FOR the majority of the Group 3 rugby league season the Port Macquarie Sharks haven’t featured too many times on tip sheets for the grand final.
But after Sunday’s 42-10 defeat of Forster-Tuncurry in Forster, the Sharks are gathering momentum at the right end of the season.
The 32-point defeat elevated last year’s runners-up into third position on the table ahead of this weekend’s blockbuster clash with undefeated cross-town rivals and ladder-leaders Port City.
In a match which loomed as a danger game, the Sharks were rarely challenged although the Hawks never gave up.
Port Macquarie led 12-4 at the break before they kicked into gear in the second stanza.
Joey Cudmore emerged from retirement in the second half to score two tries off the bench as the Sharks proved far too good.
Ben Kirkland, Connor Cheeseman, Liam Potter, Brendan Carter, Brendon Liania and Luke Ackroyd also crossed in the eight-tries-to-two win.
Sharks coach Wayne Grant was more than happy to continue to fly under the radar with just two weeks remaining before the finals.
“Everyone wrote us off early in the season and that suited me just fine,” he said.
“I was always confident we had the side to do the job, it was just a matter of getting them all on the park at the same time.
“It’s now up to us what we do from here.”
Grant admitted the Sharks were still below their best in patches despite the comfortable nature of the win.
“We were still a bit hot and cold and had a bit of a sleep for a period of time,” he said.
“It wasn’t our best performance and every now and then we’d go away from the plan so it wasn’t all beer and skittles that’s for sure.”
The coach was pleased to have the direction of Cudmore, while five-eighth Corey Murphy was again one of the Sharks’ best.
“Joey played well off the bench – he provides that leadership we probably lacked earlier in the season,” he said.
Grant said Murphy’s move from the second-row to five-eighth had coincided with the Sharks’ resurgence.
“Corey was pretty good,” he said.
“We probably needed a bit of direction in the halves earlier in the season and defensively he’s very good.
“Our attitude has been the turnaround.”
Front-rower Ben Kirkland also led the way for the Sharks up front.
Earlier in the day, the Sharks consolidated second spot in reserve grade with a comprehensive 62-8 belting of Forster.
The Hawks claimed wins in the the two earlier matches with a 40-12 win in the under-18s while their league tag were too good for the Sharks with a 28-0 win.