Sharks down in exciting 9s finale
In an exciting finale to the NRL Nines the Sharks have gone down by 18-14 in golden point extra time in the championship match at Eden Park.
Starved of possession for the majority of the game the Sharks refused to give in to the reigning NRL premiers, with a try and amazing sideline conversion from Valentine Holmes on the stroke of full time leveling the scores and sending the game into overtime.
In the extra time period again the kicking game of Adam Reynolds had the Sharks on the back foot but the Sharks defended as if their lives depended on it and repeatedly turned Souths away, however eventually the weight of possession told, with veteran Matt King scoring the tournament winning try almost 10 minutes into overtime.
It was a heartbreaking finish for the young Sharks side who can certainly hold their heads high after an outstanding Nines campaign.
The match began with Souths on the attack and despite their best efforts the Sharks gave up first points when Bryson Goodwin scored wide out.
Reynolds added the extras and Souths led 6-0.
As they had done for the entire tournament the Sharks showed great character to respond, on this occasion it was Wade Graham, then Ricky Leutele, putting Sosaia Feki into space, with the flying winger brushing aside the cover defense in a 50-metre run to the line.
The kick at goal was wide but the Sharks were back in the contest at 6-4 down.
Then as it appeared the teams would go to half time with only two points separating the two, a Souths charge down which saw them regain and dash 40 metres to score just as the siren was sounding, extended their advantage to six points at the break.
But once more, when the big crowd at Eden Park and those watching the television coverage may have thought Souths might run away wih the match, the young Sharks outfit hung in, kept the scores close then responded when youngster Jack Bird displayed great skill to beat a defender then off load for Valentine Holmes to score.
The exciting young fullback hit the upright with his attempt at conversion from the southern touchline but it was game-on at 10-8 to Souths.
The Rabbits then extended their lead with a try which appeared to seal the result but amazingly the Sharks still had enough energy to again strike back.
And again it was that man Bird who had a hand in proceedings, this time finishing off an attacking movement to plant the ball down a metre in from the touch line.
Which left the stage open for Holmes and the 19-year-old fullback didn’t disappoint, slotting the sideline conversion to send the game into golden point.
A Reynolds 40-20 put Souths on the attack and the Sharks were forced to defend repeated sets on their try line, while they had barely an opportunity in opposition territory.
Eventually the concerted pressure told, with King sliding over to put an end to an epic Nines final.
The Sharks and Souths both found their way to the final on the back of five successive victories, with the pair the only teams to emerge undefeated from the round robin section of the tournament.
While beaten the Sharks came away with their pride well and truly intact, with coach Shane Flanagan convinced the character on display could be the start of an exciting and successful 2015 season.
Jack Bird, Valentine Holmes, Sosaia Feki tries, Holmes goal