Sharks the new comeback kings
In their past 4 matches the Sharks have conceded the first try and had to overcome at least a 8 point deficit down in each of those matches. Like any champion side though they’ve demonstrated a handy ability to chase down leads and wrestle back the momentum of the game in their favour. In the game on Saturday the Eels started absolutely red hot. Their forwards were charging up the field and they had parked themselves in the Sharks 20m zone for the first quarter of the game as they barely touched the ball and the Eels ran in three tries in under 25 minutes.
The high level of momentum and energy the Eels had couldn’t last forever though and shortly after they scored their third try, the Sharks hit back with a slick backline movement that saw Sosaia Feki go over in the corner. As they started to even up the possession stats the tries kept coming as Ricky Leutele and Gerard Beale crossed for the Sharks before the half-time break to make it 16-18 and trim the lead down to 2 points. In the 2nd half all of Cronulla’s backline players that had grabbed a try in the first nabbed another one to their tallies as they held off a determined Eels side that came within 4 points heading into the final minutes of the game.
Bevan French providing a glimpse of the future
The young man who will be entrusted to be Parramatta’s fullback of the future continued his incredible try-scoring run with a hat-trick to bring him to a tally of 7 tries from his first 4 games which actually gives him a better strike rate than fellow try-scoring whiz Suliasu Vunivalu who managed 6 from his first 4 outings.
It wasn’t a perfect night out for him as for every try French scored, Cronulla managed to get one past him as they exploited some rookie errors in his defensive positioning to post 4 tries on his defensive edge. Regardless he’ll have given Parra fans a bit of hope that the future is bright as he demonstrated blistering speed for two runaway tries in which Ben Barba couldn’t even come close to catching him and showed good hands in a tricky put-down off a grubber to score his first try.
Who can stop the Sharks?
The Sharks have now won 12 games in a row setting a new club record for most consecutive wins in a season. It’s a record that has the Shire erupting in a chorus of Up Up Cronulla week after week and a dare to dream about a maiden premiership. With a classy backline and a near unstoppable forward pack they have all the talent in the world to take them to that glory.
There’s still a long way to go though and momentum can turn at the drop of a hat. Next week will be one of their biggest tests of the year as they likely head into their match missing 4 of their Origin stars in Gallen, Fifita, Bird and Maloney with Barba and Graham outside chances to make their debuts in Game III.
Fortuitous calls fall Sharks way
While there wasn’t any particularly outrageous calls made by the officials on Saturday the Sharks were lucky to see a fair amount of 50/50 calls fall in their favour. For Leutele’s second try of the night he received an offload from Barba that looked like it went forward but was missed by officials. Manu Ma’u was penalised for not playing the ball correctly which was a fair enough decision but considering how lax the referees have been around that area after policing it heavily for the first two rounds, worse ones than that have gone unpenalised.
It didn’t play a factor in the result as the Eels completion rate was not entirely up to scratch as they made 7 errors and gave away 6 penalties which was double the amount the Sharks gave away. It just serves as a reminder that sometimes calls will go against a team and sometimes they’ll seemingly always get the rub of the green. It’s all about how well you respond to it and keeping focused mentally that will nearly always determine the result of a game.
In the Sheds
Ricky Leutele was unable to finish the match after suffering an ankle injury. Club is hoping he should be right for next week.
Cronulla Sharks– 34
Tries: Sosaia Feki (26m, 79m), Ricky Leutele (31m, 45m), Gerard Beale (36m, 69m)
Goals: James Maloney 5/7
Parramatta Eels– 24
Tries: Bevan French (5m, 12m, 73m), Danny Wicks (22m)
Goals: Michael Gordon 4/4