Cronulla are on track to secure their first NRL top-four finish since 2008 ahead next week’s final round after surviving a big scare on Saturday against Parramatta at Pirtek Stadium.
The Sharks won 35-28 to move into the top four for the first time this season after the 11-try thriller at Parramatta.
The victory lifts Cronulla up to fourth on 32 points, one win clear of South Sydney who the Sharks bump out of fourth place.
A win over Manly at Remondis Stadium next weekend would ensure the Sharks clinched fourth spot.
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said the Eels game should serve as a warning to his side.
“As you saw today with Parramatta, you just can’t turn up … they are going to make you work really hard for it and Manly will do the same next week,” Flanagan said.
“We’ve got that belief … at the moment. They’re tricky games and they made me sweat it out in that box there.”
Flanagan admits his side lost some focus by looking ahead to the bigger games coming up.
His Parramatta counterpart Brad Arthur lamented his side’s inability to seal the win.
“We’ve got to learn how to win a game … how to control a game,” Arthur said.
“We were in front by six with 10 minutes to go and we go into a negative mindset.”
A late try to Cronulla’s Michael Ennis sealed the victory, with the hooker crashing over from close range with a minute remaining shortly after the Sharks took a one-point lead through a Valentine Holmes field goal.
Parramatta clawed their way back after trailing 20-10 at halftime and opened the scoring in the second half when bench forward Daniel Alvaro beat several defenders to score a terrific try.
The Eels scored again via Reece Robinson on 62 minutes before hooker Isaac De Gois crossed for a converted try five minutes later to put Parramatta up 28-22.
Cronulla lifted in the final 10 minutes with winger Sosai Feki scoring his second try of the afternoon before Ennis iced the game for the Sharks.
One bright note for the Eels was the NRL’s leading tryscorer Semi Radradra crossing for his 22nd try of the season to move within one of Steve Ella’s club record (23) set in 1982.
Cronulla’s win comes after a tumultuous couple of days for the club over an alleged incident involving skipper Paul Gallen.
The lock fronted media on Friday, denying a News Corp Australia report which alleged he swore at a 10-year-old boy who wanted his autograph.
Gallen denied swearing at the boy and the Sharks released a statement before his media appearance, saying the club would investigate the incident.
The family at the centre of the controversy have stood by their claims that Gallen swore at the boy.