Rugby League

Sharks 24 Eels 18

Head-to-head Blues audition shows Stuart is spoilt for choice

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Forget about City-Country, the first trial for the NSW No.6 jersey was held yesterday and after watching the Eels-Sharks game Ricky Stuart must surely find room for both Jarryd Hayne and Todd Carney in his Blues side.


After being endorsed by Stuart as the main contenders for the NSW five-eighth job on the eve of the City and Country teams being named, Hayne and Carney went head-to-head in a five-star audition at Toyota Stadium.

Each contributed to the best moments for their teams as the Sharks and Eels turned on an entertaining contest for the 14,327 crowd - and Stuart. Hayne scored two tries and set up Parramatta's other four-pointer, while Carney laid on three of his side's four tries.

Sure he was wearing the No.1 jersey for the Eels but Hayne plays so much like a second five-eighth that Stuart came out last season and defended his non-selection in Origin I by declaring the Parramatta superstar was not a fullback. Now Stuart has gone a step further, ringing Hayne last week to tell him he was considering playing him five-eighth for the Blues in this year's series.

Stuart's thinking makes sense as Hayne did virtually everything possible to secure the Eels a much-needed victory.


That is, until you consider Carney's contribution for Cronulla.

After being thrown a lifeline by the Sharks this season, Carney turned in his best performance since 2010, when he won the Dally M medal and helped propel the Sydney Roosters to the grand final.

Now he may be on the verge of doing the same for Cronulla. It is no coincidence the Sharks have won five games in a row for the first time in five seasons since he moved from halfback to five-eighth in round three.

Until then, he wasn't even in the reckoning for the Blues and Stuart was considering options like Warriors five-eighth James Maloney and Canberra's Terry Campese.

But plays such as Carney's pinpoint-accurate kick 10 metres from the sideline to the other side of the goal posts for fullback Matthew Wright to score in the 15th minute, the long ball for Ben Pomeroy to cross out wide five minutes later and the cut-out pass for Stewart Mills's match-winning 49th-minute try have him in serious contention.

Cronulla's only other try was the rugby league equivalent of an own goal, scored in the 26th minute by Jayson Bukuya after Pomeroy tapped back a Jeff Robson kick and Eels winger Cheyse Blair knocked the ball into Bukuya's arms.

The much-deserved try for Bukuya, the unsung hero of Cronulla's star-studded forward pack, gave the home side an 18-6 lead but two moments of magic by Hayne, who had powered over the try line in the fifth minute, drew the scores level at half-time.

Despite appearing, at times, to still be affected by the injury to his right knee, which sidelined him for three of Parramatta's previous six matches and remains heavily bandaged, Hayne managed to catch a ball standing flat near the Sharks line and throw a cut-out flick as he was hit heavily by the defence for Blair to score in the 33rd minute.

Then, six minutes later, Hayne scored again when he soared above Carney to field a cross-field kick from out-of-sorts halfback Chris Sandow.

Hayne also came up with at least one try-saving tackle when he shoulder-charged Wade Graham after he broke into the clear and had only the Eels fullback to beat, while he also gave his side a chance to win late in the match after chasing hard after a Ben Roberts kick and smashing the ball loose from John Williams near the Cronulla try line.

It was an irresistible performance that should ensure Hayne is in the NSW team - but after yesterday Carney deserves to be there too.

CRONULLA 24 (J Bukuya S Mills B Pomeroy M Wright tries; T Carney 4 goals) bt PARRAMATTA 18 (J Hayne 2 C Blair tries; C Sandow 3 goals) at Toyota Stadium. Referees: Steve Lyons, Henry Perenara. Crowd: 14,327.