The Parramatta Eels were humbled tonight by the enthusiastic Cronulla Sharks at Parramatta Stadium. A very lethargic Eels outfit seemed uninterested as the willing Sharks kept chipping away to eventually get the lead, finally winning in golden point extra time.
The Cronulla Sharks, winless for the past 2 months were really up for the clash – vibrant and willing in the forwards; making massive inroads through the Eels middle all night.
The Sharks won the ruck battle from the start; pressuring referee Jason Robinson all night and getting away with a very shallow 10m in defence. Cummins fresh from reserve grade struggled to keep the two sides apart and the ensuing arm wrestle suited the Sharks perfectly.
Cronulla executing some nice set pieces in the first half to score impressive tries; Ricky Stuart doing very well with tactics against the highly rated Eels. The Eels were out of character in defence tonight; currently rated 2nd for the least missed tackles per game – that went out the window tonight with the Eels missing around 40 tackles in total.
The thrust from the Sharks Origin duo of Greg Bird and Paul Gallen really helped the Shire side get on top of the Eels. Parramatta missing Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt; drastically needed the inspirational duo – as tonight Jarryd Hayne and Feliti Mataeo in particular looking extremely lethargic with every touch of the ball.
The poor showing from the Eels forwards not allowing Tim Smith and Brett Finch to put together anything exciting. Timana Tahu and Mark Riddell the only Eels showing a willingness to compete – Tahu scoring a brilliant individual try and hitting hard in defence and Riddell scoring twice, injecting his usual passion.
Cronulla now move away from the wooden spoon and leave Penrith safely anchored at the bottom of the NRL Table. The Sharks finally getting rewards for weeks of unlucky football – after taking the Melbourne Storm to the limit and missing by a single point; it was their turn to get the upper hand and it is a nice reward for a strong effort all night.
Ricky Stuart bubbling with emotion after the win, dancing around the coaching box and tapping on the glass several times to let Parramatta fans know how happy he was.
Coach Ricky Stuart also amazingly attacking referee Jason Robinson in the press conference over the 11-7 penalty count loss by the Sharks. Stuart used the 2 minutes of his press conference to voice his disapproval of the refereeing and nothing else – leaving quickly as he feared a $10,000 fine if he continued talking. The outburst from Ricky Stuart is simply astounding; considering Cronulla successfully employed ruck slowing tactics and a very skinny 10 metres for most of the match. The Sharks were smart enough to test the patience of referee Robinson and they won the overall battle; ultimately winning them the match. Ricky Stuart should be praising his players for a gutsy win; not focusing on the referee.
The inconsistent Eels will rue this loss, as they face the power of Melbourne next week and had the chance to sew up a top 4 spot tonight with an expected win over the Sharks.