Cronulla coach Craig Fitzgibbon admits second rower Teig Wilton “got it wrong” in his ugly tackle on Parramatta half-back Mitchell Moses in the second round.
But the rookie mentor insists the Sharks never intended to hurt Moses and explained the thinking behind the extreme pressure his troops put on playmaker Eels on Saturday.
Wilton was flagged after taking Moses’ legs out as the former NSW Blues representative kicked in the 54th minute.
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The tackle put Moses in a dangerous position in the air and the 27-year-old cracked, manhandling him as players from both sides rushed in.
Fitzgibbon addressed controversial tackle on Nine’s latest episode 100% Footyafter earning his first win as Sharks coach in an 18-16 victory.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if it was Mitchell Moses, Dylan Brown, Reed Mahoney. Whoever was going to kick the ball, we wanted to put maximum pressure on the kickers and hopefully give them a bad kick kick. We missed that chance with Teig Wilton. He got the timing wrong,” Fitzgibbon said.
“But our intention certainly wasn’t to take Mitchell out of the game; it was just to put pressure on him.
“He’s such a wonderful player and such an important part of their team and their main kicker. So obviously we didn’t want to give, especially in the first half of their late Mitchell Moses free reign with his kicking game, because it would be a long afternoon for us.
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Wilton will miss Cronulla’s third round match after accepting a one-match ban from the Match Review Committee.
The sharks’ targeting of Moses left him hobbled on the ground and angered the eels.
Fitzgibbon said his players needed to improve to pressure the kicker in a safe manner.
“You can’t attack the legs of the kicker. That’s pretty clear. It shouldn’t be in the game and on this occasion we got it wrong,” Fitzgibbon said.
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“We have to improve in that area, we have to be able to put pressure on the kicker safely.
“That’s not part of the game. I don’t think anyone wants to see that.
“You run the risk of losing your own players if you go out to maim people, so that wasn’t the case.”
The Sharks next meet the Dragons in Wollongong on Thursday night.
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