The Dyldam Parramatta Eels has overcome a half-time deficit to beat the St George Illawarra Dragons 16 – 12 in their Round 16 clash at Pirtek Stadium.
The Eels came into the game with a brand new hooker in Cody Nelson and Corey Norman moved to fullback after recent injuries forced a backline reshuffle. The Dragons were without their regular hooker in Mitch Rein, whilst Jason Nightingale had also fallen victim to injury
The Dragons started strongly when a deft chip over the defensive line from Benji Marshall saw Dylan Farrell regather and pass back inside to Euan Aitken for a classy try. Widdop converted for an early lead.
The Eels hit back almost immediately as a Dragons mistake from the kick-off saw the Eels spread wide the ball quickly to the left for Semi Radradra to score in the corner. Chris Sandow converted from the sideline and the score was locked up after 6 minutes.
The remainder of the half would see chances at both ends of the field with a number of video refereeing decisions coming back in the negative.
A Dragons opportunity was ruled a ‘No Try’ after Sandow was deemed to have been taken out by Tyson Frizell. At the other end of the park, Ryan Morgan had a chance to score off a Sandow chip to his wing, but was just unable to reach the ball.
The Eels defence was put the test several times in the first half as the Dragons’ big men took turns to attack the line, unable to cross the Eels tryline . A two pointer from Gareth Widdop after a high tackle on Craig Garvey put the Dragons up 8-6.
Luke Kelly had a chance late in the half after a ricocheted kick was regathered and Kelly dove at the line. He was ruled to have been held up by desperate Dragons defence.
The Eels struck first in the second half with Semi Radradra scoring his second on the left wing after great lead-up work from David Gower and Chris Sandow. Another sensational sideline conversion from Sandow gave the Eels the lead, 12-8.
Sandow was involved again after trapping a Dragons kick on his own 10 metre line and kicking it, soccer style, 50 metres down the field. The Eels soaked up mountains of pressure on their goal-line including a vital video referee call on a possible Dragons try which was ultimately deemed a knock-on from Dylan Farrell.
Defence turned into attack as Semi Radradra registered his hat-trick in the 60th minute with another slick move on the Dragons line. This time, Sandow hit the post with his conversion and the Eels were up 16-8.
The Dragons battled valiantly in the final 20 minutes with Benji Marshall performing a classy chip and chase, but his flick pass ended up travelling forwards. A Josh Dugan break from deep in his half lead to a Eto Nabuli try, closing the gap to 16-12 with 13 minutes to go.
The Eels defence endured wave after wave of Dragons attacking raids, but it was the try saving tackle from Pauli Pauli with 5 minutes to go that exemplified the effort that the Eels put in to their goal-line defence tonight. Defensive efforts from Tepai Moeroa and Cody Nelson were also noteworthy.
Eels 16 (Radradra 3 tries; Sandow 2 goals)
Dragons 12 (Aitken, Nabuli tries. Widdop 2 goals)