You don't care if you're running first. This is about next year. What ...
3 days ago
The Parramatta Eels have put a big dent into the hopes of the Sharks finals aspirations, convincingly defeating the Cronulla side by 44-22.
The match started out the best possible way for the Sharks, as Paul Gallen charged down a Michael Witt kick, regathered the loose ball and raced 30 metres to score the opening try, in what looked like a sign of things to come from the men from the Shire.
But it was anything but that, as from that point on the Parramatta side dominated possession and field position, and was able to wear out their opponents throughout the game.
The Eels scored some classy tries, as they attempted to throw the ball around at any cost, and it paid dividend.
The Sharks completion rate was atrocious, especially in the second half, and the Eels usually struck whenever Cronulla had made a mistake.
Nathan Hindmarsh was simply outstanding for the Eels side, as he is every week, but this time instead of his defence doing the talking, he was a machine in attack. He emassed over 20 hit-ups, and every run of his was powerful. His barnstorming try in the first half was well deserved considering his toiling performance.
Lee Hopkins, who has to be one of the best and most underrated buys that the Eels have ever made, put in a stirling performance including setting up two tries, one to Ashley Graham and one to Matthew Peterson.
Luke Burt was dangerous in attack, but his defence left a lot to be desired, costing his side two tries.
The Eels will be buoyed by the victory, as mathematically they can still make the finals, although it will be a tough ask for the Parramatta side considering their up-and-down form.
On the other side of the coin, Cronulla were extremely disappointing considering last weeks impressive victory over the Roosters. They were simply outenthused and outplayed by their rivals, although Paul Gallen and Jason Stevens were tireless for their side, putting their hand up all night.
Cronulla have the bye next weekend and will hope that it's enough time to regroup, especially with captain Brett Kimmorley battling an ongoing hamstring strain which should be healed by Round 25.
Toyota Park Referee: Steve Lyons
Scorers: SHARKS 22 Tries: Gallen, Reick, Peachey, Vagana Goals: Hilder 3/4 EELS 44 Tries: Burt 2, Peterson 2, Hindmarsh, Widders, Graham, Wagon Goals: Witt 6/8
By the clock: Pre-Match: NEWS - A chilly and windy night at the Shire for what proposes to be a crucial game for the Sharks finals chances. In team changes, the Sharks will once again be without captain Brett Kimmorley, with Jason Kent coming into the side at halfback. For the Eels, Wade McKinnon has withdrawn through injury with Ben Smith coming into the side, and Adam Dykes is also out with Englishman Chris Thorman his replacement.
0 min: NEWS - The Sharks have kicked off and we're underway!
1 min: TRY - Sharks. Amazing start to the match, as Paul Gallen charged down a Michael Witt kick and he regathered to race 30m to score the first try of the night after just under 50 seconds. Hilder converted the try. Sharks 6-0.
6 min: NEWS - After several handling errors from the Sharks, the Eels had two sets of six to capitalize on the field position, but the Sharks defence continued to hold strong.
12 min: NEWS - The Eels have had the better field position and possession in the match thus far, but their attacking options are relatively poor and they haven't troubled the Sharks defence at all.
14 min: TRY - Eels. Parramatta finally crack the Sharks tryline, but only after some luck. After a Luke Burt grubber rebounded off a defenders legs, Junior Langi picked up the loose ball and passed back inside to Luke Burt to score. Michael Witt converted the try. 6-all.
15 min: NEWS - The Sharks kicked the ball out on the full from the restart, showing just how strong the wind is at Shark Park. The Eels received a penalty.
19 min: NEWS - The Eels are throwing the football around and are playing some enterprising footy.
27 min: NEWS - The execution and kicking game from both sides has been poor, and so neither side has been able to take the definite advantage in this match.
31 min: NEWS - The Sharks were penalised for taking out a player without the ball, which then caused Matt Peterson and Nathan Merrit to get involved in a minor push and shove.
34 min: TRY - Eels. Nathan Hindmarsh put on a right foot step near the tryline and stepped around Michael Sullivan to score the try. A much deserved try too, as he has been by far the best player on the ground. Witt converted the try. Eels 12-6.
38 min: NEWS - The Eels defence is stinging the Sharks now, causing more errors which is just compounding the Sharks woes.
39 min: TRY - Eels. Widders raced around some tired Sharks defenders to score after a nice backline movement. Witt converted. Eels 18-6.
40 min: HALF TIME.
The Eels ran away with things at the latter end of the half to move out to a 12-point cushion at the break. Nathan Hindmarsh led the way for the Eels with a barnstorming performance in attack.
41 min: NEWS - The Eels have kicked off with the second half getting underway.
42 min: TRY - Sharks. After a smart grubber kick, Matthew Reick scooped up the loose ball while several Eels players just looked at the loose ball rather than picking it up, costing themselves a try. Hilder converted the try. Eels 18-10.
49 min: NEWS - After repeated mistakes from the Sharks inside their own half, the Eels will have a great opportunity to add to their lead.
51 min: TRY - Eels. The Eels did capitalize, as a lovely cut-out ball from Hopkins put Ashley Graham into a hole who crashed over to score. Witt hits a sweet conversion kick to add to the lead. Eels 24-10.
53 min: NEWS - The kickoff hit Nathan Hindmarsh before going over the dead ball line, so the Sharks are let off the hook and have the ball in good position.
55 min: NEWS - The Eels blew another chance to score after a brilliant counter-attacking run from Luke Burt that went over half of the length of the field.
57 min: TRY - Eels. After a lovely grubber by Lee Hopkins, Matt Peterson outpaced his rival Nathan Merrit to score in the corner, and this one is as good as over. Witt struck the conversion sweetly, but it hit the crossbar and bounced into the field of play. Eels 28-10.
60 min: TRY - Sharks. Luke Burt butchered another kick, as he let a bomb bounce and David Peachey pounced to score the try just before the dead ball line. Hilder converted the try. Eels 28-16.
63 min: TRY - Eels. After a break by Chris Thorman, he passed over the top to a speedy Luke Burt who raced away to score a long range try. Witt converted once more. Eels 34-16.
71 min: NEWS - The Eels are showing little respect for the Sharks as they're throwing the ball around like a hot potato.
73 min: TRY - Eels. Daniel Wagon slid through some soft Cronulla defence to score an easy try. Witt converted the try. Eels 40-16.
77 min: TRY - Sharks. Nigel Vagana scored a consolation try for the Cronulla side. Hilder converted. Eels 40-22.
78 min: NEWS - Nigel Vagana was penalised for a high tackle against Matt Peterson.
79 min: TRY - Eels. After another crisp backline movement, Matt Peterson scored in the corner for his second try of the night. Witt's kick falls short thanks to the breeze. Eels 44-22.
80 min: FULL TIME.
A disappointing effort from the Cronulla side, as Parramatta out-enthused their counterparts for an impressive victory. This loss does not do the Sharks finals hopes any good at all.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) 2 - Lee Hopkins (Eels) 1 - Paul Gallen (Sharks) -----------------------------------------