The Sharks trounced the Roosters 37-12 to set up a mini grand final next week against the Storm with both teams set to duke it out for the minor premiership in Melbourne on Saturday night.
The race for the minor premiership is on
The Cronulla Sharks are back, and so are their hopes of securing the minor premiership for the first time since 1999.
Having gone a month without a win, there were fears the Sharks' dream start to 2016 would go unrewarded, but the men from the Shire dispelled those concerns in the best way possible to move within one point of the Melbourne Storm on the Telstra Premiership ladder to set up a showdown for the minor premiership in Round 26.
The draw couldn't have worked out any better with the winner of next Saturday night's contest set to hoist the J.J. Giltinan Shield after the game.
But as Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said after the game, a win next week wouldn't just win them the minor premiership, it would help them secure an all-important top-two finish and a home semi-final.
"For both of us, there's a minor premiership up for grabs so that'll be the first point. And we've got to win to guarantee ourselves second place. But we don't get second place if we win; we get first place so it's a little bit different," Flanagan said.
"I haven't had time to digest all the machinations of it. We'll sit back during the week and have a think about it."
Gallen's return sparks the Sharks
Having missed Cronulla's last two games with a calf injury, Paul Gallen showed just how important he is to his side with a man-of-the-match performance on Saturday night.
The Sharks skipper was immense against the Roosters, running for a whopping 213 metres in a match that saw him make 26 tackles, produce four offloads and score a crucial try in a stunning 61-minute stint.
Gallen said he could have played the entire match but instead came off with 19 minutes remaining as a precaution after copping a slight knock.
"I didn't really want to come off but our head medical guy said it would be best case if I just come off, so I had to listen to him," Gallen said.
"I think it was just under 20 minutes to go and I didn't think the game was done then, but fortunately the boys defended really well and got the win."
Roosters return to bad habits
Despite their rankings, this was billed as a blockbuster contest between sides at different ends of the Telstra Premiership ladder.
The Roosters headed into the game in 14th spot but were tipped by many to knock off the second-placed Sharks due to their terrific recent form.
Instead, the Tricolours squandered a great start to fall into the old habits that have plagued them throughout 2016 to go down by 25 points.
The Roosters missed 36 tackles, completed just 59 per cent of their sets and conceded a whopping 13 penalties to hand Cronulla the game on a silver platter.
Michael Ennis goes out a winner
He might have only played two seasons in the Shire, but the Cronulla faithful farewelled retiring No.9 Michael Ennis as if he had been there all his life.
The raucous crowd of 14,457 cheered on his every move as Ennis 'awarded' the try to Matt Prior in the 25th minute, niggled Dylan Napa with a spray of his water bottle and slotted a penalty goal in the dying stages to put the icing on his last game at home.
The post-match press conference had to be delayed as fans and teammates alike celebrated with Ennis on the field and in the stands long after the full-time whistle had been blown.
As one of the great characters in the game, his departure at season's end is one of the motivating factors driving the Sharks to end their premiership drought.
Injury sours already bitter night
The Roosters' 25-point loss was made worse with fears powerhouse lock Sio Siua Taukeiaho had suffered a potentially serious knee injury.
The incident took place in just the second minute of the game when his knee appeared to get trapped under the weight of a tackle, causing the leg to buckle.
It's horrible news for Taukeiaho who looked certain to be picked for the Kiwis for the end-of-season Four Nations tour to the UK.
"I don't think it's good news for Siua. I don't think it's good," Robinson said.
"It's a blow for anybody to do their knee like that. It's not great, but that's footy."
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