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Cronulla fans were left livid as two crucial video referee calls came back to haunt the Sharks as the Sydney Roosters forced a 14-all NRL draw at Toyota Stadium on Monday night.
Todd Carney looked like returning to haunt the club that cut him loose last year as he dominated for the Sharks, but he was unable to edge his side ahead in extra time in the NRL's first draw of the season.
He missed a field goal in the dying seconds of regulation play before his two extra time attempts were part of a collective seven botched one-pointers in the golden point period - three of them from Roosters No.7 Mitchell Pearce including the best opportunity two minutes from the end.
Chasing their seventh straight win at Toyota Stadium, Sharks fans showed their displeasure with video referee Paul Simpkins after two contentious decisions went against the home side.
The Roosters never lost touch with the home side, but they were lucky to be so close when Joseph Leilua scored in the 57th minute to cut the deficit to 10-8 after it had appeared Boyd Cordner had taken out Wade Graham in the lead-up.
The decision would have only added to stand-in captain Graham's anger after he was denied what appeared a legitimate try just four minutes earlier when video referee Paul Simpkins deemed he bounced the ball in attempting to ground a Jeff Robson grubber.
Still, the Sharks looked like they were hanging on for a win until Pearce came up with the play to send the game to extra time, his pin-point bomb reeled in by Aiden Guerra to level scores in the 77th minute.
Facing the Roosters for the first time since they sacked him late last year for repeated off-field indiscretions, Carney showed his class in setting up both of his side's tries - while his goalkicking kept the Sharks in front until the final stages.
The draw could yet have further ramifications for the Roosters, with prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves twice placed on report - the second for a swinging arm on Jeff Robson that could cost him some weeks on the sideline.
Asked if it was one that got away, despite his entire starting back-row of Paul Gallen, Jeremy Smith and Jayson Bukuya being sidelined, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said:
"We were in a position there with four-and-a-half minutes to go and we led by six and were pretty much in control.
"We dropped the ball coming out of our end ... they came up with points, so I do consider it a point lost."
As for the no-try ruling against Graham, Flanagan thought his side might have been hard done by.
Describing Waerea-Hargreaves' two incidents as "what he does regularly, we knew it was coming", Flanagan said Ben Ross would be monitored after he failed to return to the field due to concussion from the first reportable offence.
Roosters coach Brian Smith bemoaned his side's lack of composure in the final stages.
"We just didn't play any footy at all in that last period in extra time," Smith said."It ends the thing on a pretty ordinary note I think when two teams are playing like that, the referees put the whistles in their pockets and the game just peters out."
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