Sharks win first ti­tle in 50 years

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

THE Cronulla Sharks held off a fu­ri­ous fin­ish from Mel­bourne Storm to fi­nally end their 49-year ti­tle hunt with a grip­ping 14-12 win in the Na­tional Rugby League grand fi­nal in Syd­ney yes­ter­day.

The Sharks, play­ing in their fourth premier­ship de­cider, led 8-0 at half­time only to trail Storm 12-8 with 15 min­utes left.

But pow­er­ful prop An­drew Fifita crashed over for the win­ning con­verted try to lead by two points with 11 min­utes left.

Cronulla with­stood a storm­ing fin­ish from Mel­bourne to de­fend their try-line in a pul­sat­ing fin­ish to send the Sharks fans wild in the near 84,000 ca­pac­ity crowd.

It capped an emo­tional vic­tory for the Sharks, who were wooden spoon­ers in 2014, the same year in which 10 past and present play­ers from the club served 12-month dop­ing bans over a sup­ple­ments scan­dal.

The de­cider at Syd­ney’s ANZ Sta­dium proved a tear-filled farewell for 281-game, one-club skip­per Paul Gallen and vet­eran hooker Michael En­nis, who an­nounced their re­tire­ments from the game.

“I can’t tell you how good I feel,” Gallen said. “I can’t be­lieve this af­ter all the hard work we have put in. It is in­cred­i­ble.”

Cronulla back-rower Luke Lewis won the Clive Churchill Medal as the player of the grand fi­nal.

Cronulla, based in Syd­ney’s south, en­dured grand fi­nal heart­break in los­ing the 1973 and 1978 de­ciders to Manly and miss­ing out to the Bris­bane Bron­cos in the 1997 fi­nal of the break­away Su­per League, which merged into the cur­rent NRL.

The Sharks bossed the open­ing 40 min­utes with a lively at­tack and swarm­ing de­fence.

They grabbed the only try of the rugged open­ing half with a planned move off a scrum win with Gallen turn­ing the ball in­side to full­back Ben Barba to scam­per through.

James Maloney landed the con­ver­sion and a penalty goal to give the Sharks an 8-0 lead at half-time.

There were some ex­plo­sive early mo­ments with Sharks hooker En­nis putting a high shot on Jor­dan McLean and Storm winger Marika Koroi­bete stun­ning Chad Townsend with a high hit and go­ing on the ref­eree’s re­port.

The Sharks knocked the nor­mally ef­fi­cient Storm out of their cus­tom­ary play­ing rhythm with their en­thu­si­as­tic play.

But Storm fought back with con­verted tries to prop Jesse Bromwich and Will Cham­bers to hit the front only for in­ter­change for­ward Chris­tian Welch to con­cede a penalty for a high tackle to give the Sharks a set of six tack­les deep in Storm ter­ri­tory.

Cronulla made Mel­bourne pay with Fifita car­ry­ing three de­fend­ers over the try-line and wrestling his arm clear to claim the win­ning try.

“To score the win­ning try is in­cred­i­ble. I don’t know where it came from. I was just rolling,” Fifita said.

Storm threw ev­ery­thing at Cronulla in the fi­nal fre­netic mo­ments and al­most pulled off the win­ning try, with Cham­bers not pass­ing to an un­marked Cooper Cronk close to the try-line the stand­out mo­ment.

Mel­bourne were bid­ding for their third ti­tle af­ter hav­ing their 2007 and 2009 ti­tles stripped af­ter a player salary cap scan­dal in 2010. –

Photo: Face­book/The West Aus­tralian Sport

The Cronulla Sharks cel­e­brate their first Na­tional Rugby League ti­tle yes­ter­day in Syd­ney.

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