Julian Vella reviews this clash on a perfect afternoon for Rugby League in Sydney’s ‘Golden West’, the Parramatta Eels welcomed the Gold Coast Titans to their home patch to open both of their NRL seasons for 2022.
Parramatta Eels 32
Tries: Sean Russell 3 (3, 7, 33), Shaun Lane (18), Waqa Blake (28)
Goals: Mitchell Moses 6 (9, 30, 33, 65 (pen), 70 (pen), 78 (pen))
Gold Coast Titans 28
Tries: Phillip Sami 2 (10, 42), Brian Kelly 2 (23, 37), Erin Clark (35)
Goals: Toby Sexton 4 (12, 25, 36, 43)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
After trading sets early, the Eels started gaining momentum and the Titans’ defence, which was suspect for the entire 2021 season, found themselves on the back foot and retreating. Eels’ captain Clint Gutherson then took advantage of numbers on a short side and threw a great face ball to rookie winger Sean Russell, who crossed in the corner to open the scoring for Parramatta.
Titans’ coach Justin Holbrook would have barely had time to take his seat in the coaches’ box before his side conceded the first try, he would have then fallen off his chair when they conceded their second as the Eels crossed again after a sublime kick from their No.7 Mitchell Moses. Kicking from his own half Moses aimed his kick centimetre perfect, as it struck the post and bounced back into Parramatta hands, who then spread the ball wide to find Russell in for his second.
With the game quickly turning into a nightmare for the Titans, it was important they were the next to score, and they managed to strike back one minute after the second Russell try, as the Eels coughed up possession in their own end. The Titans took advantage of the much needed gift from the Eels, as they struck out wide through winger Phillip Sami, after a suspect cut-out pass by Toby Sexton, who also converted from the side-line to bring the core to 10-6 after just 12 minutes.
Both sides seemed committed to keeping the score racing the clock, and it was the Eels who crossed next, this time through edge forward Shaun Lane who ran onto a delightful short ball from Moses. Despite being brought down short, Lane’s momentum in the tackle took him over the line, another miss from Moses kept the score at 14-6 after 19 minutes. But it wasn’t long before the Titans hit back again, this time some nice ball movement from one side of the field to the other left them with a three-man overlap and centre Brian Kelly over in the corner to bring the score to 14-12 after the conversion from Sexton.
But as much as the Titans were impressing with the ball, they continued to disappoint without it as they conceded their fourth try of the half, and all four coming down their right hand side defence, this time Waqa Blake scoring his eighth try in his ninth game against the Titans. Blake’s winger Sean Russell was also racking up an impressive try tally against the Titans as he crossed for a first half hat-trick after finishing a delightful cut-out pass from Moses to score in the corner, again down the Titans’ right hand side of defence.
The scoreboard attendant was being run off his feet, and the scoring showed no signs of slowing down as the Titans struck back again after Gutherson dropped the ball off the kick off. Hooker Erin Clark showed his strength to scoot over from dummy half; the conversion made the score 26-18. The Titans weren’t done yet, as they spread the ball out wide on the set immediately following the try, the ball found David Fifita who beat a number of defenders as he ran the ball down the field. A quick spread off the ensuing play lead to Kelly crossing for his second try on the other side of the field; this was the final scoring play of an entertaining half of football which ended 26-22 to the Eels.
HALF-TIME: Parramatta Eels 26 Gold Coast Titans 22Embed from Getty Images
Both coaches would have been furious with their sides’ defence, especially their right-side combinations, for the Eels they let in three tries down their right, while the Titans conceded five tries down the same side. Whatever Brad Arthur told his team, they clearly didn’t listen as they again conceded a try down their right side, this time it was through a high kick from Sexton which Sami out-jumped Bailey Simonsson to score his second, the side-line conversion from Sexton gave the Titans their first lead of the match 28-26.
The Eels went close to replying on a number of times, and they held the better field position and possession from that point on, but despite their best efforts they couldn’t find another try to reclaim the lead. But after their fourth successful Captain’s Challenge that resulted in a penalty, Moses stood up to take a shot for two-points and brought the score back to parity 28-28 in the 66th minute.
The Eels were getting the rub of the green on the 50-50 calls throughout the match, and they continued to ride their luck as they picked up another penalty as Grant Atkins ruled that Titans’ captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui had took out Gutherson after kicking the ball. Moses stepped up and again made the kick for penalty giving the Eels the lead back 30-28 in the 72nd minute.
The Titans were getting desperate with time running out and the Eels were applying the squeeze, producing back-to-back sets with some smart kicking trapping the Titans in-goal. Patrick Herbert attempted a short drop-out, but on a day where the incredible was made possible, Herbert managed to land his drop kick on top of his own corner post to offer Moses a third penalty kick, which sealed the game for Parramatta 32-28 on a crazy afternoon at Commbank Stadium.
FULL-TIME: Parramatta Eels 32 Gold Coast Titans 28
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Mitchell Moses Parramatta Eels, 2 pts – Toby Sexton Gold Coast Titans, 1 pt – Reed Mahoney (Parramatta Eels)
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Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Sean Russell 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Waqa Blake 5. Bailey Simonsson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali’i 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Makahesi Makatoa 15. Oregon Kaufusi 16. Ray Stone 17. Jakob Arthur 19. Bryce Cartwright
Titans: 1. Jayden Campbell 2. Phillip Sami 3. Brian Kelly 4. Patrick Herbert 24. Greg Marzhew 14. Will Smith 7. Toby Sexton 8. Moeaki Fotuaika 9. Erin Clark 10. Isaac Liu 11. David Fifita 12. Beau Fermor 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 15. Sam Lisone 16. Jaimin Jolliffe 17. Kevin Proctor 19. Tanah Boyd 21. Esan MarstersEmbed from Getty Images