A gallant Sharks outfit has suffered a heartbreaking Grand Final loss, going down by 21-20 to the Wests Tigers in a golden point thriller at Campbelltown Stadium.
After the team finished 14-all after the regulation 70 minutes, the Sharks went ahead in extra time courtesy of some brilliance from Quincy Dodd and Sam Bremner, before the Tigers leveled with only seconds left on the clock.
The teams turned around for a golden point period, with a Sharks error, a dubious call where the referee appeared to miss a strip in the tackle, gifted their opponents field position, with Tigers half back and Captain Emily Curtis slotting the game-winning field goal.
It was a devastating loss for the Sharks who certainly had their chances in what was an enthralling contest.
“There were a few key moments we just didn’t control, we had our opportunities to put them away and we just didn’t take those moments which hurt us in the end,” Sharks coach Tony Herman said.
In a match which was an outstanding spectacle for the women’s game, the two teams were physical, threw the ball around and played some enterprising football, the Sharks were first on the board at the 19-minute mark, Talei Holmes off-loading for Tiana Penitani to cross wide out.
The conversion was unsuccessful, the Sharks leading 4-0 with the Tigers levelling the scores just three minutes later, centre Keele Browne jumping over her Sharks opposite to claim a Curtis kick to score.
A penalty goal put the Sharks back in front by 6-4, however they would concede a try on the stroke of half time and following the successful conversion the Tigers took a 10-6 lead to the break.
With their tails up the Tigers attacked the Sharks line early in the second period, however the Cronulla girls repeatedly turned them away and their defensive resilience was rewarded when Holmes ran a perfect line off a short pass from skipper Maddie Studdon to score and 10 minutes into the half the Sharks were back on even terms at 10-points all.
An error from the ensuing kick off would put the Sharks under pressure once more, with a Tigers try in the south-western corner of Campbelltown Stadium putting them back in front at 14-10.
Showing plenty of heart the Sharks continued to fight and a Zali Fay try out wide, the winger on the end of a sweeping backline play, and it was tied up once again.
The Studdon conversion attempt from the touchline was waved away and at 14-all the game was set for a grandstand finish.
Neither side was able to score in the final minutes as the game went to five-minutes each-way extra time and it was the Sharks who gained the upper hand, Dodd dashing out of dummy half on the half way line and slicing through the middle of the ruck, the movement finished off by Bremner and following the conversion by Studdon the Sharks had firmed as favorites at 20-14 ahead at the end of the first overtime period.
With time ticking the Sharks had their chances to close out the win but it was the Tigers showing a never-say-die attitude, a second try to Browne and with the siren sounding in the background, Curtis converted from 10-metres in from the sideline to send the game to golden point.
Then followed the Sharks error and the Curtis one-pointer with the Tigers claiming a thrilling win.
While disappointed by the final result, the Sharks women, playing the Grand Final without five NRLW contracted girls, showed plenty of grit and determination but unfortunately came up a fraction short.
“But the girls were awesome, they’ve had an incredible year, they played really well,” Herman said. “We had some really good messages from the club, from the (NRL) boys and the girls were really pumped by that. Onwards and upwards and we look forward to NRLW next year.”
After finishing the season in third position on the ladder, the Sharks beat Mounties 22-4 to qualify for the Grand Final against the fourth-placed Wests Tigers team who qualified for the competition decider by beating the North Sydney Bears.
For the Sharks while it was a full team effort to come so close to Grand Final glory, special mention to Holli Wheeler, Tegan Dymock and Brooke Anderson in the middle of the field, the trio working tirelessly in both attack and defense, Bremner was as dangerous as ever from fullback and Penitani had a number of good touches out wide.
Many of the Sharks will now be spread amongst the various NRLW teams for the 2022 season, with the Cronulla club to take part in the elite women’s competition from 2023.
Sam Bremner, Tiana Penitani, Talei Holmes, Zali Fay tries, Maddie Studdon 2 goals
WESTS TIGERS 21