For only the second time since 1999, the Parramatta Eels led by Blake Ferguson have started the season 2 for 2 in a polar opposite season start from 2018.
You can almost forgive the fans for their celebrating after such a disastrous season the year before but the faithful had little to celebrate early on in the competition against their rivals Canterbury Bulldogs in front of 20,134 fans at ANZ.
20 minutes into the first half, the Bulldogs were well in control of the match with 75% of the possession and 10 points on the board.
The Eels made them fight hard to get there but Kieran Foran finally broke the defence 14 minutes in, pouncing onto a unique but well executed floater from Lachlan Lewis to score his first try in almost a year.
Just four minutes later, the Bulldogs were on the board again after a loose carry from Maika Sivo found the boys from Parramatta defending their goal line once again.
The Fijian winger was definitely welcomed to first grade football by the Bulldogs after a poor defensive read saw Reimis Smith put one in the corner.
When their defensive wall started showing moments of weakness, the Eels were able to finally regain some possession and complete a set.
With the ball was finally controlled in their hands, they showed their strength on attack as Ferguson nabbed his first try for his new club.
The veteran winger combined with a cheeky inside ball from his fullback to grab Parramatta’s first points of the day.
Mitchell Moses converted and just 3 minutes later was back converting another.
Clint Gutherson was the try scorer this time off a Reed Mahoney tackle break that saw the two in open space.
The teams went to the sheds practically neck and neck and fans of both teams were on the edge of their seats in anxiety for the second half.
Much to the dismay of Bulldogs fans, the Eels picked up exactly where they left off though as Gutherson scored his second try of the afternoon with Ferguson supporting him this time.
The Bulldogs struggled to catch up to the Eels and when things began to look promising again they fell apart for a disastrous 10 minutes.
Two intercept tries – one for Ferguson for his double and one for Shaun Lane for his first try at the club.
The Eels led by 20 with 30 minutes to go and looked to have the game all but wrapped up.
The remaining 30 minutes saw some strong defensive efforts and in the 63rd minute Bulldogs’ recruit Dylan Napa scored his first try for his new club.
In doing so, he powered over Gutherson to put the ball down.
The Dogs continued to try and claw their way back into the competition with the clock quickly running down however Dylan Brown, in a fantastic second NRL performance, got himself 4 points for his first career try.
There were definitely promising signs for the Canterbury Bulldogs as they put together a far more impressive 80 minutes than that of the week before.
However, the positive signs for Parramatta were far too over powering.
The blue and gold trot home to Parramatta with 2 doubles and the 2 points.
The recruits for the club stood up loud and proud to silence any doubters about recruitment issues from Brad Arthur and the young 18 year old from New Zealand still cool as a cucumber securing his spot in first grade footy.
As the best winger last year, many thought a change of club for Ferguson would dampen his 2019 achievements.
If the start of the season is anything to go by, it will have no such effect, as the winger drew praise from Eels coach Brad Arthur.
“He’s been great. He’s 106-107 kilos and when he came, he said he’d like to play around that 101-kilo mark,” Arthur said.
“But he’s strong and he’s good to have around the group.
“The boys just like sitting there next to him in the sheds because he breeds confidence.”
After a second loss to the start the year, Bulldogs coach Dean Pay be forced to bring out some selection changes to try and buck their fortunes.
“We’ll address that during the week and see where we need to be better with some of our players – see how our second grade went today,” Pay said.
“There’s a few guys putting some pressure on there.”
NRL News Player of the Match
3. Blake Ferguson
2. Clinton Gutherson
1. Shaun Lane