The Eels withstood a late flurry from South Sydney at Parramatta Stadium today to hang on 18-12 in a fairly defence oriented game from both sides.
It was a game where the Eels were dominant in the first half and should have led by more than their 14 points, after a staggering 65% possession rate and a completion stat that read 95%.
Timana Tahu was back and at his best for the Eels, initially putting his fierce shoulder into the defence then scoring a scintillating solo try; the second of the day for the Eels. Tahu looked to be moving freely and to be sure; coach Hagan rested the star centre early – pulling him off with 15 minutes to go.
The Eels first try was scored by the late returning Nathan Cayless, after a nice bomb catch, hang and pass in the air from Kris Inu. Nathan Cayless sniffing around to get the offload and reach out to score near the posts.
Both sides started cautiously; but the Eels grew in confidence with some possession off the back of some shocking calls from referee Tony Archer. There were some real mind boggling decisions for boths teams today which will have referees both Robert Finch doing some over time.
When Souths did have the ball in the first half, they looked very predictable in attack. Playing a much deeper line this week, the Souths runners were easily picked and tagged by the Eels defence – rushing and shutting down most raids.
The second half was a different story, the Eels coming out initially and playing like millionaires and not respecting the ball. Their incomplete sets giving Souths some momentum and the thrust they needed – Shane Rigon scurrying over from dummy half on 50 minutes to make a game of it.
The Eels went into their shells a little, but finally were able to execute a nice backline play to put Joel Reddy into the corner. The Eels had threatened with similar plays all day, but this time they pulled it off. Missing the kick proved a worry for the Eels – the score 18-6 with still half an hour to go.
When Souths finally stopped going side to side in attack and attacked the line on the fringe, Ben Rogers busted through and setup Nathan Merritt for a nice score and a heart stopper finish for the locals.
Parramatta able to hang on for several sets in defence to turn South Sydney away and just hold out for the win. For the Eels Kris Inu was a clear man of the match, the young Kiwi rep was dangerous with the ball most of the day and pulled off some try savers for the home side. He was ably helped by fellow junior ranks team mate Jarryd Hayne, playing at fullback the NSW Origin rep was busy all day – rushing up to make some seriously heavy tackles that snuffed out multiple South Sydney raids. Michael Hagan will be happy with the improved defence the Eels showed after last weeks debacle.
For South Sydney, the halves pairing again performed well Ben Rogers and Jeremy Smith, the only criticism being their final tackle kick options – too many times they made it easy for Parramatta by kicking dead or not giving runners enough time to chase. Shane Rigon was also hard for the Eels to stop as was the always impressive Roy Asotasi who was tireless for the Rabbits.
After the match there were reports of a verbal slanging match between Jason Taylor and Michael Hagan – reportedly over warm-up facilities. We’ll pass on a full report as the information comes to hand.
Warriors Kill off Dragons revival
NZ Warriors 44 def St George Illawarra 16
NEW Zealand Warriors reignited their finals hopes with a crushing 44-16 win over St George-Illawarra in Auckland today.
The Warriors were never headed after running in three tries in the opening 13 minutes before cruising home to bring the Dragons’ two-game winning streak to an abrupt end.
The convincing win helped erase the disappointment of last week’s controversial loss to the Cowboys and lifted the Warriors back into the NRL top eight.
“It is getting down to the business end of the year … it’s just important we prepare as well as we can every week,” Warriors coach Ivan Cleary said.
“It’s pretty obvious we needed to win today.
“We had a good run a couple of weeks ago and it was disappointing last week. It was important to get into a good frame of mind for this game.”
After a horrendous start in which they gave up three unanswered tries to the Cowboys last week, the Warriors made sure they were ready to go from the opening whistle today.
Centre Simon Mannering opening the scoring after just four minutes as the home side ambushed the Dragons, and by the time the Kiwi international had his second on the half hour the game was as good as over at 26-0.
“We were obviously disappointed with our start last week,” Warriors captain Steve Price said.
“We have got to get that consistency because it is that tight at the moment that you don’t want to look back and have any regrets by not turning up.”
The disappointment was obvious on the face of Dragons coach Nathan Brown, his side’s slim finals hopes now all but extinguished.
They threatened an unlikely comeback when Josh Morris scored four minutes after the break to close to within 32-16, but the home side kicked away again when Evarn Tuimavavae went over under the posts six minutes later.
“They were too good for us at the start of the game. They were a bit hungrier than we were and got off to a great start,” Brown said.
“It was good play by the Warriors, it was just dumb play by us â€“ dumb kicking.
“When we kick the ball for them to score two length-of-the-field tries, it’s poor play by us.
“Our attack has been good in the last three weeks, now our defence has gone a bit backwards, which has been a bit disappointing.”
Despite his side’s dire predicament, Brown refused to give up.
“The season is not dead and buried, but it just makes it hard, that is all,” Brown said.
The Dragons sustained another injury blow with prop Justin Poore damaging his shoulder, while back-up hooker Ben Ellis strained his hamstring.
Warriors five-eighth Michael Witt continued his hot streak with the boot as he landed eight goals from as many attempts, taking his tally of successful kicks to 25.
Raiders crush Titan hopefuls
Canberra Raiders 56 def Gold Coast Titans 10
CANBERRA has a fighting chance of making the NRL final eight after a stunning 56-10 demolition of Gold Coast Titans.
The Titans had taken an 10-6 lead midway through the first half thanks to centres Luke O’Dwyer and Brett Delaney but from there it was all one-way traffic with the Raiders amassing 50 unanswered points.
The forwards, especially man of the match Troy Thompson, laid a solid foundation for halfback Michael Dobson who racked up 18 points through a cheeky try and seven goals.
For the Titans the loss was compounded by an injury to skipper Scott Prince.
The halfback came from the field early in the second half with a recurrence of the collarbone injury that he suffered in last weekend’s loss to Brisbane.
Despite the dominant win Raiders coach Neil Henry was far from overjoyed with the result, offering praise and criticism of his side in equal doses.
He said the half-time score of 24-10 was not a fair symbol of the closeness of the first half.
“Realistically, we hadn’t been great,” Henry said.
“Our kicking game wasn’t great in the first half and to their credit Todd (Carney) and Dobbo (Dobson) took that on board and territorially we were much better in the second half.
Skipper Alan Tongue, who put his season on the line by playing with damaged knee cartilage, admitted there were plenty of smiles in the dressing shed.
“In the context of the season we needed to win and to win with a healthy score like that is going to do the confidence a lot of good,” he said.
An exasperated Titans coach John Cartwright accepted the loss as an experience most teams had to go through in a competition as tight as the NRL.
“A scoreline like that doesn’t come down to one or two areas,” Cartwright said.
“When the game got out of reach the most disappointing thing (is that) the floodgates just opened and there’s no excuse, there’s no reason to get a score line like that against you.
Skipper Luke Bailey was equally frustrated.
“I don’t know if they played real flash, I think we just played pretty terrible,” he said.
“I think it was the worst defensive effort in the second half we’ve had all year.
“They’re a big side and you can’t be on the back foot when you’ve got the size of those fellas coming at you.
Bailey said the loss of Prince didn’t affect the result.
“Whether Scotty Prince was fully fit today or not we would have lost because the forwards lost it through the middle.”
The Raiders levelled the score in the 34th minute through a try to hulking prop Michael Weyman, his first of the season.
From there Canberra ran away, eventually piling on 10 tries to move to 16 points on the ladder and just two shy of the struggling Titans who have now lost three games in a row and face the increasingly desperate Bulldogs on Friday night.
For Canberra the win was vital but it now has to keep winning and against superior opposition.
In the next four rounds it has matches against Melbourne Storm, North Queensland and the Bulldogs.