Holden Cup wrap: Round 15
All the key stats and talking points from arguably the greatest weekend in Holden Cup history.
Sharks go on feeding frenzy
Like a scene out of Jaws 2, the Sharks terrorised a group of teenagers with a record-breaking 84-6 win over the Wests Tigers at Southern Cross Group Stadium. With five 17-year-olds in their side, the struggling Tigers cubs were no match for the table-topping Sharks who shattered a number of NYC records on Saturday night. It was 8-6 at one stage, but 13 unanswered tries saw Cronulla become the first team in NYC history to reach 80 points, while the 78-point winning margin equalled the record held by Penrith (78-0 over the Titans). Back-rower Briton Nikora claimed a first-half hat-trick, while Tony Matautia and Kyle Flanagan each bagged doubles; the latter's 32-point haul taking him past 200 for the season and in sight of Jake Mullaney's record 322 points set in 2009, ironically for the Tigers.
Dragons shock the Eels
The decision to rest Steve Marsters, Reece Robson and Zac Lomax looked to have spectacularly backfired when the Dragons fell behind 30-6 late in the first half in a match they were expected to win against the Eels. Instead, it mattered little as the Red V piled on five unanswered tries to somehow leave ANZ Stadium with the two competition points to stay in touch with the competition's top sides. Wingers Jason Gillard and Dylan Morris each grabbed doubles, but it was Dane Francis's try and Jackson Willis's clutch conversion at the death that proved the difference as the Dragons sealed a comeback out of nowhere that Randy Orton would have been proud of.
Melbourne's happy homecoming
Given their affiliation with the Sunshine Coast Falcons, it's not often Melbourne's Thunderbolts get to play a home game at AAMI Park. In fact, Saturday's game against the Cowboys was their first at the venue this season with their only other match set to take place in Round 26 against the Raiders. Things didn't look great for the hosts with North Queensland skipping out to a comfortable lead even with Kalyn Ponga out of the side. The Cowboys looked home and hosed with an 18-0 lead but were left to rue three attempted conversions that crashed into the uprights as Melbourne stormed home in the second half to steal a thrilling two-point win.
Players of the Round
We're tracking the best performances every round this year with a good old-fashioned 3-2-1 points system.
3 – We could have gone with any Shark, but we've landed on Briton Nikora who claimed a first-half hat trick and finished the game with 166 running metres on the right edge.
2 – The easy option would be to pick Kyle Flanagan, but we've given the two points to teammate Blayke Brailey who is playing just like his brother did last year. The crafty No.9 set up three tries to take his tally to 19 assists for the season (most in the NYC).
1 – On any other given day Cowboys back-rower Ryan Lloyd would have been the man of the round, but this was no ordinary week. Lloyd finished with three tries, three line breaks, 10 tackle busts and 138 running metres in a losing effort.
Rabbitohs 26 – Titans 18
Storm 22 – Cowboys 20
Sharks 84 – Wests Tigers 6
Eels 30 – Dragons 32