Rugby Union: Murray's reminder

Cronulla 18 Hunter Mariners 22
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The Independent Online
The unlikely story of the Hunter Mariners goes on, as the game's unwanted club embarrassed the masters of their fate by reaching the final of the World Club Championship.

An imaginative switch of play five minutes from time gave Hunter, who are earmarked for extinction as part of reconciliation plans in Australia, a thrilling victory at Shark Park. Their first away win in their own country could hardly have been better timed.

Both sides had been pressing for a position from which to kick a drop goal to break an 18-18 deadlock when Robbie McCormack and Scott Hill conned Cronulla by turning play towards the wing instead.

Although the final pass was not a good one, the powerful winger Nick Zisti, who scored two tries against Wigan last week, forced his way over in the corner.

If that try was a tribute to the spontaneous decision-making of the players on the field, then the whole Hunter performance further enhanced the credentials of their coach, Graham Murray.

Murray's achievement in drawing displays like this from a group of players no one else wanted at a club with no future marks him out as a coach of very special qualities.

It is little wonder that he should be top of Leeds' list for the vacant position of coach at Headingley; if ever a team provided a glowing reference on anyone's behalf, the Mariners did it for Murray yesterday.

Supposedly there only to ease Cronulla into a repeat in Auckland on Friday of this year's Australian Super League grand final, Hunter showed no inclination to play second fiddle.

They took an early lead when Hill's superb pass sent Darien Doherty over, but Cronulla drew level with a try from Russell Richardson.

An excellent break from Tyran Smith then set up Brett Kimmorley for the first of his two tries, although the Sharks tied it up again before half time when Andrew Ettingshausen finally made Hunter pay after Hill's pass had been intercepted and when Mat Rogers landed a penalty for the second of his goals.

Rogers added a try from a clever kick through and also managed the conversion from the touchline as it seemed that Cronulla, Australia's second best side all year, were going to get another stab at Brisbane.

But Kimmorley's evasive skills and strengths took him over, Richard Swain kicked the equalising goal in place of the injured Kevin Iro and Hunter - for this week at least - refused to die.

Cronulla: Peachey, Rogers, Ettingshausen, Richardson, Barnett, Dykes, Healey, Stevens, Treister, Lee, Ryan, Greenhill, McKenna. Subs: Bell, Fisher, Davidson, Long.

Hunter: Ross, Zisti, Godden, K.Iro, Carlaw, Hill, Kimmorley, Brann, McCormack, Stone, Dougherty, Marquet, Smith. Subs: Beauchamp, T Iro, Swain, Maddison.

Referee: B Harrigan (Sydney).