Two clubs with plenty of history came together to play against each other for the 146th time, as the Paramatta Eels and Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs played Thursday night footy.
In one of the most fiery, exciting, end to end matches of the year that had a bit of everything, Paramatta were fighting for a top four spot.
It would be the Bulldogs that extended their winning streak to four as they continue to build into 2020.
Waqa Blake is proving to be a great acquisition for the Eels, as he received a beautiful offload from Manu Ma’u and reached out to score the first try for Paramatta within the first 10 minutes.
Mitchell Moses added the extra 2 points.
Maika Sivo produced one of the tackles of the year on Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, and almost ran away with the ball to score at the same time.
Only some desperation defence from the Bulldogs saw them once again hang on, forcing an error from Ma’u.
Moses continued to look threatening down the right edge but the final pass just wasn’t sticking and the ball went to ground multiple times.
Canterbury had a golden chance to score in the 25th minute after a beautiful kick from Kieran Foran in behind the line, but Eels fullback Clinton Gutherson did just enough to force a mistake from Kerrod Holland.
The Bulldogs were back in the Eels red zone a few minutes later, but the trend of struggling to score points all year continued as Paramatta forced an error.
A great catch from Nick Meaney gave his team a 7 tackle set, and the Bulldogs used it to roll up the field into the Eels red zone.
A great short ball from Foran put Josh Jackson in space, who managed to fire a long ball to Will Hopoate who dummied and ran to slam the ball down for a try.
Nick Meaney slotted a beautiful kick from the sideline to even the scores at 6 all at halftime.
The Eels started the second half by continuing to make mistakes.
Their night went from bad to ugly when a horrible late shot/shoulder charge from Nathan Brown saw him put on report and sent to the sin bin 47 minutes into the game.
A push and shove was sparked by Josh Jackson who wasn’t happy about his fullback getting hit.
Minutes later Reimis Smith saw himself sin binned and on report for a headbutt on Maika Sivo as tempers flared on both sides of the field.
In a big blow for Canterbury, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak came off the field with a suspected arm injury, forcing a reshuffle to the Bulldogs back line.
In Watene-Zelezniak’s absence, Will Hopoate dropped to fullback.
The Eels and Bulldogs both made line-breaks through Manu Ma’u and Will Hopoate respectively.
With two men in the sin bin, plenty of space was opening up for the attackers and creating a very exciting game with a fantastic atmosphere.
Watene-Zelezniak returned to the field, as Maika Sivo beat 5 defenders and fended away Hopoate to crash over the line.
However, for the second time in the game, he lost control of the ball before getting it down.
Both sin binned players returned to the game 60 minutes in, to a game that has quickly become a very heated affair.
The Bulldogs were the next to score as Holland forced a repeat set through a great line break, and then set up his winger Nick Meaney who was awarded a penalty try.
This try would end up being the match winner, as Mitchell Moses played at the ball with his feet.
An easy kick for Meaney ensued as he converted his own try from in front brings the score to 12-6 to the Dogs with less than 10 minutes remaining.
With under 2 minutes to go, Parramatta got the ball back from a dropout forced by Reed Mahoney as they looked to send the game into golden point.
The Bulldogs resolute defence would hold firm, though, and the final play went well after the full time siren.
In the end, it was the Bulldogs who hung on to win a fantastic game against Parramatta.
Although the finals this year might be a stretch, the Dogs have their sights firmly set on improving enough to be a force in 2020.
“For what we’re building, I’m just so proud of them,” Bulldogs coach Dean Pay said.
“We spoke about wanting to finish season off the best way we possibly can and spoke about defending well and putting a lot of energy into our defence.
“Over the last six or seven weeks that’s what kept us in games and gave us the opportunity to win games.”
For the Eels, it was a lost opportunity to give themselves more breathing room but coach Brad Arthur praised his resilient opponents.
“They were desperate, they kept turning up,” the Eels coach said.
“Every time we made a pass or moved the ball around, they kept getting bodies around the ball. They played well, they really aimed up.”
“It’s a lost opportunity. It’s disappointing but we’ve got to aim up next week. There’s still an opportunity to get another win next week now.”
NRL News Player of the Match
3. Will Hopoate
2. Manu Ma’u
- Nick Meaney