A Jack Bird-inspired Cronulla have stunned the Sydney Roosters with a well-deserved 20-12 win over the 2013 NRL premiers at Allianz Stadium.
The 20-year-old, playing in only his second NRL game and his first at five-eighth scored two tries as the Sharks sealed their first win of the year.
It is their sixth against the Roosters since 2010 to end a run of 10 straight losses stretching back to July 26 last year.
Shane Flanagan’s side went in to Sunday’s game on the back of four straight losses but turned the form book on its head with an excellent display that frustrated the under-par hosts who struggled for cohesion throughout.
Bird, a highly rated off-season recruit from St George Illawarra, and 19-year-old fullback Valentine Holmes were outstanding for the Sharks, and the suspended Ben Barba will find it hard to walk straight back into the side next week after his suspension.
Bird showed great pace to open the scoring just before halftime with a powerful run and then set up his side’s second try with a perfectly weighted kick that set up Holmes for a four-pointer after the restart before icing the victory with a try five minutes from time.
The hosts’ much-vaunted forwards struggled against the experienced Sharks’ pack with Paul Gallen, Michael Ennis, Chris Heighington and Luke Lewis all enjoying big games.
But it was in the halves where the Roosters really failed to fire, with Bird and veteran halfback Jeff Robson outshining James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce who did little to suggest they were ready for NSW recalls.
Lewis extended the Sharks’ lead when he hauled in a Robson kick in the 51st minute only for the usually reliable Michael Gordon to miss the conversion from close range.
However, the game looked to be drifting away from the Roosters when Ennis was forced off after a nasty head clash with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
During the hooker’s absence, Tuivasa-Sheck scored with a 60-metre effort and Mitch Aubusson added a second for the Roosters with Maloney’s kick reducing the deficit to 14-12 with six minutes remaining.
But when Pearce knocked on after Holmes’ booming kick-off, the Sharks took full advantage and Bird sealed a memorable win when he lunged over from close range with a one-handed effort.