An 11am kick off in cold conditions was the order for the day as the Eels Jersey Flegg team took on the table topping and undefeated Sharks. The young Parra fellas were up for this game after finishing their preparations with a confident Captain’s Run on Saturday.
The opening 20 minutes of the contest left the spectators in no doubt of the Eels intent – physicality. It was obvious that Dean Feeney had his forwards focussed on belting Cronulla out of the contest, and that message was sent from the opening whistle.
A powerful surge by Sean Keppie in the 7th minute to open the scoring saw Parra playing from in front, but the scoreboard wasn’t troubled again till the 24th minute. During this crucial period the aggressive defence from the Eels had their Sharks counterparts rattled and it would be telling as the match unfolded.
Michael Tupou crashed over next to the posts to double the Eels lead to 12 with just over ten minutes left in the half. The Sharks fought back with a try of their own 5 minutes later, before some Dylan Brown magic laid the platform for a try out wide to Taufa Afu. The conversion by Todd Sapienza in the difficult conditions saw the Eels take an 18 to 6 lead into the break.
The power plays from the Eels continued immediately after the resumption of play, and the action was soon in the Sharks quarter. A backline shift to the right saw Haze Dunster cross out wide. The conversion into the strong breeze was well wide, leaving the score at 22 to 6.
The Eels then went back to back as the forwards marched downfield to set up a towering bomb into the wind, with Noel Aukafolau taking the ball right on the line and diving over for another unconverted try and a 26 to 6 lead.
Only five minutes would pass before Todd Sapienza added to the Sharks misery when he took on the line from ten out for a fine individual try, which he duly converted for a 32 to 6 score line.
Not to be outdone, Dylan Brown then showcased his prodigious talents with a try of his own. Faking to shift the ball to the left, he chipped over the defence line before regathering and beating the fullback. The conversion was sending the match towards embarrassment for Cronulla at 38 to 6.
Impressively, the Eels defended their own line with determination before Haze Dunster took an intercept to race away for the final try, leaving the score at 42 to 6.
Make no mistake, the game delivered by the young Eels today was the blueprint for winning rugby league matches. The forwards might not have earned many individual mentions for today’s match, but as a unit they were my “men of the match”.
The aggression in both attack and defence from the Eels pack would have left the Sharks bruised and battered. The was little doubt that the contact in the opening 20 minutes rattled Cronulla, and the classy Parra backs were the beneficiaries.
3 The Eels forwards – smashed their opposition, worked as a unit
2 John Fonua – faultless and on fire at the back
1 Dylan Brown – a classy return after injury
On a side note, Reed Mahoney was on hand to cheer on his old team mates today. This is the club spirit in Parra and a big effort for a bloke who flew out of Darwin in the early hours of this morning!