Jarryd Hayne and Chris Sandow have inspired Parramatta to a 42-24 win over Cronulla in an action-packed NRL clash at Pirtek Stadium on Monday.
The pair scored three tries between them, with one of Hayne’s a contender for the season’s best as the Eels secured their fifth win of the season – matching their total for last year.
Cronulla’s disappointing evening was compounded by an early injury to Andrew Fifita with the NSW prop limping off with ankle syndesmosis early in the game which could potentially rule him out of the NSW side for the State of Origin opener on May 28.
Eels winger Semi Radradra opened the scoring after four minutes when he latched on to a bullet-like pass from Hayne.
But the Sharks hit back immediately with a Sosaia Feki try converted by Michael Gordon.
Wade Graham then showed some brilliant soccer skills by chipping Jeff Robson’s grubber-kick over the head of two Eels defenders then regathered to score.
However, that moment of magic was eclipsed by Hayne midway through the opening stanza with the superstar fullback stepping past five players to power his way over the line.
Will Hopoate appeared to have restored the Eels’ lead but the video referee backed the decision of the on-field officials to deny the try despite the centre looking to have grounded the ball.
But the Eels’ dismay was short-lived with Sandow hauling in his own chip and chase to score under the posts before winger Ken Sio increased the hosts’ advantage before half time.
The Sharks were much improved in the second period despite Hopoate’s try for the Eels just after the restart.
Graham looked to have scored his second when he drove his way to the line following a Robson pass, but the video referee infuriated the Sharks by denying his effort, deeming he’d lost control of the ball.
Inspired by a brilliant run and pass from skipper Paul Gallen, Isaac De Gois did get on the scoresheet for the visitors with Gordon’s kick closing the gap to 28-18.
However their hopes of a come-from-behind win were ended by Willie Tonga’s 90 metre intercept try in the 63rd minute. And despite Gordon keeping his side in touch with a four-pointer, Sio grabbed his second following some good work from the impressive Hopoate.
Fittingly, Hayne had the final word, racing almost the length of the field after a sloppy Blake Ayshford pass went to ground.
Despite the win, Eels coach Brad Arthur was upset at the manner of his side’s defending and said they have little chance of progressing to the finals this year unless they tighten up.
“Defence wasn’t good enough and moving forward if we want to be taken seriously we’ve got to be better,” Arthur said.
“We were ordinary through the middle, we did some good things with the ball but we have to learn to play for 80 minutes.”
However, Arthur was pleased with the contribution of Hayne and said his performance was his best of the year.
“He showed a lot of leadership qualities tonight,” Arthur said.
“His shoulder’s not 100 per cent … but he’s got to play with pain.
“He played tough tonight and he got the footy and ran and that’s what we need him to do.”
Sharks coach Peter Sharp said his side let themselves down with their first half effort and had no complaints with the loss.
“Parra were good tonight, but we made too many errors to compete at this level,” Sharp said.
“We kicked poorly and made poor decisions with or without the footy.”