The Cronulla Sharks have moved into the NRL’s top four, with a tight win over the Eels at Pirtek Stadium.
Down by 6 points with under 10 minutes remaining on the clock, the Sharks found a way to surge and surge again, with late tries to Sosaia Feki and Michael Ennis – as well as a Valentine Holmes field goal – earning the side a vital 2 points.
Sosaia Feki opened the Sharks’ account in the seventh minute of play, when he finished off a well-worked backline move to score in the corner. Gordon converted from the touchline, and sent the Sharks to a six-nil lead.
Cronulla looked likely to run in a second, and continued to mount pressure on the Parramatta defence. Jeff Robson’s long-range kick found the grass, and the Sharks had looked to earn a repeat set when the Eels were forced dead in-goal.
While the Sharks chasers were deemed offside, the visitors would not have to wait long to cross for more points.
Ricky Leutele was the beneficiary of a perfectly executed set play, with Wade Graham and Michael Gordon combining to send the centre over for his seventh try of the season.
Looking to compound Parramatta’s frustrations, the Cronulla side again pushed on in search of more points – and very nearly secured their third in quick succession.
Feki crossed for his second time of the afternoon, only to be denied in the break of play, with Jack Bird said to have knocked on in the lead up.
The Eels made the Sharks pay, and in the prevailing set of six, Ryan Morgan crossed to bring the hosts back into the contest.
Luke Lewis would soon after score his 11th try of the season, and extended the Sharks lead to 10, before Semi Radradra continued his recent run of form in crossing for his fourth try inside his last two matches.
With Cronulla leading at 16-10 moments before the break, Jayson Bukuya would go about ensuring his side took a double-figure lead into the sheds when he crossed.
With Gordon unable to add the extras, Shane Flanagan’s men would return from the break 10 points to the good.
At the change of ends Parramatta came out of the tunnel and looked intent on turning the match on its head – and that’s exactly what they did.
A try to Daniel Alvaro in the 48th minute set the tone for what would be a second half with momentum well and truly in favour of the hosts. Luke Kelly converted to reduce the Eels’ deficit to 4, before Gordon added another two from a Penalty to restore the converted-try lead.
But buoyed by a parochial 11,778-strong crowd, the Eels would come again and eventually post more points through Reece Robinson. Again, Kelly added the 2, and the Eels levelled the scores.
Full of running, the Eels would earn a repeat set having travelled 100m after posting points, and in the prevailing set of tackles Isaac De Gois crossed to send his side to the front.
Down 28-22 with 10 to play, and with a top four berth on the line, Feki took matters into his own hands when he took Ayshford’s well-timed pass and ran 40 metres to score.
Gordon added the extra two kicking into the sun, and with the game tied at 28 the Sharks once more had it all to play for.
With less than five to play, the Sharks would – for the third time this season – call upon Valentine Holmes to send the side to a 1-point lead.
But unlike wins against the Titans and Raiders earlier this season, Holmes’ field-goal would not be the winning play, with Michael Ennis crossing for a late try to edge the side closer to a top four finish come the season’s end.