.

"Once again, you'll try and put that on us instead of giving them a wrap for their day. But that's what happened."

The loss marked Cronulla's eighth in nine finals matches since their 2016 premiership, during a time when questions have been asked around the Sharks' ability to beat top teams.

But after a week in which Cronulla lost Braden Hamlin-Uele to a knee injury and had Toby Rudolf (toe) and Connor Tracey (knee) unable to train, Fitzgibbon insisted his side had taken a step forward.

"From where we were at the mid-point of the season I'm proud of how we've ended up to this point," Fitzgibbon said.

"Obviously I'm disappointed about tonight, but I think we're starting to grow up as a footy team.

"Things everyone's been happy to criticise us about, I think we're starting to address."