Just hours after the NRL's new rules came under fire for their impact on injuries, debate only intensified tonight as the Cronulla Sharks were reduced to 13 men - exhaustion getting the better of them in the second half with the Eels taking a 28-4 victory at Bankwest Stadium.
The Sharks started the faster of the two sides and dominated the field position early on and were able to cross first when Sione Katoa got over the line after some good work from Will Kennedy. Chad Townsend's kicking woes continued as he missed the conversion from the sideline,
Hitting back soon after, the Eels got on the board with Blake Ferguson getting the first of his double after some strong work down the short-side on the last tackle by the Eels with Ferguson being put through by Marata Niukore.
Injuries started to take their toll for both sides with Wade Graham and Briton Nikora both failing HIA's just minutes apart from each other whilst the Eels weren't immune as Mitch Moses also failed a HIA as well.
On the stroke of half-time the Eels were able to extend their lead when the Sharks defence was caught short and Maika Sivo was able to charge over the line after some good lead-up work by Will Smith which had caught the Sharks defence napping on the outside.
The night didn't improve for the Sharks with a knee injury to Sione Katoa and then a failed HIA by Will Kennedy meant that the Sharks had just 13 fit players to play with for the second half.
Despite having just 13 fit players, the Sharks were extremely gutsy to stay in the contest and it was a controversial penalty goal that extended the Parramatta lead after referee Adam Gee penalised Cronulla for not being square at marker and playing at the arm of Reed Mahoney despite replays showing Mahoney had already stepped away from the ruck. The heavy defensive effort of the Sharks began to take its toll when the points began to flow for the Eels when Blake Ferguson crossed after errors by Ronaldo Mulitalo and Matt Moylan off a cross-field kick saw the ball land nicely for Ferguson who scored.
The Eels took advantage of the exhaustion of the Sharks as they were able to run in two long range tries with Reagan Campbell-Gillard getting over after a good run from centre field before the big man played try assistant when he put Ray Stone in for a rare four-pointer.
Next weekend, the Eels get an extended break as they have an easter Monday clash against the Wests Tigers whilst the Sharks will be hoping for a change of luck when they host the Cowboys on the Sunshine Coast next Saturday.