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Battered Sharks dig deep in Eels loss

Don't be fooled by the final scoreline, the 28-4 victory by the Eels was one of those games where the score hardly reflected the effort put in by the Sharks on a night where they were decimated by injury. 

Injuries meant the Sharks played almost 45 minutes of the match with no bench, four players coming from the field and taking no further part in the game, middle forwards Aaron Woods, Braden Hamlin-Uele and Toby Rudolf forced to play the entire 80 minutes without a break, with players out of position in unfamiliar places on the field. 

In the end the enormity of the task became too much, the Eels taking more than an hour to put the depleted Sharks away and despite not coming away with the two competition points, the Cronulla side could rightfully be proud of their efforts. 

The opening exchanges were all the Sharks, a repeat set seeing them then put on a slick backline movement, starting with Chad Townsend, going through the hands of Matt Moylan then Will Kennedy and finishing with Sione Katoa diving over for his first try of the 2021 season. 

Townsend narrowly missed the sideline conversion and the Sharks had an early 4-0 lead. 

The Eels replied shortly after, a cleverly worked short side play seeing Blake Ferguson cross in the north-eastern corner of Bankwest Stadium. 

Mitchell Moses like Townsend before him was also off-target and it was 4-all 12 minutes into the match. 

The Sharks were forced to defend grimly to hold the Eels at bay in the next period of the contest and it was the visitors who had the best opportunity to post  points, Kennedy slicing through and passing to Ronaldo Mulitalo, only for Clint Gutherson to make the try saver for the Parramatta side. 

The Sharks then suffered a double blow, with both Wade Graham and Briton Nikora off for HIA's in quick succession, with those problems compounded even further when Katoa was twisted awkwardly in a tackle and limped off with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. 

Graham and Nikora failed their HIA's and were ruled out for the rest of the game, Katoa was unable to return and when Kennedy was ushered off the field for another concussion assessment after Miko Sivo had finished a right side attacking movement to put his team in front, the Sharks had no replacement players and would go to the half trailing by 10-4. 

Bad went to worse for the Sharks when Kennedy was also ruled out for the night, the Sharks beginning the second half the way they finished the first, with Connor Tracey at fullback, Josh Dugan on the right wing, Jack Williams and Teig Wilton in the centres, with Hamlin-Uele and Rudolf the edge back rowers. 

Digging deep the Sharks repelled repeat Parramatta sets on their line, Tracey pulling off a try saver on Ferguson, then it was Williams for the Sharks making a line break that eventually came to nothing. 

Against the enormous odds the Sharks hung in, turning the Eels away on numerous occasions but the task became a difficult one when a Gutherson penalty goal following a ruck infringement pushed the lead out to eight, with Parramatta up by 12-4 with 14 minutes of the match remaining. 

The Eels would then pad out the score with three late tries against the undermanned Sharks outfit, however despite the loss there was plenty to like about resilience shown by the Cronulla team who will now lick their wounds and look to rebound next week when they travel to the Sunshine Coast to play the Cowboys. 

Following the assessment of the walking wounded, it looks likely Katoa will be missing for an extended period with a suspected medial ligament strain, while the three concussed Sharks will need to pass the protocols before being made available for next week's game. 

The Sharks next play on Saturday at Sunshine Coast Stadium. 

SHARKS 4
Sione Katoa try
lost to 

Eels 28
Blake Ferguson 2, Mika Sivo, Roy Stone, Regan Campbell-Gillard tries, Clint Gutherson 4 goals