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The Sharks looked set to cruise to a comfortable win before the Eels bagged three tries in the final 5 minutes to give them an almighty scare, but the Shire boys held on for a 22-20 win at Southern Cross Group Stadium tonight.
Cronulla got off to a flying start thanks to the Eels giving away back-to-back penalties after the kick-off. They swung the ball left before Leutele made a good draw and pass play to send Feki on an easy stroll over the line to score in the left corner. Townsend kicked a splendid sideline conversion.
It was the Eels turn to dominate possession next, and in the 11th minute they crossed in the left corner after a similar play to that employed by the Sharks earlier. Eels went left with some sharp and fast passing along to French who scored despite being knocked off balance by the cover defence. Moses was unable to convert from the sideline.
A rather ill-disciplined fifteen minute period followed before the Sharks got themselves several repeat sets. Then Townsend ran to the line, shaped to kick before passing out the back to Leutele who then sent it onto Feki who crossed for his second. Townsend pushes his conversion attempt wide.
Despite Wade Graham coming off the field with a hamstring injury, the Sharks attack didn't skip a beat. Three minutes after their last try, the Sharks crossed again when Holmes cut through the middle defence after receiving a nice, quick inside ball. He then found Townsend backing up who strolled in to score under the posts. He converted his own try to give the Sharks a 12 point lead after half an hour.
The Eels attack struggled to find any rhythm or cohesion late in the half, which ended with no changes to the score.
Cronulla opened the scoring in the second half after just 7 minutes with a lovely play started by Townsend, who sent the ball out the back to Moylan who had to just draw and pass to Lee, who slid over for an easy try. Townsend's sideline conversion was a shocker.
The Sharks then had a mountain of possession thanks to forcing some drop outs, but after failing to crack the Eels line they opted to kick a penalty goal instead to send the lead out to 18 points.
With 6 minutes left in the game the Eels decided to pull their finger out. Gower got the first ball off the ruck and pushed through the two middle defenders to score under the posts. Moses quickly converted.
The Eels then travelled the length of the field from the restart before a Norman grubber was pounced by Michael Jennings, whose try was converted by Moses.
With 90 seconds left, the Eels again went the length of the field, throwing the ball around constantly. Moeroa charged at line before flinging a big offload out the back to Moses, who ran around the defence to score in the right corner just as the siren sounded to reduce the deficit to just 2.
Moses lined up the sideline conversion to send them game to golden point, but his kick was pushed just across the face of the posts, handing victory to the Sharks.
Next Sunday the Sharks head to Canberra for a clash with the Raiders, while the last-placed Eels are at ANZ against 15th-placed Canterbury on Friday night.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 22 - Parramatta Eels 20
Venue: Southern Cross Group Stadium
Halftime Score: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 16 Parramatta Eels 4
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Chad Townsend
2 points - Andrew Fifita
1 points - Corey Norman
CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS (22)
Tries: Sosaia Feki (2), Chad Townsend, Edrick Lee
Conversions: Chad Townsend (2/4)
Penalty Goals: Chad Townsend (1/1)
PARRAMATTA EELS (20)
Tries: Bevan French, Mitchell Moses, David Gower, Michael Jennings
Conversions: Mitchell Moses (2/4)