IT was one of the more touching moments of rugby league this season when, with the full-time hooter sounding, Luke Covell took the ball out over the sideline and ran to the Sharks supporters at Parramatta Stadium.
The rest of his team-mates chased after him – and the besieged club’s players and fans embraced in the name of victory.
It had been a long time coming for Cronulla – Round 1 was their last win and since then they had gone on to lose nine games in succession.
Worse still a myriad of off-field incidents threatened to drive the Shire team to extinction.
A win was desperately needed to help turn things around, and although they did it in the least-convincing of fashions, at least they did it.
Trent Barrett kicked one of the worst-looking field goals in history to see the boys in the black, white and blue home just four minutes from fulltime – but as Barrett said post-match, they’re all worth one point in the end.
Luke Covell booted a penalty at the death to make sure the job was done, and Cronulla can now look to future rounds with hope.
The Game Swung When… Mitch Brown crossed for the Sharks in the 67th minute. Parramatta held a 10-6 lead before this point, and had held it since the 31st minute of the game.
The Eels had plenty of chances to put Cronulla to the sword but were unable to come up with points. They made far too many errors with the football and allowed the Sharks another sniff. The ball was spread out along the line to Brown, who forced his way over through some meek Parramatta defence.
Although Covell missed the sideline conversion to give his side the lead, it was evident Cronulla were in better shape to take the match.
Who Was Hot… Scott Porter. “Scott who?” you might ask. Well, yep, that’s probably a fair enough question. Scott Porter is the unknown halfback who was on debut for Cronulla who played superbly in tough conditions.
It won’t go down as one of the great performances, but in the trying weather and given the dire circumstances which have surrounded him making his first grade debut, Porter was first class.
His kicking game was the key, consistently finding the seagulls and allowing his side to stay in the match through their field position. Kicked 21 times in the match for 694 metres. One of those was a well-placed bomb that set up a try for Luke Covell in the first half.
Who Was Not… It’s hard to single out any one individual for this award – the Eels were bad as a whole.
After drawing against the Bunnies last week (a result that was considered at the time to be just as good as a win) the Eels, unlike Cronulla, came into this contest with a bit of form. They held the ascendency for the majority of the match but were unable to close it out.
Luke Burt was among their best (four tackle breaks and a line break), but they badly missed Jarryd Hayne’s influence from fullback.
They lacked attacking options and tallied an embarrassing error count across the board; they made 15 errors to Cronulla’s 10. And that was ultimately the difference.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Parramatta’s Jarryd Hayne must have watched this match from Origin camp and asked, “where is the justice?” Last week against Souths, Hayne missed a couple of field goal attempts, including one shot that hit the crossbar. This week, Cronulla’s Trent Barrett hit a field goal that was just as ugly, just as useless, but what a difference a coat of paint makes – his shot sidled over the black dot.
This unbelievable moment was matched however, by the scenes after the game, when Sharks players celebrated harmoniously with supporters. High-fives, hugs, smiles and perhaps tears were shared by all wearing the light blue. It was a beautiful piece of sporting imagery – which proved that supporters are just as important to a club as the players. And the Cronulla players in this act of celebration recognised and appreciated this.
Injuries… There were a few war injuries in this match – the worst of these was suffered by Parramatta’s Nathan Hindmarsh. He copped a severe cork in his left arm and he didn’t play a part in much of the second half.
Fuifui Moimoi was badly split open in a head clash with Cronulla’s Terence Seu Seu, but the big Tongan played on.
Sharkie Ben Pomeroy copped a shot below the belt, so to speak, and was forced to leave the field.
Refs Watch… A few minor mistakes by whistle-blowers Ben Cummins and Alan Shortall, but nothing to make back page news. It was a consistent performance and both teams were given a fair chance to win.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Scott Porter (Sharks): A fine kicking display on debut. Put up a perfectly placed bomb in the first half for Luke Covell to score Cronulla’s first try. Covell pulled off a genuine AFL-style climber in one of the more spectacular efforts of the year; 2 points – Anthony Tupou (Sharks): Without Paul Gallen there to help him, Tupou took on the lion’s share of the tough stuff. Worked hard all match. Made 43 tackles, set up a try, had a tackle break and got away two offloads; 1 point – Luke Burt (Eels): Had some classy touches from fullback, where he made a couple of incisions. Showed terrific speed to score Parramatta’s second try – chasing through a grubber into the in-goal and beating Cronulla fullback Nathan Stapleton.
Sharks 13 (M Brown, L Covell tries; L Covell 2 goals; T Barrett field goal) def Eels 10 (L Burt, J Reddy tries; L Burt goal) at Parramatta Stadium. Crowd: 7,014.