Lachy MacCorquodale reviews the second semi-final between the Parramatta Eels and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Here’s how the game went.
|4th||Penalty Goal Adam Reynolds (South Sydney)||South Sydney 2-0|
|16th||Try Jaxson Paulo (South Sydney)||South Sydney 6-0|
|18th||Goal Adam Reynolds (South Sydney)||South Sydney 8-0|
|23rd||Try Clint Gutherson (Parramatta)||South Sydney 8-4|
|24th||Goal Mitchell Moses (Parramatta)||South Sydney 8-6|
|25th||Try George Jennings (Parramatta)||Parramatta 10-8|
|26th||Goal Mitchell Moses (Parramatta)||Parramatta 12-8|
|28th||Try Clint Gutherson (Parramatta)||Parramatta 16-8|
|29th||Goal Mitchell Moses (Parramatta)||Parramatta 18-8|
|45th||Try Liam Knight (South Sydney)||Parramatta 18-12|
|47th||Goal Adam Reynolds (South Sydney)||Parramatta 18-14|
|54th||Try Cameron Murray (South Sydney)||Scores tied 18-all|
|55th||Goal Adam Reynolds (South Sydney)||South Sydney 20-18|
|62nd||Try Bayley Sironen (South Sydney)||South Sydney 24-18|
|63rd||Goal Adam Reynolds (South Sydney)||South Sydney 26-18|
|70th||Try Jaxson Paulo (South Sydney)||South Sydney 30-18|
|71st||Goal Adam Reynolds (South Sydney)||South Sydney 32-18|
|74th||Try George Jennings (Parramatta)||South Sydney 32-22|
|75th||Goal Mitchell Moses (Parramatta)||South Sydney 32-24|
|78th||Try Damien Cook (South Sydney)||South Sydney 36-24|
|79th||Goal Adam Reynolds (South Sydney)||South Sydney 38-24|
A turbulent day for the Parramatta Eels – involving the suspension of Michael Jennings – followed into their very first set of the match, which saw Shaun Lane lose the football in a tackle, gifting the Rabbitohs great field position.
Mitchell Moses was caught offside a few sets later, which allowed the Rabbitohs to take a shot at penalty goal and open the scoring. Then there was an unfortunate moment for the debutant Haze Dunster, who spilt the ball in front of his goal line. In the following set the South Sydney Rabbitohs capitalised on the first tackle, scoring on the right edge through Jaxson Paulo by simply outnumbering the Parramatta defenders. Parramatta fought back in the 23rd minute: they went straight to Junior Paulo who turned his back in the tackle and offloaded for Clint Gutherson, who was bursting through a gap to score under the posts to bring the Eels to within two points.
Out of nowhere Parramatta took the lead after a great offload from Lane (in the first set of six after the try) put the captain Gutherson through a hole again. Gutherson still had Corey Allan to beat, but he sold Allan with some nice footwork and threw a brilliant pass for George Jennings, who scored in the corner to give the Eels the lead. Gutherson continued his barnstorming performance as the Eels capitalised on a dropped catch from Allan. Gutherson got the ball out the back in a standard shift play on the left edge, but he managed to beat his defender and all of a sudden found himself in a try scoring position to put his side up by 10 points. After this surge from the Eels, it was the Rabbitohs who had the better opportunities in the remainder of the first half. South Sydney nearly pulled off a miraculous try to end the second half after what seemed like 50 offloads until the play was called dead, after a forward pass, to end the opening half.
The start of the second half indicated that this was going to be an exciting half of footy. After Adam Reynolds earned his side a repeat set, the Rabbitohs capitalised as Damien Cook drew multiple defenders towards the posts then dropped Liam Knight in under him: Knight went through untouched as the Rabbitohs came within a try of the Eels. The Rabbitohs continued to look likely to score, and in the 54th minute they took back the lead after a line break from Adam Reynolds, thanks to a nice show-and-go: he passed to Campbell Graham, who drew Gutherson in and passed to Cameron Murray, who raced away.
Damien Cook avoided a close sin bin call after purposefully slowing down Junior Paulo in the play-the-ball just in front of their try line. Parramatta decided to take a shot at goal and Mitchell Moses struck it into the post, which was then caught by Paulo, who blazed away and gave it to Jed Cartwright who took the tackle. Later in the set Damien Cook put a grubber into Parramatta’s in-goal: instead of grounding the football, Gutherson tried to pick the ball up and accidentally flung it up in the air, which gave Bayley Sironen the chance to grab the ball and ground it in an extraordinary few minutes of rugby league. South Sydney had a few chances to ice the game but kept failing to do so, giving you the sense that the Eels still had a chance.
This was until the 70th minute when a long ball from Dylan Brown was intercepted by Jaxson Paulo, who raced away for his second of the night and the game-winning try.
The Eels scored a try late in the second half as a cut-out ball allowed the Eels’ outside backs to take advantage of an overlap as Brad Takairangi passed it to Jennings to bring the deficit to eight points. The Rabbitohs weren’t going to let the Eels get near them after a grubber kick from Moses was collected by Cook, who raced along the sideline: he stepped inside Gutherson as he raced away and booked Souths a date with the Penrith Panthers next Saturday night.
Unfortunately for the Eels, they join the Roosters as the second team to go out in straight sets this weekend.
Parramatta’s electric five minutes in the opening half was the highlight of the match: an incredible run with saw the home side score three tries to completely turn the match on its head. But it was South Sydney hooker Damien Cook who was the star tonight. He had an extraordinary game out of dummy-half and had a large influence with his try and two try assists.
He was electric around the ruck and displayed it with his running game as he amassed 158 run metres, the second most for South Sydney. Not only was he outstanding in attack, but his defence was superb as the New South Wales hooker accumulated 47 tackles throughout the match. It seemed fitting that the dummy-half scored the final try in the match to ensure that the Rabbitohs qualified for their third consecutive preliminary final.
Parramatta Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2. George Jennings 19. Brad Takairangi 4. Waqa Blake 20 Haze Dunster 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Ryan Matterson 13. Nathan Brown. Interchange: 14. Will Smith 15. Andrew Davey 16. Kane Evans 17. Ray Stone.
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 1. Corey Allen 2. Alex Johnston 3. Campbell Graham 4. Dane Gagai 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Jaydn Su’A 12. Bayley Sironen 13. Cameron Murray. Interchange: 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Liam Knight 16. Jed Cartwright 17. Keaon Koloamatangi.