The Parramatta Eels were pushed all the way tonight by the Broncos babes in the final NRL match for Round 19. A controversial turning point coming midway through the second half when Eel Jarryd Hayne was accused of ‘playing dead’ after a collision with Sam Thaiday, as the Broncos came home with a full head of steam.
Touted as specials for a large win, the Eels started solidly through an impressive and physical forward platform. It was something unexpected from the Eels, immediately targeting the centre of the field – an area where the Broncos were at full strength.
The plan worked, with Nathan Cayless and the Hindmarsh brothers piercing the Broncos line at will leaving some decent defenders in their wake.
The Eels had plenty of possession in the first half, coupled with half a dozen line breaks the tries came. Firstly to Kris Inu after a pin point kick from Tim Smith – the Eels half back has been criticized at times for being ‘kick happy’ – however few can question the pin point accuracy of his kicking.
The Eels early stranglehold on the game continued, quick play the balls and constant thrust from the forwards – allowed some nice plays to be executed out wide. The next 4 pointer coming from a nice combination between Tahu and Inu – setting up Nathan Hindmarsh for the final pass and what looked like easy times for the Eels.
Into half time at 14-0 down, Wayne Bennett’s instructions to the Broncos were to ‘stick to your own role’. Brisbane began to trust in each other and improved defence turned the field position their way. What followed was a massive momentum shift. The 3rd quarter of the match was all Brisbanes, their forwards clawed their way back – on the back of Dave Taylor and Sam Thaiday the Broncos left the Eels in their wake.
When Shaun Berrigan scurried over for the Broncos, even at 14-6 the Eels began to get a little nervous and lost total rhythm. The Broncos continued to have success centre field, totally dominating the forward battle. When Sam Thaiday burst through the line and was tackled by Jarryd Hayne – the Broncos looked certain to score from the ensuing play and only trail by two points. After tackling Thaiday – Jarryd Hayne lay motionless, looking to be knocked out from the heavy clash. Referee Jarred Maxwell stopped play immediately and Parramatta was able to re-compose themselves and prevent the Broncos onslaught.
Plenty of talk came out of the game around the Jarryd Hayne concussion – Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett and captain Petero Civoniceva suggesting heavily after the game that Jarryd Hayne had taken a dive for his team.
Its an interesting one, Hayne didn’t look to have direct head contact with Thaiday – rather his head got caught in Thaiday’s groin region. Either way – this particular moment changed the way. Brisbane’s momentum was suddenly shifted back to Parramatta.
The Eels marching down field and virtually scoring from their first attacking set in the Broncos end. Tim Smith turning it back inside for an angle running Ian Hindmarsh – nicely slicing through and scoring under the posts.
To the Broncos credit, they continued to chip away – Shaun Berrigan again the instigator – scoring a spectacular try in the corner. It literally was the absolute corner – Berrigan having half his body in mid air outside the field of play and somehow grounding the ball within 1 millimetre of the corner junction. Candidate for try of the year this one.
It meant a 3 nervous minutes for the Eels – with a 4 point margin the difference. Some settled plays and a smart kick for touch from Finch was enough to do the job.
Nathan Hindmarsh was the Fox Sports man of the match, however halves pairing Tim Smith and Brett Finch had impressive touches, Finch heavily involved in play particularly with some great defensive injections.
The Broncos were served by lead man Petero Civoniceva, getting through plenty of work and showing the Brisbane youngsters the way. Dave Taylor had a huge impact on the side when on the field – directly targeting Tim Smith on the Eels edge, he gave the Broncos the momentum. Finally Shaun Berrigan was close to best player on ground in the second half, two tries and plenty of zip from dummy half drove the Eels backwards on several occasions.
The Eels while happy to get the 2 points, will have plenty to work on before facing Manly at home this coming Sunday and the Broncos will be better for the new positional structure – as they face the post-desperate Cronulla Sharks at Suncorp. In the injury ward, the Eels will rush to throw Ben Smith in bandages after receiving another heavy knock to his fragile nose – the big centre playing most of the match covered in blood, with trainers eventually setting up the Hanibal Lector mask for him making things extremely messy. The Broncos have not reported injuries and Jarryd Hayne will be monitored after his collision.