The Parramatta Eels outlasted the Canterbury Bulldogs 14-8 at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night. It’s their fourth win of the season and ensures the battle for the wooden spoon will be tight.
An encouraging start to the first half saw both teams get through their opening sets error-free. Some early offloads and hard running, especially from David Klemmer, put the Bulldogs in a strong position. Their plan to offload and spread the attack wide was apparent when, on the last, they kept the ball alive and a switch of play from right centre Kerrod Holland led to the first try in the sixth minute.
The Bulldogs’ early energy didn’t lead to further points as the Eels recovered through the power running of their forwards and outside backs. It took until the 18th minute before the Eels had their first attacking chance on the line. It almost brought points when a wayward Mitchell Moses pass found an unmarked George Jennings on the wing.
From the following set, the Bulldogs put it through the hands to find some space out wide, and – if not for an unkind bounce – Lachlan Lewis would have scored. The Eels continued to warm to the task only to find their attacking opportunities denied by some desperate Dogs defence, typified by a try-saving tackle from hardman Josh Jackson on Kaysa Pritchard out of dummy-half.
Both sides continued to threaten, but neither had the ability to finish. Brett Morris’ sin-binning in the 31st minute – after he pulled down Bevan French close to the line – gave the Eels an advantage, which they soon turned into points. Attacking the opposite side to the sin-binned Morris twin, Corey Norman’s smooth pass put Tepai Moeroa through a gap left by Jeremy Marshall-King, who found Pritchard supporting back on the inside. Pritchard bumped off some cover defence to slide over the line and Gutherson’s conversion tied the scores after 36 minutes. The Eels sparked to life in the final minutes of the half, but were continually denied by the scrambling Dogs, and went into the sheds feeling in control.
The Eels continued their momentum in the second half, getting through their sets nicely while the Bulldogs appeared to be already out on their feet. After watching Brad Takarangi knock-on his kick over the line, Moses was forced to do it on his own for the match-winning play. With the Bulldogs deep in attack, Lewis put in his first poor kick of the night. His grubber ricocheted off the legs of the Eels defenders and into Moses’ arms, streaking down the field for a Parramatta try in the 54th minute. The Bulldogs continued to throw the ball around but the extra defensive load sapped their energy. A Moses penalty goal after a ruck infringement gave the Eels an eight-point advantage with twelve minutes left. The Bulldogs opted to take the two from their own penalty four minutes later. They came close in the final two minutes when Lewis fumbled a difficult infield kick from his halves partner Marshall-King.
POWERFUL OPENING FROM KLEMMER
It was a strong start from Klemmer, who’d captured the headlines with his potential move to Newcastle. His hard runs and offload put the Bulldogs in a strong position early. When he left the field at the 20-minute mark, the Eels gained some ascendancy up the middle third.
NO KILLER INSTINCT
Both teams could be equally disappointed with the opportunities they missed. The Bulldogs needed to take advantage of their early momentum and the Eels failed to put their tiring opposition to the sword. It’s a part of the game the Eels need to consider as the race for the spoon intensifies.
Despite the win, Parramatta remain in last spot with 10 competition points and a points difference of -134, the same points as the Cowboys and Bulldogs and close to the Sea Eagles and Titans. It will make for an intense final few rounds.
QUICK TAP TECHNICALITY
The Moses penalty goal came after Reed Mahoney was called back from a quick tap with Daniel Alvaro caught in front by the barest of margins. In the past, this used to lead to a scrum but as the game’s modernised that part of the rule has been phased out. Couldn’t we potentially apply the current play-the-ball rule to the quick tap? If a player is in front of the tap they can’t be involved in the play until they retreat the yards. It would create a more free-flowing spectacle.
Parramatta Eels 14
Tries: Kaysa Pritchard, Mitchell Moses
Goals: Mitchell Moses 2, Clinton Gutherson
Canterbury Bulldogs 8
Tries: Kerrod Holland
Goals: Rhyse Martin 2
1. Clinton Gutherson (c), 2. Bevan French, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Jarryd Hayne, 5. George Jennings, 6. Corey Norman, 7. Mitchell Moses, 8. Daniel Alvaro, 9. Kaysa Pritchard, 10. Siosaia Vave, 11. Marata Niukore, 14. Tepai Moeroa, 13. Nathan Brown. Interchange; 12. Brad Takarangi, 15. Tim Mannah (c), 17. Peni Terepo, 21. Reed Mahoney
1. Will Hopoate, 2. Brett Morris, 3. Josh Morris, 4. Kerrod Holland, 5. Reimis Smith, 6. Lachlan Lewis, 7. Jeremy Marshall-King, 8. Aiden Tolman, 9. Michael Lichaa, 10. David Klemmer, 11. Josh Jackson (c), 12. Rhyse Martin, 13. Adam Elliot. Interchange: 14. Fa’amanu Brown, 15. Clay Priest, 17. Danny Fualalo, 19. Greg Eastwood