The last of three match-ups on Saturday sees two sides that currently sit outside the Top 8 but have both found form in recent weeks with back-to-back wins and will be hungry to make it three in a row means it's sure to be a hard-fought contest.
The Sharks have been inconsistent throughout the first 8 rounds struggling with errors and poor discipline a constant in their performances. They have shown steady improvement in the last two rounds and showing that true grit and determination that the boys from the shire have become known for in recent seasons.
The Eels started the season with 6 consecutive losses and were looking far from the team many predicted to make the Top 8 and potentially Top 4 come finals time, fast forward two weeks and they now have two straight wins including a win over the Tigers who started the season fire in what many fans will be hoping is the start of a magical run for the Parramatta side.
2018 - Round 3 - Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 14 def. Parramatta Eels 4 at ANZ Stadium
2017 - Round 4 - Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 20 def. Parramatta Eels 6 ANZ Stadium
2016 - Round 17 - Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 34 def. Parramatta Eels 24 Southern Cross Group Stadium
2015 - Round 25 - Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 35 def. Parramatta Eels 28 Pirtek Stadium
2014 - Round 21 - Parramatta Eels 32 def. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 12 Southern Cross Group Stadium
Despite the Sharks having the wood over the Eels in recent meetings having won four of the last five encounters, throughout history, only one win splits the sides with the Sharks having won 16 where Eels have 15 wins head to head.
|Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks||Parramatta Eels|
|1||Valentine Holmes||Clinton Gutherson|
|2||Sosaia Feki||Bevan French|
|3||Jesse Ramien||Michael Jennings|
|4||Ricky Leutele||Brad Takairangi|
|5||Edrick Lee||George Jennings|
|6||Matt Moylan||Corey Norman|
|7||Chad Townsend||Mitchell Moses|
|8||Andrew Fifita||Daniel Alvaro|
|9||Jayden Brailey||Kaysa Pritchard|
|10||Matt Prior||Suaia Matagi|
|11||Kurt Capewell||Manu Ma'u|
|12||Wade Graham||Tepai Moeroa|
|13||Joseph Paulo||Peni Terepo|
|14||Jayson Bukuya||Will Smith|
|15||James Segeyaro||Kenny Edwards|
|16||Ava Seumanufagai||David Gower|
|17||Scott Sorensen||Tim Mannah|
|18||Kurt Dillon||Cameron King|
|19||Jack Williams||Beau Scott|
|20||Trent Hodkinson||Josh Hoffman|
|21||Braden Uele||Marata Niukore|
The facts that matter
The Sharks have been hit by the injury bug in recent weeks with skipper Paul Gallen still on the sidelines and will be joined by fullback Josh Dugan who limped off during last weeks win against the Titans. The return of Wade Graham from injury will be a big boost to the side while the injury to Dugan will see Valentine Holmes return to the fullback for the first time since his disappointing performance in Round 1.
The Sharks have struggled with scoring points so far in 2018 and that could partially have to do with the fact they haven't had a consistent spine, with Holmes, Dugan and Moylan all having played fullback and Moylan and Hodkinson playing in the halves has really stunted the Sharks attacking power. They are ever fifth in offloads for the season and has been crucial in the past two victories.
Over the last couple weeks, the Sharks have looked much improved from the early rounds, Moylan is coming into his game at five-eighth and will only improve in his combination with Townsend. Fifita has been on a rampage during the last two rounds and has picked up the role of leading the forward pack in the absence of Gallen.
Despite still sitting in last place on the ladder, the Eels have won two straight matches and are looking revitalized and have all the tools to get their season right back on track despite the nightmare start they endured and a win would see them jump off the foot of the ladder for the first time all year.
Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman's halves partnership is starting to click for the year and the return of Clint Gutherson has paid dividends for the Eels and coincided with their return to form. They have proved to be a big scoring flashy team with their big win over the Eagles and also showed a tough, gritty side in the win against the Tigers and are showing the traits of the side many thought they would be before the season kicked off.
With both sides bidding for a third straight win there is sure to be plenty of fire throughout the contest and to add some extra motivation for Eels a loss here would put their slim hopes of finals football in real danger.
The Sharks have been much improved over the past few weeks and with the added bonus of the return of Wade Graham, I think the home side will prove too strong for a plucky Eels side. Sharks by 10 in front of a loud home crowd in the shire.
Who grabs a much needed win when the Sharks host the Eels? Let us know in the comments below.