The Cronulla Sharks have claimed a hugely impressive 10-4 victory over competition heavyweights the Sydney Roosters on the back of an amazingly physical performance by their big men up front.
Sharks v Roosters: Five key points
The Roosters have ripped through some of the best forward packs in the NRL over recent weeks, and on Monday night made the Storm look physically weak, but at Remondis Stadium on Sunday afternoon the Sharks did not give them an inch.
The big upset victory was the second time the Sharks have surprised everyone to get over the top of the Roosters, after doing so in Round 5, and they looked nothing like the outfit that was blown away by the Dragons last weekend.
It was a low-scoring game but nonetheless hugely entertaining. Especially the opening half, when Cronulla left no one guessing their intentions in this contest.
Bruising would be the best way to describe a first half full of niggle, big hits and dropped ball.
Played in perfect conditions, both sides came at each other in a brilliant fashion. Cronulla were clearly inspired by a parochial 14 thousand-strong crowd and the return of skipper Paul Gallen.
Meanwhile the Roosters were playing their typical style of football with mountains of muscle through the middle, however they committed 11 errors in the first half as they attempted to get around a fired up Sharks pack.
Both sides came together in push and shove melees on numerous occasions with soon-to-be teammates regularly squaring off with some heated words. Mitchell Pearce lined up Andrew Fifita, Michael Ennis came head to head with Boyd Cordner while Jared Warea-Hargreaves was relishing in the opportunity to test his power against Gallen.
The Sharks and Blues skipper, who was clearly struggling from a lack of match fitness and the lingering effects of a hip injury, wouldn't take a backward step against his relentless opponent. The returning Chris Heighington also rejuvenated the Sharks pack with his intensity and strength.
Halfway through the first half the Roosters were the first to put points on the board as James Maloney took a deflected Sharks grubber 96 metres to score for the Chooks. The Sharks had been pressing hard on the Roosters line, looking like they'd be first to score, however Jack Bird's grubber was blocked by the boot of Maloney, who outpaced Jeff Robson to run the length of the field.
The Sharks hit back brilliantly early on in the second half through a deft offload by Robson onto Luke Lewis. The attacking opportunity was sparked by a half-break to Jack Bird. Lewis was pushing through in support as always and Robson's late offload was timed to perfection. After a conversion from in front the Sharks had a 6-4 advantage with 35 minutes to play.
Over the next twenty minutes the Sharks really began to gain the ascendancy through the middle of the field. Their power-running forwards were doing to the Roosters what few have managed this season, breaking them open through the middle of the field.
Meanwhile the Roosters were struggling to get the ball down the field, with the Sharks putting up a brick wall in defence. Cronulla were rewarded for their relentless pressure with a Michael Gordon penalty goal in the 65th minute to give them a four-point advantage.
With five minutes left an attacking Roosters kick deflected off Wade Graham, who did well to gain control of the ball and race 20 metres in a pivotal moment. Cronulla then raced downfield and forced a repeat set, the Roosters' ensuing dropout didn't go ten and the Sharks claimed an important six-point advantage with a penalty from in front with just two minutes left to play.
In a tense final few moments the Roosters then forced a mistake with their kick-off and had a final opportunity at the line. However they would not be able to convert this opportunity as they knocked on out wide in their final attempt at the line, the Sharks sealing a more than deserved six-point win in one of the most impressive performances by any team so far this year.
Cronulla Sharks 10 (Luke Lewis try; Michael Gordon 3 goals) defeated Sydney Roosters 4 (Maloney try) at Remondis Stadium. Crowd: 14,235.