Parramatta Eels stumble again

NRL Round 24, 2007
Dragons 14 def Parramatta Eels 6

The Parramatta Eels are now left in finals limbo after going down to the underdog Dragons at WIN Stadium.

The equation was smiple, after the Bulldogs lost heavily to Melbourne – the Eels had another chance to move towards a Top 4 finals spot with a victory over strugglers St George Illawarra tonight.

The Dragons came out of the blocks looking more like the finals hopeful, setting up a 12-0 first half lead. Parramatta certainly helped the Dragons cause, proving to be their own worst enemies, committing 18 handling errors and turning in 38 missed tackles to slide to 6th on the NRL ladder. The gutsy performance by the Dragons tonight has seemingly allowed them to avoid stigma of the wooden spoon – leaving Penrith and Newcastle to fight over that award next week.

On th back of a 70% share of possession in the opening quarter of the game, it was a Mark Gasnier centre field burst from inside his own half that setup Rangi Chase to score under the posts. The Dragons showing their eagerness, with at least 3 players sprinting through to support Gasnier – Chase scoring untouched as the Eels were left in his wake.

The Dragons continued their momentum roll and scoring again just four minutes later, with a deliberate pinpoint Soward kick to winger Jason Nightingale to dive over and score – catching Eric Grothe well forward and out of position.

Adding to the Eels troubles tonight were injuries to Ian Hindmarsh and Chad Robinson, Hindmarsh injuring his neck badly and putting his NRL future in doubt and Robinson dislocating a shoulder, but returning later in the match. The Dragons also had their own injury problems, with Ben Creagh and Mark Gasnier needing constant running repairs. At one stage it looked like every second Dragons player had blood on their face somewhere.

The Eels eventually started to get an even share of possession, but continued to turn it over cheaply through impatient attack and limited direction from Tim Smith and Brett Finch. Several Parramatta raids ending in poor kicks or simple turnovers. The Dragons sured up their defence tonight, putting plenty of pressure on the Eels through fast line speed throughout the match and denying them the chance to get on the scoreboard before the half-time break.

Parramatta finally got on the board in the 60th minute, with lock Feleti Mateo receiving the ball on a last tackle play and electing to run at the line, touching down just wide of the posts. Krisnan Inu’s conversion left the visitors trailing 12-6 with 19 minutes left on the clock.

The Dragons looked to be tiring as the game wore on, however the Eels couldn’t get any momentum are rarely looked threatening. The Dragons young forwards were fearless tonight, their heavy metre eating giving Soward and Gasnier some good platfroms from which to work. Gaz in particular was dynamic tonight, showing up Tahu at times as he hovered on the edges and proving dangerous centre field also. Coach Nathan Browns election to alternate Gasnier between pivot and centre working well, with Rangi Chase performing nicely when Gasnier went wider.

No one really put their hand up for the Eels, again looking a yard off the pace and unable to build pressure through lack of repeat sets. The fancied Eels side was unable to stop the Dragons momentum roll tonight, the eager Saints combining nicely and showing when they follow a game plan and play disciplined Rugby League – they are a real contender.

For the Eels, their finals campaign has now been delivered a serious blow, their attitude next Sunday against the Broncos will go along way to showing what impact they will have in the NRL finals.

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