A gritty, lung-busting display from the Cronulla Sharks has seen the club claim its first-ever premiership with a 14-12 win over Melbourne Storm.
A 70th-minute try from prop forward Andrew Fifita helped the Sharks overcome a second-half surge from the Storm in front of 83,625 fans at Sydney’s Olympic stadium on Sunday night.
After nearly 50 years, the Cronulla Sharks have ended Rugby League’s longest drought by winning the premiership trophy.
Skipper Paul Gallen had been waiting 16 years just for a chance to walk out on grand final day, but the man with the biggest impact on the decider had called Cronulla home less than any other Sharks players.
Cronulla had a very strong first half, but also had many hurdles to deal with, including a horror injury toll which saw Matt Prior and Jayson Bukuya undergo concussion tests, Sosaia Feki’s night ending with a leg injury just after half-time and Jack Bird virtually playing the whole game with one arm after friendly fire from his skipper.
It was a victory set up after a relentless opening half of football, where Cronulla dominated ball possession, however the Melbourne defence withstood the onslaught to head into the break trailing by just eight points.
That dominance continued in the second half, but against the run of play the Storm struck back to stun the Sharks when Jesse Bromwich spun his way to the line to reduce the deficit to two with 29 minutes remaining.
The Storm somehow took the lead soon after through Will Chambers, leaving Cronulla 15 minutes to come back from a 12-8 deficit.
But then, Fifita created history when he crashed his way over from close range to claim victory for his side.