The Parramatta Eels have won the 2017 SG Ball Cup premiership, defeating Cronulla 30-22 at Leichhardt Oval.
The Eels came storming out of the blocks in the match, with a quick double to Ethan Parry – and two great conversions to captain Kyle Schneider – giving them a 12-0 lead after less than 10 minutes.
The Sharks, however, weren’t going to allow one-way traffic in the decider, with hard-running back-rower Monty Raper charging over from close range to cut the deficit to six after 23 minutes.
For the remainder of the first half the Sharks camped themselves on the Eels’ line, but Parramatta’s great defence kept Cronulla at bay.
The Eels’ resistance was rewarded early in the second half, with a sustained raid on the Sharks’ line ultimately resulting in a fleet-footed four-pointer to Joseph Taipari. The five-eighth stepped his way past a handful of defenders to score under the posts to take the score to 18-6.
A penalty to the Eels kicked the lead to 14 – and then Parramatta kicked away to the title. With the Eels on the attack, a short kick and toe-through saw half Dylan Brown looking certain to score… until he was illegally dragged off the loose ball by a Cronulla defender. Referee Clayton Wills awarded a penalty try and, with the kick, that gave the Eels a 26-6 lead.
Some quick hands soon after, however, kept the Sharks in the game, with Ronald Mulitalo crashing over from dummy half to cut the lead to 16 points.
With 13 minutes remaining Mulitalo jinked his way into back field, setting up Jaeman Salmon to score. The conversion cut the Eels’ lead to just 12.
The next set of six the Sharks scored again, Teig Wilton running 55 metres to roll across the line and, with the conversion, take the score to 26-22.
A dropped ball from Cronulla the next set, however, swung the momentum – with Parry crossing for his hat-trick to stretch the Eels’ lead to eight and take them into safer territory.
The Sharks looked set to send the game into a grandstand finish with a try five minutes from fulltime but a line-ball pass that would have resulted in a try under the posts was called forward.