The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have suffered a dramatic 18-16 loss to the Canterbury Bulldogs in front of 30,394 fans at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
With Canterbury and Parramatta out to prove that they have what it takes to make the top eight, the stage was set for both teams to battle it out for the 8th Annual Bandaged Bear Cup and the two NRL competition points.
A milestone match for #theprince Ben Smith in his 150th game for the Blue and Gold, the Eels were made to go on the defensive early after conceding early penalties against a fired up Bulldogs squad.
It didn’t take long for Greg Eastwood to burst over the line from close range, capitalising on the first attacking set in the Eels' half and setting Trent Hodkinson up with an easy conversion.
It was a grind-out half of football with both teams having their fair share of attacking and defensive displays until a Chris Sandow cross-field kick was plucked out of the air by a surging Jarryd Hayne who crossed for his 18th try of the season. Chris Sandow converted to tie the game up at 6-6.
What was appearing to be a swing in momentum for the Eels quickly turned against them, when off the back of a third consecutive penalty, Bulldogs winger Mitch Brown scored on the right-hand touchline. Hodkinson’s attempt at goal was successful from the sideline to extend the lead to 12-6.
Things were starting to slip for Parramatta towards the end of the first half, with handling errors and soft defensive displays creeping into their game.
Aiden Tolman scored the third try for the Bulldogs, replicating his teammate Greg Eastwood from earlier on – a short pass into space allowed the prop to barge over the line from close range, with Hodkinson converting.
Parramatta started to press and commanded three attacking sets on the Bulldogs line, eventually crossing in the corner through Semi Radradra after an swift touch-on from Hayne. Sandow’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful but the margin was brought back to 18-10.
The Semi-Trailer was back amongst the try-line action instantly as the first half commenced, with a quality cut-out ball from Corey Norman setting him up for his second of the match and 18th of the season. Sandow converted the sideline attempt to bring the match back within two points, trailing 16-18.
With 30 minutes of scoreless action, the 70th minute provided a wake-up call for the Eels when Trent Hodkinson’s attempt at the line was ruled a no-try.
Parramatta quickly responded with an 80 metre set of six and a no-try call of their own – Semi Radradra went for his hat-trick on the last play but came undone when his foot slid into touch.
Chris Sandow was able to produce a spectacular 40/20 in the 78th minute of the match and offer some renewed hope for the Parramatta attack, but the Eels were unable to capitalise on the opportune situation.
The Bandaged Bear Cup came down to a nail-biting end, but it was the Bulldogs who ran out eventual 18-16 winners.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs - 18 (Eastwood, Brown, Tolman. Hodkinson: 3/3)
Dyldam Parramatta Eels - 16 (Hayne, Radradra 2. Sandow: 2/3)