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2021 NRL Round Nine, Eels 31 Roosters 18 – Report

Shannon Meyer reviews a tremendous contest between the Parramatta Eels and the Sydney Roosters on Friday night.

SCOREBOARD

Eels 31

Tries: Blake Ferguson (16), Bryce Cartwright (28 , 31), Tom Opacic (45), Dylan Brown (75)

Goals: Mitch Moses (17, 29, 32, 46, 75)

Field Goals: Mitchel Moses (73)

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Roosters 18

Tries: Matt Ikuvalu (4, 20, 63)

Goals: Sam Walker (22) Adam Keighran (40 – pen, 64)

Player of the Year Points

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3 pts – Mitchell Moses (Eels)
2 pts – Matt Ikuvalu (Roosters)
1 pt – Junior Paulo (Eels)

MATCH REPORT

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1st Half

After a pair of one-sided clashes to open round nine, rugby league fans needed a contest, and they got one at Bankwest Stadium between the Eels and the Roosters on Friday night.

The Roosters drew first blood in the fourth minute as Matt Ikuvalu performed the now standard winger acrobatics, putting the ball down with inches to spare and 90% of his body out of the field of play. He was the beneficiary of a bullet-like cut-out pass from James Tedesco. The Roosters were handed the early opportunity after strong defence forced a mistake out of Reed Mahoney in the Eels’ half.

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As if the Roosters needed more injuries given their current toll, they lost Victor Radley to HIA in the ninth minute.

It wasn’t related, but the Eels almost opened their account within a few tackles as Reagan Campbell-Gillard charged through the Roosters’ defence close to the line. The try was awarded but overturned on a Captain’s Challenge. A few plays later Clint Gutherson spilled the ball and the opportunity was lost. Or was it?

The Roosters gifted the Eels the ball and decent territory back a few tackles later, and it led to a repeat set for the Eels but not a try as a loose forward pass undid another opportunity.

It wasn’t an injury but the Roosters may lose another player after Siosiua Taukeiaho’s lifting tackle on Blake Ferguson in the 16th minute. Once again the penalty gave the Eels ball and territory, but they had been wasteful so far.

There was no waste next set as the Eels scored their first try of the night. A mediocre cross-field kick to the middle of the field landed in the arms of Ryan Matterson who threw down to Marata Niukore to the right then to Ferguson – coincidentally the player almost tipped on his head which led to the penalty that gave the Eels the ball. He had plenty to do though; from almost a standing start 10 metres he backed himself to score in the corner, almost like a bulldozer in the end under the heavy pressure of strong Roosters cover defence. The successful conversion made it 6-4 at the halfway mark of the first half.

Out of nowhere the Roosters were back in front minutes later. After a pass went through the hands of Gutherson, Nat Butcher scooped the ball up and ran for 20 metres and when captured he offloaded to Ikuvalu who avoided the chasing Eels pack – which included Reagan Campbell-Gillard – to run 50 metres and score under the posts. The conversion gave the lead back to the Roosters 10-6.

The Roosters were being as helpful to the Eels as they could by repeatedly not completing sets and handing the Eels great territory. Eventually Parramatta helped themselves to a second try and again it came from a kick and involved Matterson batting back the ball. This time the recipient was Bryce Cartwright who had only recently come onto the field. The Eels retook the lead at 12-10 with just over 10 minutes to go until half-time.

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After winning a Captain’s Challenge (in regard to an aerial challenge from Maika Sivo on Ikuvalu), the Eels extended their lead in the next set. Close to the Roosters line, Mahoney wrapped around Junior Paulo from dummy half as the Eels shifted to the left, and the hooker then found Cartwright close to the line and he dived over for his second try within minutes.

A footnote to the Captain’s Challenge was that Ikuvalu went off the field for a HIA, reducing the Roosters team even further. A few minutes later the Eels lost their hooker Mahoney after an awkward tackle on Daniel Tupou.

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Blake Ferguson went within about two blades of grass from another try after another determined effort fell just short in the left corner.

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A last-minute blindside play with Tedesco to Josh Morris to Tupou and an inside pass to Drew Hutchison saw the Roosters cross the line but ruled ‘no try’ for a knock on from the inside pass. The Roosters did win a penalty as Niukore was penalised and put on report for a late hit on Tedesco in the same play, and Brown was lucky not to join him in the book for knees into Hutchinson as he attempted to score: the five-eighth became yet another Roosters player to leave the field injured. For the record the penalty was converted and the Roosters were only 18-12 down despite having far less ball and territory.

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This was a real Friday night battle with troops going down from both sides, but mainly for the Roosters. They were down Radley, Ikuvalu, and Hutchinson at half-time.

HALF-TIME: Parramatta Eels 18 Sydney Roosters 12

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2nd Half

Things didn’t start off well for the Roosters after the break as Taukeiaho was placed on report again for a dangerous tackle and it led to the Eels extending their lead a few plays after the gifted penalty.

This time the try was courtesy of a towering Mitchell Moses bomb which proved too hard for Ikuvalu (back on the field) to handle at the first attempt, and Eels centre Tom Opacic was first on the scene with the crumbs to dive over for their fourth try of the night. The successful conversion gave the Eels a 12-point lead, which was going to be hard for the Roosters to chase down given their lack of troops and with more than 30 minutes left in the game.

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With all the ball and territory the Eels were placing the Roosters under massive pressure, and looked to have scored through Sivo in the 58th minute but was ruled out after a Captain’s Challenge. But somehow the Roosters were hanging on. Just.

They were rewarded for their tenacity minutes later as they scored their first points of the second half as Ikuvalu scored his third try of the night in the right corner after another big bullet-like cut-out pass from Sam Walker (who moved to second for 2021 try assists despite not starting the season). The sideline conversion cut the Eels’ lead to just six points with 15 minutes remaining.

An arm wrestle ensued as both sides tried their hardest to get that next try to draw level/seal the game, and the heartbreaker for the Roosters came in 73rd minute as Moses coolly slotted a field goal under pressure from around 20 metres out. It gave the Eels a seven-point lead with time running out for the Roosters to score twice.

The salt was added for the Roosters from the set after the kick-off as the Eels sealed the game with a fifth try for the night; this time Brown was the try scorer after a fine jinking run which saw him avoid some would-be Roosters tacklers, and outran Tedesco from 10 metres out when he straightened his run. Moses’ fifth conversion for the night gave him a 100% record, and the Eels a 31-18 win.

Parramatta move up to second on the ladder and it was a good win over a likely September opponent, but they had to work hard for it.

The Roosters should walk away from the game proud of the effort, and at 24-18 they had some momentum building but weren’t able to take advantage. They drop to fifth on the ladder, but will probably be more concerned with the additional injuries they picked up. Radley with HIA and Hutchinson with suspected broken ribs were confirmed losses from the game, and they may have further issues with Walker and Taukeiaho, who’ll probably miss a game through suspension, if not injury.

An indication of the effort the Roosters put in was the tackle count of Butcher, with 70 tackles for the night, almost double the count of the Eels’ best player for the night.

After two thrashings to nil to start the week, at least it was a great contest.

FULL-TIME: Parramatta Eels 31 Sydney Roosters 18

Injuries

Drew Hutchison (Roosters) – broken ribs, possible punctured lung
Victor Radley (Roosters) – failed HIA
Reed Mahoney (Eels) – failed HIA

Match Review Committee

Marata Niukore (Eels) – Grade 2 High Tackle Careless – Early Guilty Plea 2 match ban, Guilty at Judiciary 3 match ban.
Dylan Brown (Eels) – Grade 3 Dangerous Contact Other – Early Guilty Plea 3 match ban, Guilty at Judiciary 4 match ban.
Siosiua Taukeiaho (Roosters) – Grade 1 High Tackle Careless – Early Guilty Plea $750 fine, Guilty at Judiciary $1150 fine.

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