Cronulla hold off Melbourne to claim maiden NRL title
Andrew Fifita's try proved crucial as Cronulla Sharks ended their 49-year wait for a maiden NRL crown with a hard-fought 14-12 success over Melbourne Storm in Sunday's Grand Final.
Storm, winners as recently as 2012, came into the clash as favourites having finished the regular season as minor premiers.
But the Sharks dominated the opening period, going into half-time 8-0 in front thanks to Ben Barba's try, but found themselves 12-8 behind with 15 minutes remaining as Storm found their attacking game and scored through Jesse Bromwich and Will Chambers.
It was to be the Sharks' day, though, with Fifita doing brilliantly to touch the ball down under pressure from a posse of defenders in what proved to be the game's final score 10 minutes from the end.
The Sharks were clinging on at the end with Storm deep in their territory but they ran out of time, the final hooter greeted with scenes of jubilation among Cronulla fans and players.
Cronulla had started well, a high shot from Marika Koroibete on Chad Townsend giving James Maloney a simple kick for a 2-0 lead, and the Sharks further extended that advantage on the quarter-hour mark.
Blake Green produced a superb try-saving tackle to stop Luke Lewis a matter of inches from the line, but the Sharks were not to be denied for long as Barba went over after taking an inside ball from Paul Gallen from a slick scrum-base play.
Tempers flared briefly as the retiring Michael Ennis patted old foe Cameron Smith on the back following a knock-on from the Storm man, but despite their dominance the Sharks were unable to add to their lead.
And Storm were back in it 10 minutes after the restart as Bromwich managed to wrestle his way over, before Chambers escaped the attentions of Gerard Beale to dive over and put his side in front for the first time.
The Sharks' response was swift, however, Fifita powering forward and turning in the tackle to touch down under the posts and Cronulla held on grimly to end almost half a century of hurt.