The Eels have made history, becoming the first ever team from 8th spot to win in the second week of the finals. The NZ Warriors won their first final from 8th spot but were bundled out the following week.
The victory sees the Eels face the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium Homebush next week in a mouth watering fixture.
Last night the Eels were to good for the Gold Coast to the tune of 27-2. Just under 30,000 Parramatta fans were on-hand at the SFS to watch last nights game, when combined with the Bulldogs faithful – it’s easy to see why there could be 60,000 at ANZ next week.
Sitting in 2nd last spot on the NRL ladder in late June and fighting to avoid the wooden spoon, the Eels have bounced back big time, winning8 of their last 9 matches to storm into not just finals but Grand Final contention.
It was hard to pick a man of the match for the Eels. Fui Fui Moi Moi is making such powerful runs to give his team thrust, Todd Lowrie was explosive last night too. The veteran forward wasn’t just a defensive machine, but burst through holes to make massive metres last night. Then there was rookie Jonathan Wright, defending superbly and scoring his debut try. Grothe was busy coming infield for hitup, the flanker offloading at will. Old timers Hindmarsh and Cayless were relentless, bashing the ball up and driving the likes of Bailey and Meyers back in defence.
The only thorn in the side for the Eels (pardon the pun) was the injury to pivot Daniel Mortimer and also an ankle complaint to the tidy Jon Wright in the centres.
Feleti Mateo was thrust into the game after Mortimer left on the 10 minute mark, and the backup playmaker was highly impressive. His touches were class and he scored one on one when facing Laffranchi to get the Eels off the mark.
Gold Coast were in the lead early through a Prince penalty goal, and the Queenslanders were looking good early on. Plenty of ball and some huge metre gains had the Eels on their back feet for 15 minutes. It was almost a carbon copy of last week when the Parramatta side played the Dragons. Early pressure, early penalty goal and then the Eels clicked into gear.
Replacement prop Michael Henderson for the Gold Coast had the tough job of trying to stop runaway train Fui Fui Moi Moi. Most times Moi Moi ran it, there was Henderson bravely getting in the way of the wrecking ball. Hendo hurled himself into the path of destruction and even though he was bring thrown back like a rag doll, he kept coming back for more. The pair’s collisions sent shockwaves through the SFS, which watched two teams battle it out with no errors until the 15th minute mark.
Given the quality opening, Parramatta’s first try was easy pickings in comparison. Receiving the ball one-off the ruck on the Titans’ line, Mateo slipped through the arms of former Test back-rower Anthony Laffranchi to get the Eels on the board.
The Eels got a good run of penalties and the bounce of the ball for the rest of the first half, with Titans coach John Cartwright visibly frustrated in the coaches box. Carty was sucking back his diet Coke by the palette as he tried to take it all in. After conceding the game’s first two penalties, the Eels were given the next 5 in succession – a stretch that put Gold Coast’s defence under massive fire.
On the half hour mark, dynamo Hayne nearly improving on his outstanding try from last week. Hayne beat near 10 defenders, running from one side of the field to the other (in many cases it looked like he could have passed) but it didn’t matter. He was beating everyone and everything, only to fall a metre short of the try line, trying to flick pass to Ben Smith on his outside.
The Eels were really lacking some killer punches in attack with Mortimer off the field, they were trying hard to find their feet with the new team makeup.
A Hayne field goal on the halftime siren gave his side a 13-2 lead as the hooter sounded, but Gold Coast came out of the sheds the better, having a solid 10 minutes and really putting the Eels under the pump.
With their season on the line, the Titans discarded the shackles to generate some exciting second-phase play that had them camped on Parramatta’s goal mouth for 15 minutes.
Their best chance to drive a stake into the contest came midway through the onslaught, when prop Mat White crossed under the posts.
But thanks to some typical never-say-die harassment from Nathan Hindmarsh, he fumbled the grounding to leave the Eels clear breathing space.
Hindmarsh underpinned Parramatta’s heroic defence, and fittingly jolted the ball free from Mark Minichiello in a play that finally allowed the hosts to escape downfield.
And they cut loose in breathtaking fashion on 60 minutes to seal the game. Rookie centre Jonathan Wright broke clear on the left, before feeding a perfectly timed pass to veteran flanker Luke Burt. The 28-year-old dashed 30m before floating a precision ball for replacement rake Kevin Kingston to sprint away to set up the mother of all preliminary finals.
PARRAMATTA 27 (K Kingston F Mateo B Smith J Wright tries L Burt 5 goals J Hayne field goal) bt GOLD COAST 2 (S Prince goal) at Sydney Football Stadium. Referee: Shayne Hayne, Jared Maxwell. Crowd: 28,524.