The Matthews Cup Sharks cemented their place inside the top four with a 26-12 win, while the Sharks SG Ball team squandered a big second half lead in going down to the Tigers in mixed day of results for the Junior rep teams.
In the first match played at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday, the under-17 Matthews Sharks almost assured themselves of a spot in the finals with their five tries to two win over the Balmain Tigers, the victory a nice bounce back after consecutive losses.
However, in the game to follow, the SG Ball Sharks held what should have been a match-winning 28-16 lead during the second half, only to be run down by the Balmain side in suffering a 30-28 loss, a defeat which has put a dent in their chances of qualifying for the six-team Finals series.
For Matthews Cup Coach Brad Kelly, it was a welcome return to form, with his team turning around key elements of their game after recent disappointments to get the better of the Tigers on their home turf.
“It feels good to be back in the winner’s circle,” Kelly began. “One of the key differences was attitude, especially in defense. I thought we controlled the middle part of the field. Our forwards did a great job of containing them, that was an indicator of their attitude change and it set us up for the victory.
“The last couple of weeks we probably lacked that little bit if intensity when the momentum swung, we didn’t stick in there long enough to ride it out. Today when a little bit of adversity hit us, the boys were able to steel the defensive line up and we were able to defend most of those sets.”
The Matts Sharks conceded the first try but from that point dominated proceedings for the remainder of the half, both props in Lachlan Araullo and Max McCarthy getting across the stripe as they took a 12-4 lead to the break.
The Sharks would continue to dictate play early in the second period, two tries in the first 10 minutes of the half, the first to skipper Chevy Stewart, the second to utility Ngarotata Enoka, and they had a commanding 22-6 lead.
Araullo would cross for a second, before the Tigers grabbed a consolation four-pointer to close out the match, with Kelly especially pleased with the efforts of his forward pack in paving the way for his team’s win.
“I thought Max McCarthy did a great job in the middle, played huge minutes, and Jasper Catton on the edge did a really good job. There was a bit of an injury cloud on him this week, he only got cleared last night,” Kelly said.
“And Alex McFaddon, in his first game, did a great job in the middle as well, plenty of work when he came on. Those three boys were the standouts, then I thought our halves kicked really well, had better kicking games today,” he added.
With a game against the Bulldogs in the last round still to come, the Matthews Sharks sit in fourth place on the competition ladder and are virtually assured of a place in the finals the week following.
However, while it was a happy dressing room following the Matthews Cup match, the mood was certainly less festive in the SG Ball sheds following a game where they held a nice second half lead only to eventually be beaten by the Tigers.
In a seesawing first half the teams traded the lead until they would go to the break level at 16-points all.
The next period of the contest was all Sharks in scoring three tries, two of those coming to young backrower Lawson Cotter, and at 28-16 it appeared the Cronulla side was going to do enough to score a strong away win.
The hometown Tigers had other ideas, fought their way back into the contest, their final try coming with seven minutes left on the clock. The Sharks fought hard to wrestle back the lead and claim the points but it wasn’t to be, the loss leaving them in a precarious position with one game remaining.
Sitting eighth, but still only two points outside the top six, all is not totally lost, however the Ball Sharks would need a win over the sixth-placed Bulldogs next weekend, by a margin of at least five points, then have other results to go their way, to sneak into the competition finals.
Both the Matthews Cup and SG Ball matches are scheduled to be played at Belmore Sports Ground next Saturday.
Lachlan Araullo 2, Chevy Stewart, Max McCarthy, Ngarotata Enoka tries, Chevy Stewart 3 goals
Lawson Cotter 2, Kristian Dixon, Carl Bishop, Ben Lavendar, Chaz Jarvis tries, Jake Hay 2 goals
Pics - courtesy Steve Montgomery - ourfootyteam.com