Parramatta Eels 25 def Canterbury Bulldogs 6
The massive crowd providing the perfect atmosphere for the local derby, both sides ran on to a super charged Telstra Stadium.
Surprisingly the battle of the bash in the forwards going the way of the Eels early on. The willing Bulldogs forwards trying to get themselves pumped, but it was the thrust and second phase skill of Eels big men Fui Fui Moi Moi and Nathan Cayless giving the Parramatta side an early advantage centre field.
With most of the early possession going to the Eels, it was a nice offload by SBW centre field to put Luke Patten through a hole. The Dogs counter punching well and scoring in the corner through Matt Utai. It was a classic counter attack and gave the Bulldogs the early mental edge. After a nice El Masri conversion from the touch-line, it was everything the struggling Bulldogs needed.
The Eels did well to hang in, they regained the possession advantage and kept punching holes centre field. The dam finally broke for the Dogs, an injury concern for Sonny Bill Williams gave the Eels a mental edge – a passionate Mark Riddell chipping and regaining to charge over the line – 6 all.
The passion and drive of Mark Riddell the Eels best asset as they tried to subdue the gritty Bulldogs. The major surprise in the game, the Eels forwards running rough shot over the Bulldogs international pack – setting a perfect scene for the outside backs. So often Moi Moi shattering the Dogs line and getting amazingly quick play the balls.
With Wagon starting in the centres, the Eels looked a touch slow on his edge – Wagon not a ball player or the type of man to set Grothe up with a spectacular pass – the move was purely to contain Sonny Bill Williams.
Continued possession saw the Eels score again through a nice final tackle play, worked through the hands. Mateo keeping it alive, the Eels setting up Grothe in the corner. All the play was with Parramatta, the Bulldogs were losing troops like no tomorrow – with SBW breaking his arm, Matuia injuring himself and eventually Sherwin going down too. The loss of troops crushing the hopes of the Bulldogs. SBW shattering his arm trying to tackle Nathan Hindmarsh and really hurting his teams chances as he bowed out of the match.
At halftime, while the Eels had the run of play – it still looked like the Bulldogs were close enough to grab some points. Frustration for Steve Folkes, the Bulldogs killing themselves with final tackle kicks. So many times Brent Sherwin kicking dead or getting stopped with the Ball.
In past years the Eels would have received a nervous or stifling talk from Brian Smith – however, this year the Eels came back on to the field to get right back into it. While their forwards kept dominating, the Eels just couldn’t put the wounded Bulldogs to bed. The atmosphere visible in both sheds, the Bulldogs looking a little downcast – while Hagan had the Eels looking keen as he gave his speech.
It kept see-sawing in the second half, the Eels having all the ball and playing much better Rugby League – but the struggling and wounded Bulldogs just wouldn’t lay down. The concern for the Bulldogs was their only try came 5 minutes into the game and was against the run of play, with 20 minutes to go – they simply didn’t look like scoring again. The Dogs must be given credit for their never say die approach, they kept losing players all game – but somehow they clung to tackles and kept themselves in with a chance.
Surprisingly the Eels kept their second phase play going and didn’t go into their shell as the game wore on, while they committed more errors than the Dogs – they kept threatening, their only advantage a Brett Finch snap field goal giving them a 7 point edge.
The straw that broke the Bulldogs back coming in the 75th minute, Timana Tahu snapping up a loose ball to run away and score under the posts. The Eels finally shattering the season of the Bulldogs and gaining themselves passage to next week against Melbourne at the Telstra dome.
To add to the confidence injection, a stylish in and away by Jarryd Hayne in the final minute saw the Eels touchdown again and further drive the nail into the Bulldogs coffin. The Dogs of War failing badly on D-Day and probably losing their well earned aura of finals ability.
The speed, skill and risk taking by the bold Eels youngsters making the Bulldogs look second hand and a yard behind. The Bulldogs are known for their gritty and take no prisoners approach to finals football – but maybe their style is outdated and lacking offensive punch.
After two solid games the Eels will take every confidence into their big match against the Melbourne Storm – while the Melbourne side have been the benchmark for 2 years, a rest this weekend and some previous matches against soft opposition might have them concerned about the plucky Eels.