Ben Barba’s David-versus-Goliath try-saver on Ben Creagh has been hailed by his Cronulla teammates as the most important moment in the side’s 28-8 win over St George Illawarra on Sunday.
However it might just turn out to be one of the most important moments in the side’s season.
With the Sharks in control in the second half at Remondis Stadium but only leading 16-4, Barba pulled off one of the try-savers of the year.
With the Dragons skipper and front-rower Creagh steaming towards the line and looking like a certainty to score, Barba picked him up and drove him to the turf less than a metre out.
In the context of the game, it was a big moment – had Creagh scored the Dragons would have been back in the contest and had the all the momentum.
While Barba was penalised for tipping above the horizontal – although Sharks coach Shane Flanagan did question the referee’s decision – it turned out to be a key turning point.
From there Sharks put on two quick tries to kill off the Dragons’ surge and now sit in ninth – only outside the top eight on for and against.
“It’s 16-4 and if they score there it’s 16-10 and their confidence would have been going through the roof,” Flanagan said.
“(Meanwhile) we would have been going `well this wasn’t supposed to happen’. It was a really important moment.
“Players like Benny come up with those types of things.
“I was disappointed they got a penalty from it. At the time I thought it was a really good tackle, one-on-one, he had to make it.”
After being a top four team for most of the year, the Dragons are now in danger of dropping out of the finals race following five straight losses.
Having won four of their past five, the Sharks will have a golden chance to move into the top eight against Canberra on Saturday, and likely need to win four of their last eight to qualify for the finals.
Sharks skipper Paul Gallen described Barba’s tackle as a game-changing moment.
“It was a cracker. It was unbelievable – 105-110 kilo front rower and all he had to do was fall over and Benny stopped him,” Gallen said of Barba’s tackle.
Creagh praised Barba’s defensive effort and said he was caught off guard after trying to unload the ball – to an opposition player.
“It was a really good tackle,” Creagh said.
“Unfortunately back on the inside one of the Sharks boys called my name and I thought it was one of our guys.
“I looked back to throw the ball and as soon as I turned around (Barba) was there tackling me.”