All you need to know from the first week of finals across the three NSWRL junior representative competitions.
Sharks win thriller to kick off finals
The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks’ began their Tarsha Gale Cup finals campaign with a 6-point sudden death win over the Penrith Panthers on Saturday morning.
Sharks fullback Jamie Chapman starred early with two tries and a conversion to take a 10-4 lead into halftime.
The Panthers came out firing in the opening minutes of the 2nd half with a try to centre Lavinia Taiseni, bringing the deficit to two points. However, Cronulla-Sutherland soon hit back and the extended their lead with tries to Kelly Gilmore and Alexandra Weir.
Penrith finished the game with a consolation four-pointer through Jessika Lealaiauloto in a closely fought 18-12 defeat as the Sharks secured a place in next week’s semi-finals.
Suaalii’s 4-Try Haul secures convincing victory
Fullback Joseph Suaalii has helped the South Sydney Rabbitohs to a 40-18 win over reigning champions Manly-Warringah in the 2nd qualifying final of the Harold Matthews Cup.
As South Sydney led 12-6 after the 20-minute mark, Suaalii scored four of the Rabbitohs’ next five tries within 33 minutes to take the game away from the Sea Eagles.
The home side got back into the game early in the second half with consecutive tries to Daniel O’Donnell and Kobe Fulton, but it wasn’t enough for the Sea Eagles to earn the week off. The win for South Sydney means that they will now host a home grand final qualifier in two weeks’ time.
Dragons cause boilover in high-scoring affair
The St George Dragons have upset the 2019 Tarsha Gale Cup minor premiers, the Illawarra Steelers, in a 32-30 nail-biter at WIN Stadium.
The Steelers lead the contest 24-20 with 13 minutes remaining, but a late 12-point surge saw the Red V take the lead for the first time in the game and hang on for a narrow win.
The victory over the competition leaders is sure to give the Dragons plenty of confidence and momentum as they prepare for a preliminary finals berth.
Panthers and Tigers through to Semi-Finals
The Penrith Panthers and Balmain have both won their respective elimination matches to progress to week two of the Harold Matthews Cup finals series.
A rampant Panthers side recorded a huge 40-16 win over the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at HE Laybutt Field as Jack Cole scored 16 points with a try and six conversions. Down 6-0 after a try to Sharks second rower Samuel Jinks, Penrith scored 24 unanswered points before the halftime break.
Despite an early 2nd half scare when Kynan Hodges scored for the away side, three more tries for the Panthers put the result beyond doubt.
The Balmain Tigers were the next team to win in sudden death with an 8-point win over the Illawarra Steelers at WIN Stadium. With both sides being two tries apiece at the midway point, it was the Steelers who led 10-8 thanks to a Toby Peters conversion.
However, the Tigers hung on to score the only 2nd half tries through Brandon Tumeth and Ponipate Rakuli to secure a gritty finals victory.
In other results, the Newcastle Knights defeated the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 22-16 to round out week one of the 2019 Harold Matthews Cup finals.
Sea Eagles make Finals Statement
The competition leaders have made their SG Ball Cup finals intentions clear with a 36-6 win over the Parramatta Eels at Lottoland on Saturday.
Despite the Eels scoring the first try at the 14-minute mark through Jontay-Junior Betham-Misa, Manly-Warringah responded with seven four-pointers including doubles to Simon Tito, Jack Burt and Josh Schuster.
After yet another strong attacking showing coming off 56-point win last week against the Rabbitohs, the most satisfying part of their finals victory was a dominant defensive display which will hold them in good stead for the preliminary final in a fortnight.
In the other SG Ball Cup finals results, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs eliminated the Sharks with a 28-6 victory while the Illawarra Steelers have earned the week off after a 40-12 win against Central Coast.