The NRL’s casualty ward is overflowing, with a flurry of injuries marring Saturday evening’s match between the Parramatta Eels and Cronulla Sharks at Bankwest Stadium.
Round three of the 2021 premiership will be remembered for its uncanny injury toll, and Parramatta’s victory in Sydney was no exception.
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Both clubs were left with a depleted interchange bench after a series of concussion scares.
Eels playmaker Mitchell Moses went off for an HIA in the 26th minute after getting himself in an awkward position while attempting a tackle, his head making contact with Jack Williams’ knee.
He was subsequently replaced by Will Smith in the halves.
Earlier, Sharks winger Sione Katoa was taken off the field with a knee injury after his leg got twisted in a tackle.
To rub salt in the wounds, Cronulla skipper Wade Graham and second-rower Briton Nikora both failed HIA tests in the first half, prematurely ending their nights.
Nikora was involved in a nasty head clash with teammate Aaron Woods, who stayed on despite a bloody gash in his forehead.
Sione Katoa of the Sharks.Source:Getty Images
During the halftime interval, Sharks fullback William Kennedy failed an HIA as well, meaning the visitors were forced to play the final 40 minutes with zero interchange options.
“Absolute carnage here at Bankwest,” Fox League reporter Jake Duke said at halftime.
“Both teams have a massive injury toll.”
The chaos unfortunately didn’t stop after halftime — Parramatta Eels winger Maika Sivo retired to the sheds for an HIA after he failed to return to his feet following a tackle.
But thankfully, Sivo was allowed to rejoin the contest after passing the test.
Earlier on Saturday, the Canberra Raiders suffered a similar fate in their match against the Warriors, with three players forced from the field early in the first half at GIO Stadium.
Fox League commentator Andrew Voss said: “This is going to open discussions. Is it time for an 18th man?
“We talk about player welfare, Canberra had a bloke with a fractured rib in Curtis Scott. If someone (from Cronulla) is injured in this half they’ll have to play on (with 12 men). We talk about welfare, that is the intention of the HIA.”
Former Eels star Cameron King tweeted: “I hope all these rule changes which are for entertainment purposes are worth it because this is carnage and it’s round 3.”
The Sharks bench. No one left. Down to 13 pic.twitter.com/d7lcLICqV3
If there has ever been evidence a concussion sub (18th man) is needed, today is that day. Both Sharks & Raiders left with bare bone benches after multiple concussions (+ other injuries). Injuries are part of the fabric of the game but this would be a great move for player safety
Who have I missed? My god it’s a blood bath. #NRLpic.twitter.com/DVWcy9AxaG
The Sharks got Saturday’s match off to an ideal start, with Katoa scoring near the corner post in the opening six minutes.
But Parramatta showed their class by immediately returning serve, winger Blake Ferguson getting the Eels on the board a few minutes later.
The hosts eventually raced ahead to secure a comfortable 28-4 victory, with Ferguson finishing with a double.
“It’s the first time in my career we’ve finished with no bench,” Sharks centre Josh Dugan told ABC Grandstand after the loss.
“We just weren’t good enough tonight. We can hold our heads high in playing 50 minutes without a bench.”
Parramatta will look to muster a fourth-consecutive win against the Wests Tigers next weekend, while Cronulla will face the North Queensland Cowboys on the Sunshine Coast.
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