An inspiring display from Parramatta duo Corey Norman and Jarryd Hayne has accounted for the Cronulla Sharks 32-12 as the Eels continue their push to play September football.
With 12,000-odd Sharks fans returning to Remondis Stadium for Saturday afternoon football hopeful of winning the game and continuing their quest to avoid the wooden spoon, they were instead met by a dominant Eels outfit.
In a day of firsts for both clubs, wingers Bureta Faraimo from the Eels and Valentine Holmes from the Sharks made their NRL debuts and consequently marked each other in what was a memorable showing from both rookies.
With matches against the Titans, Knights and Raiders (twice) to come on the run home, the Eels have a golden chance to escape the logjam of teams stuck on the brink of the top eight.
With windy conditions challenging both teams throughout the game, it only took 14 seconds of game time for the video referee to be utilised for a possible try and while the Eels were unlucky not to score when the Sharks fumbled a tricky kick-off it only took Hayne another two minutes to make an impact and cross for the first try of the afternoon.
A pass from five-eighth Corey Norman down the Sharks' short right-hand side defence allowed Hayne to race past Fa'amanu Brown and Jonathan Wright to run 30 metres and score in the corner.
Suspect defence from the Sharks' right-edge again saw the Eels enter space to score their second try after 10 minutes through winger Semi Radradra – his 16th of the season. The try came from a simple through-the-hands passage of play involving Hayne and centre Ryan Morgan as the Eels posted a point a minute to lead 10-0.
Highly anticipated Sharks debutant Holmes went close to scoring his maiden NRL try after 16 minutes but he put a foot on the touch in goal line in the process of scoring, but an unfazed Holmes then provided the spark to help the Sharks to their first try of the afternoon.
A wicked line break, first down the sideline and then further in field, from the debutant put the Eels in all sorts and when Ben Smith finally stopped young Holmes from causing any further damage, the Sharks went down a short side lacking Parramatta defenders and crossed through Brown.
The five-eighth's maiden first grade try, scored with 10 minutes remaining, made it an eventual 10-6 halftime scoreline though a Holmes error with an open line in front of him should have equalled the ledger with two minutes remaining in the half.
A sublime pass from Chris Sandow started the second half of scoring plays when Peni Terepo hit a hole off the halfback's short ball to race away for his first try of the season in the 44th minute to regain a 10-point buffer. Prop Junior Paulo was placed on report soon after for taking out the legs of Sharks fullback Michael Gordon who was contesting an Eels bomb.
Eels debutant Faraimo continued Parramatta's solid run in the second half when he crossed for a debut try in the 58th minute. It came from the influential Norman, with help from Hayne and William Hopoate, to put the 24-year-old USA international over in the corner and extend Parramatta's lead to 14.
Cronulla though, like in many games before this season, failed to quit and a solid line break from Gordon got the ball rolling for a Sharks comeback with 14 minutes remaining.
With Gordon getting picked off on halfway by a grasscutter tackle by Chris Sandow (who was surprisingly put on report for the tackle), a movement out wide saw Holmes break free and throw the ball back in to a supporting Jeff Robson with the halfback continuing his way to the line for his fourth try of the season.
With the crowd buzzing and the Sharks onslaught going hammer-and-tong at the Eels' defence with 10 minutes remaining, an unfortunate error from Tinirau Arona saw Hayne scoop the ball up before racing 95 metres downfield to score his second try of the afternoon and put the game out of reach for the Sharks at 26-12. This was despite a clearly struggling Hayne being caught on his run by Cronulla winger Jacob Gagan but a big fend gave him the impetus to cross the line before being given a rest for the closing stages by his coach.
A sneaky Hopoate quick tap from a penalty close to Cronulla's line saw Faraimo cross for his second of the afternoon in the 77th minute. Looking out towards the open side, Hopoate dummied and threw it to Faraimo waiting in the corner to close out the game 32-12 and earn popular and long-serving prop Fuifui Moimoi a win in his 200th career game.
Parramatta Eels 32 (Faraimo 2, Hayne 2, Radradra, Terepo tries; Sandow 4 goals) defeated Cronulla Sharks 12 (Brown, Robson tries; Gordon 2 goals) at Remondis Stadium. Crowd: 12,798.