Hayne-inspired Eels comeback to beat Sharks
The Hayne Plane was back in service at Parramatta Stadium as superstar fullback Jarryd Hayne inspired the Eels to just their second win of the season with a 29-20 win over Cronulla.
Hayne scored a double and set up another two, and Luke Burt crossed twice as the Eels recovered from a 20-6 halftime deficit against a dominant Sharks outfit which was being led around the park brilliantly by Todd Carney.
But Hayne ensured he'd have last laugh when the pair get together in camp with the NSW State of Origin side on Tuesday, the fullback setting up and finishing the match-clinching try eight minutes from time before unleashing his trademark airplane celebration.
The win gives the blue and gold faithful some hope that all is not lost as far as their 2012 campaign is concerned, while also easing some pressure on under-siege coach Stephen Kearney, with some reports suggesting he had two weeks to get the club off the bottom of the ladder.
While Hayne and Carney starred, NSW coach Ricky Stuart could have some concerns over skipper Paul Gallen, who did not play the final 20 minutes of the game with his knee heavily bandaged on the bench.
Gallen said he tweaked the knee during the match but the Blues captain believed it would not put in doubt for State of Origin II on Wednesday week.
"I was about to go back on, then they got that (Hayne) try ... so Flanno (coach Shane Flanagan) said 'don't worry about it'," Gallen said after the match.
The Sharks produced an almost perfect opening 40 minutes, with the 20-6 halftime scoreboard doing little to reflect their dominance as they completed a remarkable 21 of 22 sets.
Such was the precision of Carney's kicking game - save for a shanked cross-field kick which went 20 metres backwards - the Eels were forced into four line drop outs, that pressure telling as the Sharks ran in three tries.
Parramatta scored the first try when Hayne put Ryan Morgan over, but it wasn't long before Isaac Gordon and Colin Best scored to have the Sharks on top.
The Eels would have been happy to go to sheds trailing by just eight, only for Gallen to go over from dummy half just before the break.
A Ben Roberts bust sparked the Eels to life and three defenders were unable to stop Hayne before Carney relived an Origin I moment he'd rather forget when he failed to find touch from a penalty.
Burt's effort to secure a repeat set was rewarded when he scored on the next set before a Morgan bust put him over again to give the Eels the lead ten minutes from time.
"It's been in the maintenance room for a while - it was a good feeling," Hayne said of post-try celebration.
"I'm feeling really good and I'm starting to feel really free the way I run and play.
"With the pressure and the criticism we're all copping, that's huge tonight's win.
"For us to win the way we did and come back and fight was awesome."
For Kearney it was a mixture of relief and frustration as his side showed what it was capable of following six straight losses.
"It's nice to be smiling," he said.
"That doesn't make a season for us but it's a wonderful start for us from where we've come from."
Flanagan said back-to-back losses were no cause for alarm.
"It was more us rather than what they did I thought," Flanagan said.
"We knew at some stage they were going to get back-to-back sets and we had to handle it and we just didn't."