Gallen inspires Cronulla to victory over Eels
For the second time in less than a fortnight, Paul Gallen willed his side to a courageous victory with an inspirational performance - and this time, he did it without using his fists.
On Saturday night, his efforts in leading Cronulla to a 32-14 NRL victory over Parramatta didn't involve Nate Myles, a one-two combination or any controversy whatsoever.
He had some help, with five-eighth Todd Carney putting on a clinic and halfback Jeff Robson bagging a double, and his teammates ensuring a second-half shutout of the Eels.
But you can chalk this win up to Gallen.
In his first match since being equally praised and chastised for earning a one-game suspension for fighting Myles in NSW's State of Origin game-one win, Gallen made a statement of a different kind.
With his side trailing by eight points at halftime, the Sharks and Blues skipper came out and made three big hit-ups in the opening 90 seconds of the second stanza.
The third of these led to him crashing through the Eels' goalline defence for a much-needed try after a lethargic first half which also woke up the 11,055-strong crowd.
Starting the match at prop, Gallen finished with a phenomenal 250 metres, eight tackle breaks and 24 tackles.
Eels wingers Ken Sio and Brayden Wiliame scored first-half tries to give the visitors a 14-6 lead at the break.
They could've led by more at the break had it not been for Wade Graham's monster 40m bust which led to Robson's opening try.
Despite entering the clash as heavy underdogs, it was the Eels, minus their Origin star Jarryd Hayne (hamstring), who came out swinging.
But when their inspirational leader, Tim Mannah, left the field with 20 minutes remaining with a leg injury, their hopes faded.
Mannah didn't return and, whatever chance he had of forcing his way into Laurie Daley's NSW squad for game two, appear dashed.
Adding insult to injury, from the resulting set after Mannah left the field, Sharks hooker John Morris slipped through some soft defence to extend the home side's lead to 12 points.
Winger Nathan Stapleton capped off the victory with a wonderful solo effort, in which he kicked for himself and beat Jake Mullaney to the ball for a special try in the 72nd minute.
Eels coach Ricky Stuart said his side had expected Gallen to provide an inspirational performance - but were seemingly incapable of stopping him from producing it.
"That's what we expected (from Gallen)," Stuart said.
"That's his job."
Mannah lamented a drop in attitude from the first to second half, and laid the law down to his teammates who he said weren't putting in.
"I think we're the kind of team that needs everyone on board, doing their part," Mannah said.
"We didn't do that in the second half."
Flanagan praised his squad for following Gallen's lead.
"We had a few who wanted to try and get through it without too many bruises in the first half, but Gal wasn't one of those," he said.
"But then in the second half, everyone muscled up and did what we expected them to do in this competition."
Cronulla Sharks 32 (J Robson 2 P Gallen J Morris N Stapleton tries T Carney 6 goals) Parramatta Eels 14 (K Sio B Wiliame tries C Sandow 3 goals) at Sharks Stadium. Referee: Jason Robinson, Adam Devcich. Crowd: 11,055