THE Shellharbour Sharks broke through for their first Group Seven Rugby League under 18s title in six years on Saturday, by defeating the previously undefeated Stingrays of Shellharbour 20-nil at Centenary Field.
The Sharks, in their 100th season, were rewarded for their opening dominance in the decider when prop Aiden Moule barged over in the ninth minute.
Halfback Jordy Vergis added the extras and the Sharks led 6-nil.
Just after the first drinks break, the Rays' best chance to open their accounts was blown when Will Starling's pass went behind Flynn Gibson.
Minutes later, the Sharks were millimetres away from doubling their advantage when Cooper Askew was held up over the line.
As the match opened up, another chance went begging for the minor premiers, as Sam Ciguenza lost the ball over the line.
Despite the best efforts of the Rays to go onto the break even, the Sharks held on to lead 6-nil at half-time.
The Rays picked up from where they left off in the first, going on the attack and would have scored through Jett Russo if not for desperate goal-line defence by the Sharks.
The wastefulness of the Flinders Field-based club was highlighted when the Sharks scored their second.
A sweeping move to the left ended in the hands of Clive Brett, who powered over despite four players hanging off him.
Vergis' conversion attempt hit the upright and bounced out, leaving it at 10-nil with 27 to play.
A golden chance for the Rays to reduce the margin presented itself after an error on the kick-off but Cain Barnes ran out of room down the left edge and was forced out by the Sharks' covering defence.
Following another error by the Rays, this time a kick out on the full, the Sharks crossed for their third - this time elusive half Vergis split the line and did it all himself.
He converted his own try and the Ron Costello Oval-based club led 16-nil with 19 to play.
As impressive as their attack had been, the Sharks' defence continued to hold firm, this time taking centre Dane Nelson out.
The Rays continued to self implode, with five-eighth Jack Bostock being sin-binned for kicking the ball deliberately in the play the ball.
Off that ensuing penalty, Vergis added his third kick of the afternoon and stretched the lead to 1, with 12 to play.
The all-Shellharbour showdown was sealed in the 60th minute by Vergis' boot when Rays' Jed Ross was penalised for a shoulder charge.
The Sharks, who also won the Illawarra under 18s crown four times from 2009 to 2013, were best served by skipper Ethan O'Connell (man of the match), Vergis, Askew and Brett, while Trey Barlow, Coleby Smith, Cain Barnes and Bostock did all they could for the Rays - who will have all but five of their squad return in 2021 - in their first ever under 18s decider.
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