Cronulla’s NRL finals chances have suffered an incredible blow with fears star half Shaun Johnson has snapped his Achilles tendon in a tough 34-18 loss to Sydney Roosters on Saturday.
The 30-year-old went down untouched clutching his lower right leg in the 48th minute at the SCG and was soon after carted from the field.
No doubt in excruciating pain, Johnson kindly gave the thumbs up to the crowd from the back of the medicab before reports emerged of the season-ending injury.
Adding to the Sharks’ injury woes, prop Royce Hunt also took a ride on the medicab in the second half when he dislocated his right knee cap and Josh Dugan was taken off late with a knee injury.
With just one game left before the finals, losing Johnson – who leads the NRL with 22 try-assists this season – is a disaster for the Sharks who will not have a second chance in week one.
He added another to his tally on Saturday night, but the Sharks trailed 24-12 when he was taken from the field.
And while the Sharks’ injury crisis dominated the second half, the opening 40 minutes was all about the Roosters.
It was a magical night for Mitch Aubusson who scored a brace in his 303rd NRL game for the club to become the most-capped player.
The first was a short ball from Joseph Manu to crash over just five minutes after Aubusson led the team out as captain through a guard of honour.
But the second was more dubious.
Chasing through a grubber from Angus Crichton, Aubusson appeared to knock the ball on but replays showed he trapped it between his leg and hand.
The stroke of luck landed the milestone man his double and put the Roosters ahead 24-6 before they conceded late in the half.
After seven first half errors the Sharks still managed to score twice with just 42 per cent possession steered around by Johnson who was in slick touch before he went down.
Ronaldo Mulitalo and Siosifa Talakai scored in the first half but a third try to Braden Hamlin-Uele further punished the disjointed Roosters’ defence.
However, the premiers had enough class to polish off the win – even while missing some of their biggest stars.
James Tedesco, Jake Friend and Boyd Cordner all watched from the stands as the Roosters ran in six tries, including a double to Luke Keary.
All are set to return to play South Sydney on Friday night.
Manu was binned late after repeated ruck infringements but the fullback also got on the board along with winger Daniel Tupou.
Meanwhile, the finals-bound Sharks side are already missing Matt Moylan, Wade Graham and Chad Townsend – the latter two through suspension.
Graham is set to return against Canberra next weekend.