It was a positive start to the 2024 season for both the Mathews Cup and SG Ball teams, with the two Sharks junior representative squads scored impressive round one wins over the Balmain Tigers.
In hot and sticky conditions at PointsBet Stadium, the under-17 Matthews Cup outfit were dominant in a 32-6 victory, while in the SG Ball match that followed, the under-19 Cronulla squad rebounded from a first half deficit to record a 44-18 win.
In the first official hit out for most of the Sharks team at a junior rep level, the Matthews Sharks were on the board early through fullback Oliver Lester, backrower Kaden Garner crossed soon after and at 10-0 after the opening 15-minutes the Cronulla side were well on top.
Two more tries before half time sent the Sharks to the break with a commanding 22-0 advantage, and they would go on with the job, the only blemish when conceding a late Tigers try from close range.
Matthews Cup coach Brad Kelly was understandably pleased with the first up efforts of his team.
“Happy with the win, a good way to start the season,” Kelly said “It wasn’t a perfect performance, but we did enough to come away with a good win.
“For the most part our forwards did a good job of putting a dent in them and running really hard, allowing us to get good roll on. The defense was really good, they tested us a couple of times early on and there was one breech in the second half, but for the most part they did a good job in the middle and on both edges as well.
“It was good to lay a platform to build on for next week, but definitely some areas to improve on before we go into round two,” Kelly added.
While the Sharks had a host of solid performers across the park, with Garner in the backrow and Tom Dellow at lock, the pair having the experience of played at a Matthews Cup level the previous season, two of the standouts.
In the SG Ball match follow, with the advantage of a strong northly breeze and while also capitalising on Sharks ill-discipline, the Tigers took control, building an 18-4 lead with half time approaching.
However, in what was a momentum-turning moment, a try out wide to winger Richard Whalebone following a skillful tap-on from his centre partner Nikora Williams, with Riley Pollard adding the extra two from wide out, and at 18-10 the Sharks went to the break with a spring in their step.
“The try just before half time was very important. That six points was really vital for us, gave us a boost of confidence and energy going into half time and I think we showed what we can do in the second half when we respect the footy,” Sharks SG Ball coach Dave Howlett said.
A try to Michael Gabrael just one minute into the second half, his second of what would be three four-pointers on the day, put his team on the front foot, then with committed defense and the loins share of possession it was all Sharks, five more tries, for 34 points in the second period, rounding out the win.
In addition to Gabrael’s hat trick, Whalebone on the right wing crossed for a try scoring double, as did backrower Pharrell Gray. The Ball Sharks also received strong contributions from bench forward Harry Samuel, Williams at centre and from Max McCarthy, who in playing both middle forward and on the edge, worked tirelessly throughout.
The two Sharks junior rep teams are at home again in round two when they host the Parramatta Eels at PointsBet Stadium on Saturday. The Matthews Cup match is scheduled to kick off at 12.30pm, with the SG Ball contest at 2.15pm.
Oliver LESTER, Kaden GARNER, Bronson Homsy, Blake WATMAN, Thomas DELLOW, Jack SCHUMACHER tries, Bronson HOMSEY 4 goals
Michael GABRAEL 3, Richard WHALEBONE 2, Pharrell GRAY 2, Adrian SANDY tries, Riley POLLARD 6 goals