Dragons skipper Ben Hunt hoped he had not played with Sims for the last time and said after the game: “I’ve played a lot of footy with Tariq, I really respect Tariq, he’s a good mate, and if that was his final game for the Dragons it would be really disappointing.”
Dragons coach Anthony Griffin conceded there was “always a chance” Sims could have been sent straight from the field, while Cronulla counterpart Craig Fitzgibbon noted Tracey did drop late before he was hit.
Like Manly, the Dragons will finish the weekend four points adrift of the top eight. They face Canberra away, the Titans, Tigers and Broncos in the final rounds.
Zac Lomax converted a penalty goal with three minutes on the clock to reduce the margin to six. They were gifted one last attacking set when the Sharks were ruled to have knocked on, a call that could have gone either way, but it wasn’t to be.
Sharks pin-up Nicho Hynes went over in the third minute, but Jack de Belin hit back for the visitors when Ronaldo Mulitalo failed to catch a Ben Hunt kick.
Both sides lost their way when Tracey was taken from the field and Sims was given a breather, but Cronulla soon got into a groove and pulled ahead through Braydon Trindall, who was only given the nod when Matt Moylan pulled up with a sore quad muscle after Friday’s captain’s run.
Cronulla are certainties to nail a top-four spot. It is a big achievement for first-year coach Fitzgibbon. His roster is in pretty good shape and there are no shortage of players at feeder club Newtown knocking at the door for an NRL call-up.
Kade Dykes, a third-generation Cronulla player whose father Adam and grandfather John both wore the Sharks colours, almost had a try on debut when he supported Mulitalo after a break through the middle, but the final pass went behind him.
Inspirational forward Dale Finucane will return from a two-match ban for next weekend’s clash against the Tigers in Tamworth.