Paul Gallen questions referee Henry Perenara.
Paul Gallen questions referee Henry Perenara.

Referee booed but gets unlikely support from coach

CRONULLA coach Shane Flanagan laid the blame squarely at his players - not the referees - after the Sharks' top-four hopes took a huge dent with a 33-32 golden-point NRL loss to lowly Manly.

Rebounding from last week's shattering collapse against Penrith, Manly secured two competition points through a left-footed field goal from skipper Daly Cherry-Evans two minutes into extra time on Sunday.

The stirring victory condemned Cronulla to a sixth straight loss to their arch-rivals on home soil and left the Sharks almost certainly needing to win their last four games to earn a double chance in the finals.

"In theory, you win your next four games, you're a chance. But if we play like that, we're not going to win our next four games. It's pretty clear,"

Flanagan said after watching his side concede five tries to the wooden-spoon candidates. "We've just got to concentrate week to week and concentrate now on Melbourne. It's going to be a tough game and we can't be looking too far ahead."

Flanagan lamented a Valentines Holmes missed penalty goal from virtually in front that could have stretched Cronulla's six-point lead to beyond a converted try as the clock wound down at Southern Cross Group Stadium.

Aaron Woods is sin binned. (AAP Image/Craig Golding)
Aaron Woods is sin binned. (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

"Two weeks in a row (we've missed) penalty kicks in front," he said.

"Maybe if we kick that goal, we go eight points ahead, it changes their mindset and we probably win the game.

"But we can't put it down just to the goal kick."

In a rare confession in a season of unrelenting referee beatings from NRL coaches, Flanagan refused to argue two no-try rulings against his side in the first half because of obstructions.

"The attention to detail on our behalf was poor. They were no tries to the letter of the law," he said.

Sharks fans saw the rulings differently, booing referee Henry Perenara off after he blew 23 penalties for the match and sent Test prop Aaron Woods to the sin bin during a wild first half punctuated by stoppages.

But, fielding their strongest side of the season, the Sharks had only themselves to blame for failing to put the lowly Eagles to the sword and missing the chance to join St George Illawarra in equal fourth spot.