Down on troops, the Dyldam Parramatta Eels have stunned the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs with a 20-12 win on Friday night at ANZ Stadium.
The reshuffled Eels, with Brad Takairangi partnering Corey Norman in the halves, Vai Toutai at centre, and Kenny Edwards as starting lock, were struck with injuries in the course of the game as prop Tim Mannah and fullback Michael Gordon left the field, and Danny Wicks was sent to the sheds for a concussion test.
The Blue and Gold were monstered early by the visitors’ defence, kicking early for field position but unable to push for back-to-back sets. Meanwhile the Dogs struck quickly in the 4th minute as Moses Mbye sent a floating pass out to Curtis Rona to sail over in the corner for a try.
Rolling downfield on the back of a penalty, the Bulldogs went wide to Rona a second time, but while the winger crashed over the tryline, the Bunker found insufficient evidence of grounding to overrule an on-field call of no try, held up.
The Blue and Gold started to muster some defensive venom as the game rolled on, but struggled to find points as final passes to their wingers failed to stick or found the grass.
The visitors put a scare into the Eels as a lucky bounce let them pick up an Eels grubber close to the try line and run almost the full length for a possible try, only to be called back for a knock forward.
17 minutes in a beautiful Beau Scott ball hit stand-in five-eighth Brad Takairangi, who spun and crashed over the tryline to open the scoring for the Blue and Gold.
And while the two sides traded sets without finding points, Eels club captain Tim Mannah was forced from the field favouring his shoulder and didn’t return for the remainder of the clash.
After 30 minutes, the Bulldogs found numbers on the right edge, sending centre Josh Morris around Semi Radradra to cross the line for another four-pointer, with sharp-shooter Kerrod Holland adding the extra points despite hitting the goalposts.
But as the seconds ticked down to the halftime break, the Blue and Gold had one final play up their sleeve, and second-rower Kenny Edwards passed to Takairangi, who batted the ball onto winger Clint Gutherson to slip past David Klemmer, stand up Will Hopoate and go 45 metres to score.
The late effort sent the Eels to the sheds trailing just 12-10.
In damaging news for Parramatta, Michael Gordon didn’t return for the second half, sidelined with a corked thigh, sending Gutherson back to fullback.
An early effort from Rona in the 43rd minute was thwarted by the Eels’ Vai Toutai who edged him into touch, and when the Eels had a sniff of opportunity, halfback Corey Norman took the ball in hand and stepped through the defence to put the Eels in front for the first time in the match.
As confidence built for the Blue and Gold, Takairangi sent a cross-field bomb to the Eels’ right wing, and when Rona batted the ball back in goal, Toutai leapt on it to score. The Parramatta attack continued to threaten, lifting the pace of the contest, with Isaac De Gois and Junior Paulo coming perilously close to a try each.
And while the Bulldogs threatened the Eels’ line once via Josh Morris, the Blue and Gold held strong to secure a 20-12 win over their old rivals, their second of the 2016 season.
Prop Danny Wicks left the field in the 55th minute for checks following a head knock, but was cleared to return.
Dyldam Parramatta Eels - 20 (Takairangi, Gutherson, Norman, Toutai. Gordon: 1/1. Gutherson: 1/3)
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs - 12 (Rona, Morris. Holland: 2/2)