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Souths, soft penalty ends Sharks comeback

Cronulla’s horror season has taken another hit after a “soft” penalty controversially ended a comeback against South Sydney and condemned them to a 32-22 NRL loss.

After they trailed 20-0 after just 31 minutes, the Sharks scored once before the break and twice after to get within four points and a sniff of their first win in six weeks.

But the comeback swung on a bizarre penalty with seven minutes to play, as South Sydney tried to work it out of their own end.

Referee Chris Sutton went back two plays to penalise Chad Townsend for pressure on Cody Walker’s neck, with the force light at best as he fell over him.

Walker then spun and forced his way over off the back of a late Junior Tatola offload, putting off any hopes of a miracle win for the Sharks.

“They’re in vogue this weekend aren’t they? Pretty soft,” an exasperated Cronulla coach Josh Hannay said.

“It was a soft penalty.

“It’s getting pretty confusing at the moment.

“How games are being stopped mid sequence just to come back two or three plays for something so innocuous as well.”

Hannay refused to blame the call for the loss, instead frustrated at his team’s last-tackle option on the previous set that gave up possession.

But he did have support from Souths coach Wayne Bennett, who criticised the NRL in his press conference for the game continually stopping for the bunker to step in.

“What works for you to do works against you tomorrow,” Bennett said.

“Because it could be us tomorrow.

“I’m a bit worried about it. We’re getting confused, we’re talking about a fast open game, that’s not what we’re doing (by the bunker stopping it).”

Adding further insult to injury, Jai Arrow then blew the scoreline out further with his first four-pointer in Souths colours before Cronulla’s Mawene Hiroti got a late consolation try.

The win kept Souths safely inside the top four, but Bennett was not happy with the way his side switched off.

“I wasn’t impressed,” Bennett said.

“We could have easily lost it but we did hang in.”

It also wasn’t all good news for Souths with Queensland State of Origin forward Jaydn Su’A sin-binned for dangerous contact on Aaron Woods.

If he was to cop a grade-two dangerous contact charge he would miss State of Origin I and not play again before Game II even with an early guilty plea.

It had earlier looked like another special night for Benji Marshall.

The ageless veteran set up the Bunnies’ first two tries, producing a double-pump to fool Chad Townsend for Keaon Koloamatangi’s first and then putting on a two-man cut-out ball for Alex Johnston.

Walker also crossed for one after Dane Gagai brushed through Josh Dugan, and at that point the match looked over.

But after his poor start, Townsend was quick to hit back, putting Will Kennedy over for Cronulla’s first and delivering the kick for their second to Aaron Woods via some Andrew Fifita magic.

The Sharks then looked destined to overtake Souths when Moylan went to the line for Briton Nikora to capitalise with 13 minutes to play, only for the game to fall apart for them from there.

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