The NYC Sharks have gone down to the Parramatta Eels 35-22 in their Qualifying Final at Allianz Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Played in what can only be described as perfect conditions, the NYC Qualifying Finals was played at a frantic pace.
The Parramatta Eels took the game to the Sharks early on.
Ryan King took the ball up through the middle of the park and broke free from a would-be Parramatta tackle to take off down field. When he arrived at the fullback, he offloaded on his inside to Kyle Flanagan who crossed over for the Sharks’ first try of the afternoon.
The halfback converted his own try and the Sharks were ahead 6-0 after 10 minutes.
The Sharks were back with the ball and working it out of their own end before Isaac Lumelume dropped the ball and handed possession back to the Eels. The Parramatta side capitalised on the opportunity and crossed over through centre Dane Aukafolua, who pushed through some soft Cronulla defence.
Troy Dargan converted the try and the scores were locked at 6-6 after 14 minutes.
In true NYC fashion, the Sharks hit back quickly.
Working the ball down the left side of the field, the Sharks put the ball through the hands from Joshua Carr to Isaac Lumelume before it arrived in the hands of Josh Tuilagi. The solidly built winger still had some work to do when he received the pass, dispatching of his opposite number and then shrugging off the fullback Anthony Layoun to cross over in the 22nd minute.
Flanagan’s sideline conversion attempt was unsuccessful and the score remained 10-6.
Despite being down on the scoreboard, the Eels were enjoying the lion’s share of the field position and they made the Sharks pay. Reserve hooker Reed Mahoney took the ball to the Sharks line and found room to offload the ball to the half back Dargan who crossed for a classy Eels try.
Dargan converted his own try and the Eels hit the lead at 12-10.
Under pressure from the Parramatta side, it would take a stroke of good fortune for the Sharks to hit back and it came. Working down their left edge, the Eels put through a grubber however it landed straight in the hands of speedster Luke Metcalf. Metcalf collected the ball and ran 80m to put his side back ahead at 14-12.
Flanagan converted Metcalf’s try to edge the Sharks further ahead at 16-12.
When the sides returned from the half time break, the game was all Parramatta’s way with field position and possession all going the way of the blue and gold.
The first try in the second half came through Leleisiuao, when the winger crashed over from close range. Dragan converted from right in front and score went out to 18-16 to the Eels.
Next, it was a Sean Keppie’s turn to get in on the action, crashing over under the sticks and getting the Eels further in front after Dargan converted from in front, 24 points to 16.
Dane Aukafolua scored his second try when he picked up a quality offload from Salesi Faingaa to get the score out to 28-16. Dargan made no mistake with the conversion attempt and the Eels lead went to 30-16 with 20 minutes left on the clock.
With pressure well and truly mounting on the Sharks, it began to show when the players discipline began to fall by the way side. Jesse Ramien was placed on report after he lifted his opposite number in a dangerous tackle.
The Eels were on a roll and they continued their dominant display, this time crossing over through Greg Leleisiuao who proved too strong for his opposite Josh Tuilagi. Dargan converted and the score went out to 34-16 with 14 minutes on the field.
The Sharks hit back late when William Kennedy scored a great try after a Lumelume break however it was too little too late. Flanagan converted and the score went to 34-22.
Dean Matterson put the game to bed when the scored a late field goal to seal a 35-22 victory to the Eels.
The Sharks will now play next weekend
Parramatta Eels 35 (Dane Aukafolau 2, Greg Leleisiuao 2, Troy Dargan, Sean Keppie tries; Troy Dragan 5 goals; Dean Matterson field goal)
Cronulla Sharks 22 (Kyle Flanagan, Josh Tuilagi, Luke Metcalf, Will Kennedy tries; Kyle Flanagan 3 goals)