The Parramatta Eels have proved too strong for an understrength Sharks side, with the boys from the Shire going down 24-12.
Shortly before kickoff, prize recruit, Shaun Johnson, joined the Sharks’ long list of casualties, which already included the likes of Paul Gallen, Matt Moylan, and Wade Graham. 20-year-old half, Kyle Flanagan, came into the side for Johnson, slotting both of his conversions and making 21 tackles, without a miss.
Matt Moylan’s injury from last week against North Queensland saw Josh Dugan slide into the vacant fullback and debutant, Bronson Xerri, slot into Dugan’s right centre spot. Despite struggling with lower back issues for much of the game, Dugan still managed 136 run metres and 5 tackle breaks. Xerri, meanwhile, impressed in his first NRL game, running for 153 metres – the team’s second highest mark – and making 11 tackles, with zero misses.
In more devastating news for the club, interchange front rower, Aaron Woods, will require surgery to repair a foot fracture he suffered in the loss and is set spend up to three months on the sidelines.
Ten minutes into the second half, scores were still level, until a second-half double from veteran centre, Michael Jennings, sealed the outcome. Cronulla struggled containing some of Parramatta’s flashy outside backs – Mitchell Moses finished the game with 113 run metres, 2 try assists and a line break; and skipper, Clinton Gutherson, ran for a game-high 249 metres, with 4 tackle breaks – and could not make up for in the middle. Despite his club’s significant injury toll, coach, John Morris, was “really proud” of his men. “We couldn’t cover the loss of Woodsy and no Shaun Johnson and no Matt Moylan,” Morris told reporters, “we’ll bounce back”.
Things don’t look to be getting any easier for Cronulla, with the side set to take on the Sydney Roosters on Saturday night. The defending premiers are fresh off a 32-point drubbing of Brisbane and are firmly cementing themselves as premiership frontrunners, yet again. The Roosters, who have won their last three games, are set to welcome representative prop, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, back into the starting lineup, with Zane Tetevano dropping back to the interchange. In a boost for Cronulla, stars, Shaun Johnson and Paul Gallen, are set to return after missing last week’s clash.
This weekend’s matchup will certainly be a tough one for Cronulla. With the Roosters sitting second on the premiership table with just one defeat to their name, the Sharks will need all the help they can get from what they hope will be a thunderous home crowd.
The Roosters have several big-name players who the Sharks will have to be on the lookout for. James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell, and Luke Keary have started the season in the same scintillating form they finished last season in and will be a handful all over the park for Cronulla.
Beating the Sharks at home, however, is never easy and they will be eager to bounce back from a disappointing showing against Parramatta. For Cronulla to come out on top, their big names have to step up. If the likes of Andrew Fifita, Paul Gallen and Shaun Johnson can have big performances, an upset could be on the cards.
It will be interesting to see how Bronson Xerri handles his opposite, Latrell Mitchell, who has quickly emerged as one of the game’s most damaging players. The Roosters are the favourites heading into this one, for good reason; Cronulla, however, have shown in recent years that star power does not bother them, and they will be looking to get back to their winning ways, come Saturday night.