Parramatta Eels 6 Cronulla Sharks 20
7:00 pm, Saturday 25th March
ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Parramatta condensed a third of their energy into the opening 10 minutes. Cronulla encouraged them with a pair of mistakes in their own half. Parramatta let them off each time. Fifita and Graham linked up to send Brailey in, and for the remaining 70 minutes, the result seldom felt in doubt. Tempted to end the review there, really. Not much more to be said.
It’s like I’m in my lounge room. That’s the ANZ Stadium effect for you. Steven, my Parra mate, is with me behind the posts, where about five other people are sat within a 30 metre radius. This is nominally the Eels end, but there’s not a lot of active support going on. It’s always hard when you’re in between home grounds; harder still when your temporary residence is an atmosphere vampire. There’s more I could say about this place, but I slagged it off after Souths last August, and we’ll always have that night.
We’re back. Are we back? I’ve already been wrong once and it’s not even April. Look, it was a dog of a game. No point in dressing it up. Cronulla make plenty of mistakes in dangerous zones without Parramatta ever putting a sustained spell of pressure together, largely down to poor handling of their own. We may or may not be back, but the offloads certainly are. The second try doesn’t happen without the technique and mentality required to keep the ball alive. Graham again involved; running a hospital line others back-rowers might shirk from. Passes to Leutele, who draws four Eels his way before cleverly turning inside for Feki to score. Parra’s try relies on a jammy deflection off a Cronulla leg, but it was an error that led to their field position. We’ve not been great. The six-point lead has an air of “yeah, but” about it.
Opting for the easy kick at goal helps. There’s a slightly dicey five minutes from around 48 to 53, yet Parra can’t hold the ball long enough to make it count. We’re battling to get out of our own end, before a penalty and then another. Maloney to Gallen, whose body position in the tackle is always conducive to finding a teammate, pops it back to his five-eighth and it’s game over. The last 25 minutes pass without any trouble. New hooker James Segeyaro gets a comfy quarter-hour to scratch off some cobwebs. Only other noteworthy event after his introduction was bumping into Phil at Olympic Park station. Hobbling on one leg from some kind of mad leech bite, but he was happy to have won.
This weekend’s game falls a day short of 50 years since the club’s first ever competitive fixture. It’s also Chris Heighington’s 300th. Two from four. Had a hunch we might be here after a month. Could be two better; could be two worse. Let’s kick on, now. Three o’clock on Saturday afternoon. You’ll know where to find me.
Cronulla Sharks 20 (Jayden Brailey, Sosaia Feki, James Maloney tries; Maloney 4 goals) defeated Parramatta Eels 6 (David Gower try; Clinton Gutherson goal). Crowd: 17 003.