Austin hurt as Sharks comeback stuns Raiders

Oliver Caffrey

A Valentine Holmes double proved the difference as Cronulla enjoyed a gutsy 24-16 NRL comeback win over Canberra at GIO Stadium.

The Sharks' fourth straight victory was built around their fullback's dramatic redemption after costing the Sharks an early converted try.

Star Raiders winger Nick Cotric pounced on some sloppy play from Holmes in the dead-ball zone to score Canberra's first points after seven minutes to get the crowd of 11,047 at GIO Stadium firing.

But only a minute later Holmes weaved through Canberra's defence after taking a high-ball to run three quarters of the field and get the Sharks going with their first try.

Fittingly, Holmes sealed the game when he went on another huge run in the final minute as Chad Townsend converted the try after fulltime.

The Sharks trailed by eight points at halftime in the clash, with the Raiders searching for a victory that would've put them inside the top-eight.

Canberra didn't add to their score after the break as Cronulla controlled possession and time in attack during the second half.

Sosaia Feki's try on the left edge in the 66th minute saw the Sharks hit the lead for the first time as the Raiders were unable to capitalise on their attacking threats after that.

Holmes was also influential in another try, as he slapped a ball back for first-gamer Jack Williams to score the first points of his career in the 55th minute.

Canberra's woes were compounded by five-eighth Blake Austin being taken from the field with a suspected serious ankle injury.

Canberra's Blake Austin suffered a suspected ankle injury in their 24-16 NRL loss to Cronulla

The off-contract Austin was helped off by trainers after being injured while scoring Canberra's second try late in the first half.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was unsure how long Austin would be sidelined for, but believed his absence played a huge role in the reversal of fortunes.

"He started to play some really good footy and having Blake go we seemed to lose our rhythm and fluency in attack," Stuart said.

"I feel sorry for Ata because I've been training him up to be a utility-nine player and he hasn't done a lot of work in the halves with us so that's probably my fault."

Valentine Holmes was one of the standouts for the Sharks. Pic: Getty

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan believed it was one of the bravest wins in his nine-season stint in charge of the club.

They were missing prime movers Josh Dugan, Luke Lewis and Wade Graham, while co-captain Paul Gallen pulled out late after being named for his comeback from a knee injury.

Flanagan called on co-captain Andrew Fifita to step up and he delivered for his coach.

"I've got five back-rowers out at the moment so we're struggling to even get a team to come down," Flanagan said.

"I don't want him (Fifita) to play 80 minutes, but I needed one of those front-rowers to play big minutes and he's done a great job for the team."

Sosaia Feki's try on the left edge in the 66th minute saw the Sharks hit the lead for the first time as the Raiders were unable to capitalise on their attacking threats after that.

Holmes was also influential in another try, setting up first-gamer Jack Williams to score the first points of his career.