The Sharks were at their brutal best today, their quick line speed and stifling defence sucking the life out of the Eels and ensuring the game was a low scoring affair. They gang tackled consistently and slowed the game down to a snails pace, rarely allowing the Eels to incorporate their expansive game that has been evident in the past fortnight.
While few points were on offer, with the scores locked at 14 all and less than a minute remaining the experience of Brett Kimmorley got his team home. Attempting a field goal from 45m out, the Sharks halfback feigned injury after high contact from Fui Fui Moi Moi on the charge down ensuring the Sharks got the video decision to have a penalty awarded. Luke Covell comfortably adding the extras to get the Sharks home
The only bad news for the locals was Cronulla star Greg Bird suffering a posterior cruciate knee ligament injury that will almost certainly rule him out of State of Origin 3.
Bird was tackled just shy of the Eels tryline in the 29th minute by Eels halfback Brett Finch and immediately grimaced in pain as his left knee buckled under the weight of both players.
Sharks officials said Bird had injured his PCL and would likely miss between two and six weeks, although that diagnosis cannot be confirmed until scans tomorrow.
Without their key playmaker, the Sharks were still able to rally for one of their better wins this season, storming home for a two tries apiece victory in front of 17,547 fans.
But the result was mired in controversy after video referee Bill Harrigan awarded a contentious penalty in the 79th minute to the Sharks just 10m out and directly in front of goal after Eels prop Fuifui Moimoi collided with Brett Kimmorley after his long range drop goal attempt.
Kimmorley suffered contact to his chin from Moimoi and stayed on the ground, allowing time for Harrigan to review footage and tell whistleblower Shayne Hayne to award the penalty, ending the 14-all dead lock.
Luke Covell stepped up and slotted the simplest of penalty goals to secure the Sharks a win which keeps them equal top of the NRL table.
Although it was a controversial finish, the Sharks had been the better side despite the Eels being first to score when Taulima Tautai strolled over in the corner in just the 10th minute after an earlier 40m bust by Feleti Mateo.
Sharks hooker Isaac De Gois struck back in the 24th minute with a soft try from dummy half to reduce the deficit to 8-6 which remained the score into the halftime break.
Paul Gallen remained busy for the Sharks, the back rower involved in everything and constantly in the referees ear trying to give his side an edge.
The two sides traded penalty goals after the break before a sensational play by Sharks five-eighth Brett Seymour handed his side the lead for the first time in the 57th minute.
Seymour punched the ball free of rookie flanker Tony Williams inside the goal area allowing big Luke Douglas to fall onto the ball to grab the try and send his side to the lead for the first time in the match.
Sharks centre Ben Pomeroy could have secured the win in the 72nd minute but was well held up in goal by Joel Reddy and Tautai on the last tackle.
With Shayne Hayne only keeping a small 10m and running a slow ruck speed, the Eels never look likely to break free from the shackles. The Sharks reveling in the slug fest and keeping the Eels pinned deep in their half for most of the second term.
The Eels did get their late chance through interchange hooker Matt Keating, the rookie rake chancing his hand and burrowing over only to be held up by Douglas under the posts, but on the very next play Finch swung the ball wide for Krisnan Inu to put Williams across for the leveller.
After fullback Luke Burt’s conversion attempt fell just inches below the crossbar, the race for field goals was on. Brett Finch taking a long range chance for the Eels in their first set but it was well short, allowing the Sharks to have improved field position as they hit the ball up. As their set came to an end, Kimmorley tried his luck from around 45m and after getting pummeled by Moi Moi the crafty no.7 played the incident to perfection and lay on the ground hoping for video referee intervention.
The Sharks getting the call they needed and potting the 2 points from in front to seal the home win. Cronulla delighting their home fans and moving to 22 points and virtually ensuring they will form some part of the NRL Top 8 this season.