Eels 29 Sharks 20
They tried it against the Tigers and they got close against the Raiders, but last night Parramatta finally executed a come-from-behind victory to post just their second win of the season against Cronulla.
The Eels have made a habit of leaving their run too late in 2012, but against Cronulla last night they timed it to perfection, storming home from 20-6 down at half-time to win 29-20.
Taking flight ... Jarryd Hayne celebrates after scoring one of his two tries. Photo: Steve Christo
If you didn't know it was round 13 and Parramatta were languishing at the bottom of the ladder, you could have been excused for thinking the Eels had just won the competition, so loud was the roar when Jarryd Hayne ran over to put them eight in front with eight minutes remaining.
While Parramatta fans were jubilant, NSW coach Ricky Stuart wouldn't have been so impressed. Blues skipper Paul Gallen came from the field midway through the second half and didn't return after receiving treatment on the knee injury that hampered his build-up to the series opener.
For the Eels, the win ended a six-game losing streak and has ensured coach Stephen Kearney will live to fight another day - but the bye this weekend couldn't have come at a worse time for the cellar-dwellers.
Paul Gallen on the charge for the Sharks. Photo: Steve Christo
The Eels went into last night's game at Parramatta Stadium having surrendered victory in the dying minutes to St George Illawarra in their last outing.
The last time the two teams met, back in round seven at Toyota Stadium, it was Cronulla who prevailed in a close encounter, claiming the two competition points with a 24-18 win. And the signs weren't good early for the Eels, who gave away back-to-back penalties in the opening sets of the game to gift the Sharks an early 2-0 lead.
But just like NSW fans did a fortnight ago when Gallen and Todd Carney opted to take the two points on offer for the Blues against the Maroons, Cronulla supporters would have been asking why their side allowed Parramatta off the hook so early in the match with the decision to take the two points.
The Sharks get tangled up in Eels
Eel - Luke Burt makes a move. Photo: Steve Christo
Parramatta are statistically the worst defensive team in the competition and conceding a try so early would have deflated the bottom-placed Eels, but just like the Dragons in recent weeks, the Sharks were guilty of releasing the pressure valve.
It came back to bite them, with Parramatta crossing for the first try of the match just six minutes later through centre Ryan Morgan.
Just as it looked like Parramatta would play from in front, Matt Ryan coughed up the pill in the ensuing set, which led to Cronulla posting points of their own after Luke Burt fumbled a Carney bomb to gift Isaac Gordon the Sharks' first try and the lead.
Carney's kicking game kept the Eels glued on their own line in the first half, with the home side forced to make 107 more tackles than the Sharks in the opening 40 minutes.
But the second half was a complete contrast to the first, with the Eels returning from the sheds with a spring in their step to run in two early tries to cut the gap to 20-18 with 25 minutes still on the clock.
The Eels have made a habit of making late surges to no avail, but last night they were finally able to celebrate a win.
Carney has come under fire since his below-par debut for NSW, but last night he justified his selection. In his first game since his State of Origin debut at Etihad Stadium a fortnight ago, Carney did, in the first half at least, what he failed to do in the darker shade of blue.
He got involved, he dictated terms and he didn't wait for the game to come to him, but Parramatta didn't allow him to do so in the second half, playing a disciplined brand of football to snare the win.
PARRAMATTA 29 (L Burt 2 J Hayne 2 R Morgan tries L Burt 4 goals C Sandow field goal) bt CRONULLA 20 (C Best P Gallen I Gordon tries T Carney 4 goals) at Parramatta Stadium. Referee: Steve Lyons, Henry Perenara. Crowd: 10,009.