The Parramatta Eels continue to show that they are a force in 2022 with a fourth win of the season in a dramatic contest against the Gold Coast Titans.
Facing the Titans for the second time in just five weeks, the Eels were able to get the job done with a 26-20 win at Cbus Super Stadium.
The win was mired in controversy with two captain’s challenges and a surprise decision to send Junior Paulo to the sin-bin.
After both sides had their chances at the line over the first fifteen minutes, the game’s first points seemed to elude them.
It very nearly came for the Titans when AJ Brimson thought he had crossed the line only for Clint Gutherson to swipe the ball out of his hands.
Gutherson would then score at the other end, as Reed Mahoney and Mitch Moses combined for the fullback to power onto the ball and score.
Despite losing Waqa Blake to a knee injury, the Eels spirit stayed strong and winger Bailey Simonsson scored his first try in Eels colours.
His try came on the back of lovely passing skills from big men Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo.
The Eels would nab a third and looked in control, as Gutherson came down with a Mitch Moses bomb to give the Eels a strong 14-0 lead at the break.
The second half started in a similar fashion as the Eels momentum continued.
This time, Ryan Matterson would score – he had since shifted to the centres – as he bolted through an easy gap to score.
The first of two controversial captain’s challenges then began to swing the tide of the game into the hands of the Titans.
Toby Sexton, who was adamant that Mahoney had knocked on for the Eels, deliberately flopped on the Eels hooker to challenge the decision.
Soon after that, a grubber from Brimson saw Philip Sami open the Titans’ account as he was able to beat everyone to the in-goal to score.
The second controversial captain’s challenge call came when Patrick Herbert did what Sexton did; deliberately holding the play down to challenge the previous play.
The Titans won that as well on review, and a second Brimson grubber found hooker Erin Clark this time as the Titans continued to narrow the deficit.
By this time, Paulo had been sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle that left many scratching their heads.
Nevertheless, the Titans capitialised as David Fifita showed his individual brilliance to beat several Eels defenders in a bullocking run from left to right to score in the right corner.
The Eels’ resolve – which was praised post-game by Brad Arthur – shone through as Dylan Brown was able to pounce on a Titans’ error off a Moses bomb.
The Titans would grab a late consolation try through Greg Marzhew but the Eels were able to hold on and win.
Titans coach Justin Holbrook says the key moments let his side down but he believes they are on the right track.
“We just didn’t win any key moments of that first half,” Holbrook said.
“We did it tough down 14-0 so that made it really hard to win the game.
“They are one of the top sides, we are getting closer but we have got to start winning those games.”
With plenty of talk surrounding the two captain’s challenges from the Titans, Eels captain Gutherson shared what he had heard from a referee the week before on the matter.
“I remember watching a game last week and the ref said to the captain you can only challenge that last play, not the play before, so I was just asking the question because it obviously happened to us twice,” Gutherson said.
Parramatta Eels 26 (Gutherson 2, Simonsson, Brown, Matterson; Goals: Moses 3) def. Gold Coast Titans 20 (Sami, Clark, Fifita, Marzhew; Goals: Sexton 2).
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Reagan Campbell-Gillard (PAR)
2. Mitch Moses (PAR)
1. David Fifita (GLD)