The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have pulled off a 22-12 win over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in a thrilling contest at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Despite the return of Willie Tonga from Maroons camp for the Round 14 clash, Brad Arthur still had some changes to make to his Blue and Gold line-up, with fullback Ken Sio ruled out with a shoulder injury.
Playmaker Luke Kelly returned to the side, with regular half Chris Sandow spending much of the game at fullback. The Bulldogs side was reshuffled with captain Michael Ennis taking over a share of halfback duties, and Josh Jackson named in the five-eighth position while Reni Maitua moved to the bench.
The result was an unpredictable showing, with the Eels’ Chris Sandow taking advantage of scattered play to come close to the posts early. With great field position, second-rower Manu Ma’u headed for the corner two plays later, but the try-saving tackle from James Graham sent Ma’u down the tunnel with a suspected fracture.
The Eels had plenty of opportunities, with only unforced errors and ball control keeping them from posting early points, but winger Semi Radradra broke the drought after 19 minutes with a clean intercept for a runaway try.
A late addition to the Round 14 side, Luke Kelly, engineered the second with a pass to Chris Sandow to Vai Toutai to ground the ball in the corner.
And when the Bulldogs finally slipped through the Blue and Gold’s scrambling goal-line defence, Krisnan Inu was denied a try for a double movement, leaving the Eels sitting on a ten-point lead and working to hold out the home side.
Sandow showed off his unpredictable side late in the half, taking the unconventional route by throwing the ball dead when he looked to be trapped in goal, and regathering a drop out by kicking directly at Tim Lafai in the Bulldogs’ defensive line.
The livewire half was equally involved in the Eels’ goal line defence after the break. Hit by waves of Bulldogs possession it took three back-to-back sets for the home side to break through with a try in the corner to Corey Thompson.
And while the Eels suffered in attack without hard-hitting Ma’u, the Dogs headed into the second half missing fullback Sam Perrett and their enormous forward David Klemmer through injury.
Courtesy of back-to-back sets the Eels answered back, as young forward Pauli Pauli offloaded to Vai Toutai for his second try of the day.
He stepped in again to take a Sandow pass and swing it round mid-tackle for Ryan Morgan to extend the Eels’ lead to 18-0, and Eels fans could breathe a little easier when Krisnan Inu lost the ball cold on the way to a certain try for the Bulldogs.
As the clock ticked down, Morgan made it a double, taking a pass from De Gois and beating three defenders for another four points. And while Corey Thompson found his way over the line for a second try of the day, it wasn't enough to reign in the Blue and Gold.
Dyldam Parramatta Eels - (Toutai 2, Morgan 2, Radradra. Sandow: 1/3, Norman: 0/1, Kelly: 0/1)
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs - (Thompson 2, . Inu: 1/1, Ennis: 1/1)