Matt Pritchard reviews the Parramatta Eels’ win over a brave Cronulla Sharks outfit at Bankwest Stadium. Here’s how the game went.
Tries: Blake Ferguson (10, 69), Maika Sivo (35), Reagan Campbell-Gillard (72), Ray Stone (77)
Goals: Clint Gutherson (37, 64 – pen, 73, 77)
Tries: Sione Katoa (6)
Player of the Year PointsEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Clint Gutherson (Eels)
2 pts – Will Smith (Eels)
1 pt – Connor Tracey (Sharks)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
Bankwest Stadium looked the worse for wear after Sydney’s recent rain deluge; the ground was unable to properly recover in time for the Eels match against the Sharks.
Cronulla had the better of play in the opening exchanges, creating problems for the Eels’ right hand defence. It was a knock down by Blake Ferguson which denied the Sharks temporarily. A midfield scrum saw play shift to the right, with Matt Moylan and Will Kennedy finding Sione Katoa out wide for the opening try. Chad Townsend missed the conversion from out wide.
It took 10 minutes for the Eels to warm into the game. They played down a tight blindside with Marata Niukore finding Ferguson on the flank for the Eels’ first try of the night. Mitch Moses failed with the conversion, leaving scores level at 4-all.
In a five-minute period midway through the first half, Cronulla were reduced to 14 fit players. Wade Graham and Nikora failed HIA tests, while Katoa appeared injure his MCL after falling awkwardly in being tackled by Moses. It wasn’t long after that Moses himself was ruled out of the game under the HIA in a separate incident.
The Eels continued to rue missed opportunities: Will Smith couldn’t chase through Clint Gutherson’s kick in-goal; Gutherson made a clean break that saw Dylan Brown spill the ball at the end of the set; and Maika Sivo made a break before play broke down through Reed Mahoney. However, they soon would be rewarded through Sivo close to the break after a long pass by Will Smith found the winger unmarked. Parramatta would head into the break six points up.
Will Kennedy was ruled out under the HIA rule at half-time, leaving the Sharks with no bench players at the start of the second half. This is a prime example why there needs to be an emergency player to cover for these situations.
HALF-TIME: Parramatta Eels 10 Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 4Embed from Getty Images
Parramatta continued to exploit the Sharks on both edges. However, they failed to convert early on in the second half with Connor Tracey scrambling well to force Ferguson into dropping the ball over the line.
A scare for the home side saw Sivo leave the field after hitting his head heavily on the Bankwest Stadium surface, however he did pass the HIA test.
Despite their opportunities, the Eels continued to struggle for direction following Moses’ exit from the game, as they continued to butcher opportunities to put Cronulla to bed: an example being Isaiah Papali’i’s tap-on going forward which denied Tom Opacic a try in the corner.
Billy Magoulias was penalised under his own posts for not being square at marker with 16 to go. Gutherson’s conversion saw the Eels go out to an eight-point lead.
The floodgates opened as the brave Sharks ran out of petrol off the back of only 39% possession throughout the game, and 13 fit players for the final 40.
Ferguson performed his famous backflip after Will Smith kicked across field: the Sharks were unable to clean up the scraps, allowing the winger to score.
Reagan Campbell-Gillard powered over following an electric sideline run by Gutherson from a kick return in a play leading up to the try.
Campbell-Gillard was on hand to put Ray Stone into a yawning gap just three minutes from time.
While Gutherson was outstanding for the Blue and Gold, they will seek better cohesion in attack ahead of their Easter Monday clash against the Wests Tigers at Stadium Australia.
John Morris will be hoping Graham, Nikora and Kennedy are fit for their Easter Saturday clash on the Sunshine Coast against the North Queensland Cowboys. He should be proud of the side’s commitment in adversity.
FULL-TIME: Parramatta Eels 28 Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 4
Wade Graham (Sharks) – failed HIA test
Briton Nikora (Sharks) – failed HIA test
Sione Katoa (Sharks) – suspected MCL
Mitch Moses (Eels) – failed HIA test
William Kennedy (Sharks) – failed HIA test
Maikia Sivo (Eels) – passed HIA test
Match Review Committee
Briton Nikora (Sharks) – Grade 1 Shoulder Charge – Early Guilty Plea 2 match ban.