In delivering an outstanding performance on the big day, the Matthews Cup Sharks have beaten the Parramatta Eels to claim their first NSWRL 16’s premiership since 2001.
The young Sharks turned in a brilliant all round display, their defensive effort frustrating their rivals, while as has been the case all the way through the finals series, they did more than enough with ball in hand to record a 30-16 triumph.
In front of a large and vocal crowd of excited fans, which included parents and friends as well as NRL skipper Paul Gallen and head coach Shane Flanagan, the Sharks led 10-6 at half time and never looked back.
The Sharks started strongly and it was man-of-the-match Jaemon Salmon who opened the scoring when he used a combination of footwork and strength to get through the line and plant the ball down.
The Eels responded to make it 6-4 but in a physical first 30 minutes the Sharks would score the only other points of the half, prop Fine Kula crashing over next to the uprights with a patented Cronulla play.
This time half back Luke Metcalf was able to add the extras to make it 10-6, a lead the Sharks would defend until the half time break.
The Sharks came out for the second period with similar purpose and enthusiasm that had given them the first half lead and it would be bustling centre Semisi Kioa scoring the first of two tries on the afternoon who added to the lead.
Metcalf was off target with his kick but the Sharks had a handy 14-6 lead early in the second half.
The Sharks defensive pressure continued to tell on the Eels and after Kioa had smashed his opposite number at one end in a legal yet brutal tackle, he would score shortly after at the other, skipping past a couple of defender to touch down wide out.
Metcalf was on target this time and the Sharks had what was a potential match winning lead at 20-6 in front but with plenty of time still to be played.
The Eels narrowed the margin with a try to make it 20-10 with 14 minutes remaining but that would be as close as they get.
The Sharks would score twice more, the first when Jack Gould slid over on the end of a backline play, the second to his inside man centre Bronson Xerri.
The Eels would score a consolation try in the final minutes but it was too little too late as the Sharks claimed an impressive victory and the Matthews Cup title.
The Sharks had too many outstanding performers to name them all, however lock and captain Lachlan Smith deserves praise for his wholehearted efforts, tackling himself into a standstill and he ably supported by his backrow partners Jay Shearman and Salmon who would later be named a worthy winner of man of the match.
In the backs fullback Dylan Smith was everywhere, Kioa his usual power of strength until injury forced him from the field, while Xerri capped off an excellent year with another top notch game in the centres.
And in an added bonus, four Sharks were selected in the NSW team to play before Origin 1, both Smith boys in Lachlan and Dylan, halfback Metcalf and backrower Salmon.
The Matthews Cup Sharks now go on to play for the under-16 National Championship against the Townsville Stingers at Belmore Sports Ground next weekend.
Semisi Kioa 2, Fine Kula, Bronson Xerri, Jack Gould, Jaemon Salmon tries, Luke Metcalf 4 goals