On a night celebrating milestones for Wade Graham and Josh Dugan, the Sharks have come within a whisker of taking the points against the Eels, going down by 14-12 in a heart breaking loss at Kogarah’s Jubilee Oval.
In a match played in torrential rain, the Sharks scored three tries to two, with goal kicking the difference, a late Mitchell Moses penalty goal proving the difference.
The Sharks had their chances, a couple of 50-50 calls late in the match going the way of the opposition, but in the end the Eels were good enough to hold on and claim the all-important two competition points.
While there may not have been many scoring highlights in the first half there was certainly plenty of action and just five minutes the video referee was called upon, denying a try by Maika Sivo when it was ruled he failed to ground a Moses grubber.
The Sharks had another let off shortly after when Shaun Johnson ran down Moses who had jumped on a loose ball and scampered 70-metres down field but after defending three sets of six on their line, then on the back of an error, the Eels would cross for the opening try.
Exploiting a tired defence Eels five eighth Dylan Brown threw a dummy and slid over and following the Moses conversion it was 6-0 to the visitors 20 minutes into the game.
Again forced to dig deep and defend grimly the tide turned somewhat for the Sharks when Matt Moylan was able to grab an intercept before making a 50-metre inroad into Eels territory and on the back of the ensuing set of six a Johnson kick was grounded centimetres inside the in goal area by Jesse Ramien for a Cronulla try.
Johnson was unsuccessful with the kick but the Sharks were back in it at 6-4 down.
And they looked like going in front until Ronaldo Mulitalo was ruled to have been inches in front of Johnson, the potential try disallowed and in sheeting rain the teams went to the break with just two points separating them.
The Sharks came out in the second half with defensive intent but after a smart Eels kick, then a Cronulla error, the scorer of Parramatta’s first would engineer their second, the young half Brown stepping and jinking through before off-loading for Kane Evans to score.
Although after the successful conversion the margin was only eight with 33 minutes left in the match and the atrocious conditions it was a handy Parramatta lead.
The Sharks would however bridge the gap, Mulitalo juggling, then regathering a long Johnson pass before planting it down in the corner and despite the Johnson kick bouncing off the upright it was game on at 12-8 with more than 25 minutes left in the contest.
And the Sharks were far from done, Johnson kicking his team back into an attacking position with a brilliant 40-20, then three plays later it was Mulitalo again, the winger stepping inside a couple of defenders then grounding the ball for his second of the afternoon.
From another wide angle Johnson was again off target and it was all to play for at 12-all.
The Eels would go ahead with a simple Moses penalty kick from 15 metres out and in front of the posts 10 minutes from time and despite their best efforts the Sharks couldn't get over the top of Parramatta in the closing moments.
While the two points went the way of the Eels, the Sharks would have been proud of the efforts of his team in pushing one of the supposed premiership favourites all the way to the finish, however such is the closeness of the top eight the loss sees them slip from sixth to eighth with the loss.
For the Sharks Johnson was outstanding despite the tricky conditions, his second half 40-20 and two tries assists, taking him to an NRL-leading 18 on the year, keeping his side in the match.
Skipper Graham continued his strong recent form, Mulitalo gave an example of his potential with two excellent tries in getting the better of the Eels Sivo and the forward pack more than held their own against their highly rated opposition.
The Sharks will now look to regroup ahead of a Saturday game against the Titans next week.
20 mins - Brown try, Moses goal - Eels 6-0
27 mins - Ramien try - Eels 6-4
45 mins - Evans try, Moses goal - Eels 12-4
53 mins - Mulitalo try - Eels 12-8
56 mins - Mulitalo try - 12-all
70 mins - Moses goal - Eels 14-12
Ronaldo Mulitalo 2, Jesse Ramien tries
Dylan Brown, Kane Evans tries, Mitchell Moses 3 goals
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