Crisis-hit Cronulla have ended their week from hell with the greatest comeback win in the club’s 47-year history.
Eight days after registering a remarkable victory from 22-0 down against the Broncos in Brisbane, the Sharks bettered the feat with an even more miraculous win over the Sydney Roosters.
The Sharks, full of misfits and NRL rookies, trailed the premiers 24-0 after half an hour before rallying to win 30-28 in the boilover of the season at Allianz Stadium.
Coachless, sans State of Origin stars and sacked playmaker Todd Carney, the bottom-placed Sharks were dismissed by bookmakers as astonishing $15 no-hopers against the star-studded Roosters on their home patch.
But the league’s basket cases somehow conjured an incredible upset, halfback Jeff Robson scoring the match-leveller three minutes from fulltime and fullback Michael Gordon coolly slotting the conversion to leave the Roosters shellshocked.
“I saw some odds in the paper. What were we – 50 to one or something? It was ridiculous. No one gave us a hope,” said stand-in Sharks captain Wade Graham.
“The funny thing about rugby league players is that most of them have a little bit of attitude and, if you write them off, they like to step up to the mark and say I told you so.
“It was just a super effort from the boys.”
Cronulla’s against-all-odds win came after caretaker coach Peter Sharp jumped ship on Tuesday, less than 48 hours after the club tore up Carney’s multi-million-dollar contract for his infamous urinal antics.
Toyota Cup coach James Shepherd stepped up to take charge, but refused to take credit for Saturday night’s Houdini act.
He paid tribute to Graham and Robson for guiding the team, including rookie winger Jacob Gagan – who scored a brilliant double on debut – during the Sharks’ tumultuous week while Origin stars Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis were in camp with the Blues.
“Basically the players ran the week. Let’s be serious about it,” Shepherd said.
“The senior players in the group – even though Gal and Lewy were away – they knuckled down after Tuesday, prepared really well.
“Friday was just a really professional session and they’ve come out today and I suppose you could call it a miracle or you could call it a mentally-tough performance by a group of men who are playing for each other.”
Graham said the ASADA saga that has plagued the club for a season and a half had steeled the Sharks.
“Over the last 18 months, we’ve gotten pretty good at putting distractions to the side and just focusing on footy and last week was no different,” he said.
“We got together on Monday, we had our say (about Carney’s sacking) and by Tuesday morning it was over.
“We put it to bed.”
Even after Gordon put Cronulla ahead for the first time, Sharks fans still had their hearts in their mouths.
Roosters centre Mitch Aubusson dived over for what appeared to be his third try 11 seconds from the finish to steal the points.
Referee Gavin Morris ruled no-try and, with TV replays proving inconclusive, video refs Steve Chiddy and Steve Folkes were unable to over-rule.
Filthy Roosters fans hurled abuse at referee Morris after the stunning conclusion.
Disappointed Roosters coach Trent Robinson said the premiers lost their way after their powerful start.
“We were all over the shop by half through that second half,” he said.
Compounding the Roosters’ misery was a hamstring injury to skipper Anthony Minichiello, but he hopes to be back following the Roosters’ bye next week.