Parramatta will meet the Cowboys next weekend for a shot at the Grand Final after defeating Canberra on Friday night at CommBank Stadium.
Parramatta Eels 40
Tries: Marata Niukore 2 (71, 79) Will Penisini (6), Tom Opacic (14), Waqa Blake (19), Junior Paulo (23), Mitchell Moses (45
Goals: Mitchell Moses 6 (7, 21, 25, 47, 72, 75 – pen)
Canberra Raiders 4
Tries: Xavier Savage (28)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
Parramatta kept their season alive and ended the Raiders’ season after a dominant semi-final performance at CommBank Stadium.
Parramatta opened the scoring in the sixth minute after the Eels capitalised on the game’s first error and penalty of the night. Two plays later Will Penisini sliced through the Raiders’ defence on the right, dragged a few to the line, and slammed the ball down to score, after the move was set up by the entire Eels spine. Moses kicked the conversion for an early 6-0 lead.
Canberra went so close to opening their scoring six minutes later but Jordan Rapana had the ball knocked out of his hands over the line by Clint Gutherson. By the next set, the Eels had extended their lead. After a strong set from Parramatta, Dylan Brown put in a last-play grubber down the blind side but a slice of luck saw the ball nutmeg Raiders fullback Xavier Savage and Eels centre Tom Opacic chased best to score. No conversion meant the Eels led 10-0.
After repelling the Raiders’ best attack of the game to that point, the Eels went further ahead at the 20-minute mark. Waqa Blake was the tryscorer, and he was put into space 20 metres from the line by a bullet cut-out pass from Mitchell Moses. The halfback converted to make it 16-0. Parramatta were on fire at this stage: they pushed back Savage 10 metres into his in-goal for a drop out with their next set.
Parramatta then took advantage of the drop out and scored with their next set. Junior Paulo simply ran untouched through a wide gap in the Raiders defence close to the line, with the perfect pass thrown by Ryan Matterson. The Eels were blowing Canberra away, leading 22-0 with 15 minutes until the break.
The Eels looked to have scored with the next set as well as Dylan Brown made a break down the left, but the drawing pass to a supporting Clint Gutherson was called forward. It looked like a tough call.
Canberra took advantage a few sets later as Savage made up for an average night so far with a scintillating 70-metre try. The fullback easily split Shaun Lane and Tom Opacic and broke through Gutherson’s last-ditch tackle to score and give the Raiders a huge boost. Jamal Fogarty’s conversion missed, but the Raiders were back in the game at 22-4. And they got a slice of luck just before the break as a Maika Sivo try that was awarded on ground was overruled by The Bunker.
The second half exploded into life with a potential try to the Raiders: it could have been awarded as a Raiders try, a penalty try, or sin bin stint for taking out Jack Wighton – who was chasing an infield kick from Nick Cotric. But the end result was as a penalty against Canberra for Wighton being offside in the initial chase.
Parramatta took advantage in the next set as a beautifully timed offload from Junior Paulo found Moses lurking behind, and the halfback’s diagonal run to the corner was just quick enough to beat Savage. Moses converted his own try and the Eels led 28-4.
The quality of the game dropped from there as errors and penalties became more frequent, and genuine chances for either side disappeared.
Parramatta did score again with nine minutes to go to kill off the game, with Marata Niukore the recipient of another fine Gutherson cut-out pass down the Eels’ left side. The conversion made it 34-4.
The action didn’t stop there, as a few plays after the failed short kick-off, a melee broke out as Moses was tackled by Wighton. There wasn’t much in it, but Wighton was put on report, and was lucky not to receive a sin bin with Ashley Klein in charge. The penalty gave Parramatta another two points.
Niukore finished the big win for Parramatta off with his second try less than a minute before full-time. After some scrambling attack on the last play, the ball found its way to Sivo who charged towards the line, and popped up the perfect offload for Niukore. Moses failed to part the posts from the sideline and the final score was 40-4.
Parramatta will fancy their chances against the Cowboys next weekend, and at their best on Friday night will be hard to stop for any side left in the finals. Their best didn’t last all night, and they will need to find closer to 80 minutes of their best to snare that elusive premiership. But they were very good at times on Friday night.
Canberra will be disappointed with the result, but months ago looked unlikely to get this far, and have been a great story to follow in the last few months of the NRL, press conferences aside. They’ll be in the mix again for finals next year based on their end to 2022.
PLAYER OF THE FINALS POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Mitchell Moses (Eels), 2 pts – Dylan Brown (Eels), 1 pt – Clint Gutherson (Eels)
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