Matts Cup Sharks march on while SG Ball beaten by Dragons
The Matthews Cup Sharks face a last round showdown with the Illawarra Steelers in a bid to qualify for the Finals series after a round eight victory over the Dragons, while the disappointing 2023 season continued for the Sharks SG Ball side following a loss to their local rivals.
Despite being a little short of their best the under-17 Sharks showed plenty of determination to come away with a 14-10 victory, that win coming before the Ball team let a handy second half lead slip in going down by 26-20 to the St George side.
Their win very much keeps the Matthews Cup Sharks hopes alive with one match remaining before the competition finals, but for the Cronulla SG Ball it will be all about playing for pride when they host the Steelers next weekend.
In the Matthews Cup match the Sharks began strongly, a try down their attacking left seeing centre Bailey Leach get across the line, the try converted by Nikora Williams and after just three minutes the Cronulla side led 6-0.
Things didn’t come quite so easily for the remainder of the contest, however coach Brad Kelly was pleased to get away with what could prove to be a crucial win.
“We started the game really well,” Kelly said. “I thought there were patches when we were really dominant but there were other times when we weren’t as ruthless. Some of our decision making and set finishes weren’t the best but a win is a win and we’ll take it.
“It’s good to back in the winners circle, but it was a heart attack game at times. We definitely made it difficult for ourselves with a few unforced errors and pushing passes we didn’t need to push.
“But I was pleased with the effort in defence and the level of grit they showed. They defended really well for the majority of the game. Our destiny is in our hands, so we’ll just go into next week now and give it a crack,” Kelly added.
Following their fast start it took the Sharks until two minutes before the break to add to their lead, winger Kailan Rehayem finishing strongly in the north western corner after receiving a clever cut out pass, with the teams going to half time with the score at 10-0 Sharks.
A Dragons error in the opening moments of the second period gifted the home side their third try, Xavier Singh taking advantage of the mistake and it was all Sharks at 14-0.
As Kelly explained the Sharks were somewhat their own worst enemies at times in the second half, a Dragons try under the posts with a little over 20 minutes to go narrowing the margin to eight points, but despite a fe3w anxious moments, the Sharks would hold on, with the final St George try in the last minute of the game coming too late to change the result.
Centre Williams was one of the Sharks best on the day, with the kicking game of five eight Blake Wardrobe a feature of his game.
In the SG Ball match to follow the Sharks jumped out to an 8-0 lead after the first 20 minutes of the match courtesy of tries to outside backs Richard Whalebone and Noah Penitani, but it would be the visitors to respond, two tries of their own seeing them take a 10-8 lead to half time.
In a game of shifting momentum, the Sharks scored the first two tries of the second half, the first to centre Albert Litisoni, followed by a second touchdown to Whalebone, both converted by Siteni Taukamo and they looked to be in control.
However the final period of the game saw another Dragons revival, three tries, the last one with only three minutes left of the clock, continuing a season in which the Ball Sharks have had their moments while unable to close out some close matches.
Both Sharks junior rep sides now move onto the ninth and final round of the season where they play the Illawarra Steelers at home.
MATTHEWS CUP SHARKS 14 Kailan Rehayem, Xavier Singh, Bailey Leach tries, Nikora Williams goal beat DRAGONS 10
SG BALL SHARKS 20 Richard Whalebone 2, Albert Litisoni, Noah Penitani tries, Siteni Taukamo 2 goals Lost to DRAGONS 26
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Pictures: Adam Wrightson
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