The Eels scored an amazing upset win over the minor Premiers St George Illawarra today at Kogarah and in the process have ended Manly’s 2009 season. The unfancied Eels running out eventual winners 25-12 with a spirited performance in front of a vocal Dragons crowd.
Coming off the back of a 37-0 hiding only 1 week earlier by their opponents, the Eels are now only the second team in NRL history (behind the Warriors) to win from 8th place in their first match.
With the Dragons edging closer with 9 minutes to go, a Luke Burt field goal from 40 meters out made it (19-12) and then it was over to miracle man Jarryd Hayne to turn on a spectacular try in the dying minutes, beating 5 defenders to score under the posts and crush the hopes of the 18,000+ Dragons fans.
It was a 4 tries to 2 performance by Parramatta, who despite winning – probably could play better, they dropped plenty of ball and lost the penalty count to the tune of 2-7. But with the engine room assisted with Nathan Hindmarsh and flyer Eric Grothe back on the flank, it gave the Eels the confidence and strike power they needed.
The win not only sees Manly bow out of contention, but sets up some interesting finals fixtures. The hot Broncos now host a nervous Saints side at Suncorp, Bennett returning to his old stomping ground. Bennett will either see his old team bow out, or be hammered out by his old crew.
The Storm get a weeks rest now and sit very well only 1 game off the Grand Final.
The Titans now have to travel to Sydney to face the Eels at the SFS, where a strong home crowd will surely gather.
The Eels were ahead 12-8 at the break and the Dragons continued to look cautious in the second term. It took them nearly 30 minutes to post points in the 2nd half and looked short on enthusiasm.
Parra continued to make silly errors and gave the Saints ample chances to post points, but to their credit the Eels side did defend well. When the Dragons looked set to score in the Grothe corner, the veteran flanker pulled off a game changing play.
Grothe intercepted a spiralt pass from Jamie Soward headed for Brett Morris (which looked a certain try) and then Grothe bolted the length of the field, planting it down under the posts and giving the Eels a 10 point lead with 15 minutes left to play.
But more Eels errors kept the home side in the game.
Super sub Feleti Mateo tried a low percentage offload in his own red zone that spewed loose and gave the Saints yet another crack at the Eels line.
With several sets of possession in attacking range, the Dragons went in through Morris – scrambling over in the corner with under 10 minutes left to make it a 6-point ball game.
But it was left to Eels utility Luke Burt to seal the win with a long range field goal. Burt snapping a 40 meter field gold to seal the deal, and with the match beyond reach for the Dragons – the Eels threw it around and again went over after a hot Hayne try, with the Dally M fullback beating 5 defenders to score beside the posts.