A one-handed Curtis Scott off-load for a Cameron Scott try with less than two minutes left on the clock has given the SG Ball Sharks a dramatic 18-16 win over the Townsville Stingers at Belmore Sports Ground.
In a match to decide the under-18’s National Champions, the Sharks fell behind with five minutes remaining, only for the last gasp try to save the day and add to the 16’s title won by their Matthews Cup counterparts earlier that afternoon.
While the Scott’s (no relation) were the heroes, an outstanding tackle from hooker Blayke Brailey, dislodging the ball from his Stingers opponent, provided the field position for the Sharks final score.
The victory capped off a brilliant ending to the season for the Sharks who had to win their last three games just to make the SG Ball play-offs before going on their unbeaten run through the finals series.
The match started well for the Sharks when Curtis Scott showed good strength to beat a handful of tacklers before scoring wide out.
Jack Williams, his head swathed in bandages after suffering a head cut earlier in the match, was off-target with his conversion attempt however the Sharks led 4-0.
In what was a physical defensive struggle for most of the first half points were hard to come by and it was the Stingers who were next to score, a try five minutes from the break giving them a 6-4 advantage.
A penalty goal by Townsville made it 8-4, a lead they would take to half time.
The second period began in near perfect fashion for the Sharks when they retrieved the ball from the kick off, before Billy Magoulias crossed just a couple of tackles later to level the scores only one minute into the half.
Shortly after big Stingers prop Mitchell Dunn crashed over to give his team back the lead at 12-8 and again the Sharks would be forced to come from behind.
As was the case in the first half both teams lifted their defensive intensity and it took until 15 minutes from time before the next points were scored and it would be the Sharks to regain the ascendency, Cam Scott running onto a Kyle Flanagan pass to again level the scores.
From close range this time Williams was on target and the Sharks had their noses in front at 14-12 with time ticking.
What followed however was a frantic final 10 minutes with first Townsville going back in front by 16-14, before the Scott partnership broke the hearts of the Queenslanders with their slick skills and resulting try in the dying moments.
The win was an outstanding achievement for a Sharks side that found itself floundering in 12th position mid-season due in part to a lengthy injury toll.
As with the Matthews Sharks the win was built on an overall team performance, but there were a few stars for the Cronulla side on the day.
While the Scott’s were dangerous throughout, props Daniel Vasquez and Brock Illet deserve praise for their wholehearted efforts in the middle of the field, with Magoulias again the rock in the forward pack around which a lot of the Sharks attack was built.
Five eighth Flanagan also turned in a tidy performance for the Sharks, with his well-timed passes and clever kicking game continually putting his side on the front foot.
With the SG Ball under-18’s season now coming to an end a number of Sharks will make the step up to the club’s NYC squad, with a number of others still eligible to go around again in the Ball competition in 2016.
Under 18's National Championship Final
Cronulla Sharks 18
Cameron Scott 2, Curtis Scott, Billy Magoulias tries, Jack Williams goal
Townsville Stingers 16
M Dunn, B Dee, M Hudson tries, Hudson 2 goals