Sharks prevail after Jets sail to healthy lead
Saving their best for last, the Shellharbour Sharks claimed a 16-12 comeback victory over Nowra-Bomaderry in Sunday's qualifying semi-final at Ron Costello Oval.
Shellharbour were behind 12-0 with less than 20 minutes remaining before prop Harold Snell crashed over for a try under the posts.
Smelling blood in the water, an energised Sharks were back on the attack minutes later, closing the gap to 12-10 with Bronx Goodwin's try from a cross-kick. Goodwin's conversion knotted the score, setting up an enthralling finale.
The Sharks missed with two field goal attempts before veteran winger Jamie Manukonga carried three defenders over the line and somehow got his arms free to touch down in the corner.
The Jets still had time to regain the lead or at least force the game into extra time when they advanced deep into Shellharbour's territory in the closing stages, but they couldn't keep their composure when it mattered.
Nowra-Bomaderry will meet reigning premiers Gerringong in this Saturday's minor semi-final, while Shellharbour have booked a date with Warilla in Sunday's major semi-final.
Jets captain-coach Ben Wellington knew his side had let a golden opportunity slip away.
"The sad thing is that we just do little things wrong when it comes to crucial points in the games, like kicking the ball out on the full, knocking on or throwing a forward pass," he said.
"Individual focus is a big thing in our team. In the parts of games where we should be holding our lead, we just can't hold on.
"Our defence had been good, but we just don't stay switched on. We're a 75-minute team, and those five minutes broken up into minutes throughout the game is where we lapse."
Jets five-eighth Steve Brandon broke a nil-all deadlock with his try under the posts early in the second half.
Mark Brandon converted and stretched the lead to 8-0 minutes later with a penalty goal. He put the Jets further ahead when he grabbed a deflected kick and sprinted away to score in the corner.
The visitors might made it 14-0 a few minutes later but passed up the relatively easy penalty shot.
Shellharbour found new life and got back in the game with Snell's try.
The Jets never got back into rhythm and victory slipped from their grasp.
"It was a tough game. There'll be 34 sore boys in those sheds," Shellharbour coach Dave Walsh said.
"Our discipline was poor at the start and we really suffered for it. We couldn't get in position with the ball to attack because we were drained from doing all that defence. We let ourselves down by giving away penalties, and the bounce of the ball wasn't going our way, for some reason."
This article originally appeared in the Illawarra Mercury on 31/08/2014