The Cronulla Sharks Jersey Flegg under-20s have beaten the Parramatta Eels 32-26 in dramatic fashion, with an amazing last-gasp try from Jayden Millard stealing the result.
It was the Eels who handed Cronulla its first loss of the season back in round 14 – a 42-6 thumping, no less – but the tables turned dramatically this time around in an exciting NRL curtain-raiser.
The Sharks led by 12 with a quarter of an hour to go, but the Eels produced a mighty comeback to level the scores. With two minutes left, Cronulla created a long-range bust out of nothing that resulted in Millard's match-winning try.
On an extremely cold and blustery afternoon in the Shire, both sides took time to warm into the contest. There were errors aplenty in the opening exchanges and neither team was able to create pressure.
Cronulla went within a whisker of scoring first when towering winger Isaac Lumelume forced his way over the stripe. However, some last-ditch Eels defence held him up.
The match continued to ebb and flow until the Eels broke the deadline courtesy of a fortuitous try to fullback Lufusi Vea Tapaatoutai in the 19th minute.
Tapaatoutai found himself at dummy-half close to the Sharks' line on the last tackle and grubbered. The ball ricocheted off the Cronulla defence and landed in the Eels custodian's lap, and he crashed across to score.
With a gale blowing across the field, the conversion was unsuccessful from near the sideline.
But the young Sharks would hit back only moments later. After an Eels error in their first set following points, the Sharks spun the ball wide to the right and fullback Luke Polselli sliced past the back-peddling defence for a try.
Halfback Braydon Trindall added the extras with a beautiful kick that just snuck over the crossbar amid the harsh wind.
Unfortunately, the Sharks couldn't complete their first set of six after scoring either, inviting the Eels to attack. The mistake proved costly when Parramatta five-eighth Todd Sapienza cut through on the left-hand edge and scored.
The tit-for-tat nature of the contest continued and the Sharks returned fire almost immediately. Back-rower Tomas Harris burst onto a lovely flat pass from Trindall, tore through a gap and charged 30 metres to the tryline.
Trindall couldn't find his range to convert the four-pointer he set up; the score staying at 10-8 in favour of the Sharks.
Cronulla notched its third try of the first stanza as the half-time hooter rang out in the background. Captain Teig Wilton broke the line from inside his own half, cleverly drew the fullback and put centre Vito Tevaga away for an unopposed gallop to the in-goal.
While the conversion was waved away, the Sharks held a handy six-point lead at the break in tough goal-kicking conditions.
Parramatta began faster in the second-half, and soon the teams were level. Sapienza grubbered ahead into the unattended Sharks' in-goal and chased through to nab his double.
The Eels playmaker coolly converted his own try from in front of the posts, making it 14-all.
It wouldn't be long before Cronulla jumped to the lead again. Hooker Harrison Smith took it upon himself to produce something special, weaving into the clear and streaking away to touch down under the sticks. Trindall converted from point-blank range.
The elation of Smith's effort was dampened by what looked like a serious leg injury to Harris, who was helped from the field.
Parramatta was left with 12 men after the sin-binning of prop Sean Keppie, giving the Sharks a chance to extend their advantage.
And it was Smith who did the honours, burrowing over from dummy-half to snare a second try and make life difficult for the Eels with 15 minutes remaining.
Trindall nailed the conversion, extending the Cronulla's buffer to two converted tries.
That margin was reduced to six points when the Sharks bobbled a bouncing ball and gifted a converted try to the Eels, and it vanished completely following a fantastic long-range effort that was finished by halfback Jaydn Field.
With the teams tied, Parramatta had a golden opportunity to ice the game – only to give away possession via a forward pass.
It handed the Sharks an outside chance of snatching victory – and they did in incredible fashion when Millard completed a 70-metre raid.
Eels front-rower Stefano Utoikamau was sent from the field in the final minute, but it was a small blight on an otherwise enthralling match.
The Sharks play the high-flying Panthers in round 20 of the SG Ball Cup as they look to mount a challenge for the minor premiership.
Harrison Smith 2, Jayden Millard, Luke Polselli, Vito Tevaga, Tomas Harris tries, Braydon Trindall 4 goals