Sharks comeback stuns Storm in NYC
Cronulla Sharks have pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in rugby league history to stun the Melbourne Thunderbolts 48-40 in the Holden Cup at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Melbourne had raced out to a 34-6 lead at half-time, and led 40-18 with 18 minutes to play, but five tries in the final quarter of the game capped off one of the greatest escapes in recent memory.
It was the second time the Thunderbolts had scored 40 or more points in a game this season and lost, while the win moves the Sharks to three wins from as many games.
After last week's game against Manly was postponed, Cronulla's fresh legs proved the difference, allowing them to walk off their home ground as shock victors.
The Thunderbolts were the first to score, with skipper Jake Turpin doing it all himself from dummy-half. It was a case of anything you can do, I can do better (or at least just as well) when Cronulla's skipper and No.9 Jayden Brailey scooted over from close range to level the scores.
The Easter Bunny must have been on the players' minds, with Josh Kerr the next to score, also burrowing over from close range.
Both teams blew great opportunities with the Thunderbolts denied a try due to a forward pass, before Sharks fullback Ryan Cummins ignored support when he probably should have passed.
That missed chance came back to haunt the home side, as the Melbourne halves combined to take control of the game.
Five-eighth Scott Drinkwater set up Charlie Galo with a wicked grubber, before late inclusion Brodie Croft produced some scintillating footwork to extend the lead.
The pair then combined shortly after, with Croft dummying past defenders before positioning his halves partner to score under the sticks.
A try to Joel Gittins on the stroke of half-time off another crafty cross pass looked to have put the result beyond doubt, until the Sharks produced their own Easter miracle.
Tries to Ryan Cummins and Jayden Walker cut the margin to 16, before a fortuitous try to Louis Geraghty gave Melbourne some breathing space at 40-18 after 52 minutes.
The game looked dead and buried with 20 minutes to go, but thanks to their fresh legs, the Sharks were able to find another gear.
An inside ball from Brailey put winger Josh Tuilagi over, and then the skipper did it all himself to cut the gap to just 10 points with 12 minutes remaining,
With momentum and the crowd suddenly on their side, the Sharks scored again, this time through winger Sione Katoa who tiptoed inside the dead-ball line to narrow the margin to just four.
The unprecedented comeback was complete the following set, with Brailey slicing straight through some exhausted markers before linking up with his five-eighth to miraculously give the Sharks the lead.
Melbourne tried desperately to steal the win, but an error on the final play was gleefully accepted by Katoa who toed through to score his second for the evening to seal the stunning result.
Special mention must go to Sharks goal-kicker Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga who nailed 8 from 8 including several kicks from the sideline after managing just 1 from 6 in the Round 2 win over the Dragons.
Sharks 48 (Jayden Brailey 2, Sione Katoa 2 Ryan Cummins, Jayden Walker, Joshua Tuilagi, Jack Williams tries; Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga 8 goals) defeated Storm 40 (Jake Turpin, Josh Kerr, Charlie Galo, Brodie Croft, Scott Drinkwater, Joel Gittins, Louis Geraghty tries: Jesse Arthars 6 goals) at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Half-time: 34-6 Storm.