After a tough, grinding first half the SG Ball Sharks found another gear in the second 35 minute period to storm home and beat the Illawarra Steelers 38-14 in their preliminary final at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
The Sharks went to the break trailing 10-6 and fell further behind when a Steelers try out wide extended that advantage to eight points but from there it was all Cronulla, six tries in the final 25 minutes booking a place in the Under-18 Grand Final next weekend.
It was an impressive final quarter of the match and one which will have the young Sharks side going into the premiership decider next week full of confidence.
The Illawarra boys certainly came to play on a sunny Saturday afternoon and controlled the early moments of the game as they ran hard through the middle and kicked intelligently.
Their early dominance was rewarded when hooker Jye Richards fooled the defense and dived over and with the conversion successful it was 6-0 Steelers.
Still on the front foot the Steelers pressed again and this time it was halfback Blair Grant winning the race to a grubber kick to score his teams’ second.
The conversion was waved away but the visitors had a handy 10-0 lead after 12 minutes of the match.
The Sharks worked their way back into the contest in the remaining 20 minutes of the first half, with a Bronson Xerri try, converted by Luke Metcalf, making it 10-6 Steelers at the break.
The Steelers hung tough for the first 10 minutes of the second half however the tide then turned and it turned quickly.
First to score was bustling prop Franklin Pele who ran 50 metres through the Illawarra right hand side defence to make it 14-12, before his fellow forward Monty Raper crashed over from close range and all of a sudden the Sharks were in front.
Those two tries opened the floodgates, with the Steelers unable to stop the flow, with Jaemon Salmon scoring twice, once backing up a Teig Wilton line break, the second from a lucky kick rebound, Xerri crossed for a second off a perfectly timed Dylan Smith pass and Wilton managed a try of his own after running 40-metres through some tired Illawarra defense.
It was an outstanding second period and one which will have their Grand Final opponents wary of the challenge the Sharks are likely to present next week.
While Salmon, Xerri and fullback Smith were in brilliant attacking form for the Sharks, they will be thanking forwards Raper, Pele, Wilton, Tom Coughlan and James Roumanos for their work in wearing down the Steelers in the middle of the field.
After finishing the season as minor premiers the Sharks have beaten the Panthers then Steelers in progressing to a Grand Final clash with the Parramatta Eels next weekend.
The match is scheduled for Leichhardt Oval next Saturday. Details will be communicated through the Sharks website.
Bronson Xerri 2, Jaemon Salmon 2, Monty Raper, Franklin Pele, Teig Wilton tries Luke Metcalf 5 goals
Sam Mccann, Blair Grant, Jye Richards tries, Zaan Wetherall goal