The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have come back from an 8-0 deficit with tries to Michael Gordon, Bevan French and Kaysa Pritchard for an impressive 22-12 victory in front of a crowd of 7,772 at Darwin's TIO Stadium on Saturday.
The Blue and Gold came face to face with a fired up Titans outfit from the outset, with the Gold Coast hitting hard in defence, and Chris McQueen forced from the field for a head check in just the 4th minute after a particularly bruising tackle.
The Blue and Gold found the Titans end early with nothing to show for it, while the Titans had no difficulty posting first points. Sweeping the ball right for a cutout pass to Anthony Don on the right edge, the winger slipped past Semi Radradra to open a 4-0 lead.
A lost ball from the Eels in attack followed by a sloppy penalty in the ruck saw the Titans piggy-back downfield again in the 11th minute, and when halfback Ashley Taylor kicked high to the corner, the Eels were unable to hold onto the bomb. Agnatius Paasi was perfectly positioned to pick up the batted down football and grounded the ball for a try in the 12th minute of play.
Five-eighth Tyrone Roberts struggled with the boot in the opening half, missing two conversions to leave the Titans with an 8 point lead early in the game.
Rookie Bevan French made himself known in the opening half putting in a cross-field kick on the back of a Kenny Edwards run to force a repeat set, and the Blue and Gold came close in the 21st minute as centre Michael Jennings barged over but was denied a try by the NRL Bunker for not grounding the ball.
French was denied his own try in the 24th minute as he pounced on a Corey Norman grubber kick, while Titans centre Josh Hoffman came close from a Gold Coast bomb, but was ruled to have had the ball stripped before hitting the turf.
At last French found the tryline in the 27th minute, swooping on a lost ball inside the Eels’ own 30 metre line and running more than 70 metres to score. Despite being pulled down just short of the line by a Titans chaser and making contact with the goalpost, French was able to stretch out and plant the ball to put the Eels on the board for the first time in the match.
Gordon’s kick from in front sailed over easily, putting the Eels just 8-6 behind.
With a welcome penalty going the Blue and Gold’s way inside their own 20 metre zone, Norman found touch on the 40 and the Eels were in prime attacking position. Inside the red zone, fill-in five-eighth Kenny Edwards put in a punishing run up the sideline, offloading late to Michael Gordon for a try to put the Eels in the lead for the first time.
Gordon converted his own for a 12-8 lead, holding onto it for a 4-point lead at the halftime break.
Early in the second half a run of poor luck for the Titans saw them bat a Corey Norman grubber over the dead ball line, then kick out on the full from the line drop out. The Eels took their opportunity to take a shot at penalty goal, with Gordon nailing the shot to push Parramatta’s lead to 14-8.
In the 61st minute, Norman broke the line and slipped a pass with ease to Kaysa Pritchard in support to score next to the posts and open up an 18-8 lead, with a Gordon conversion extending it to 20-8.
A fired up Eels side continued to push in attack, while the Titans’ woes continued as former Eel Nathan Peats crossed the tryline but was ruled to have lost the football.
Michael Gordon made a swift break looking to offload to Beau Scott but couldn’t stick the pass, while the Titans kicked cross-field to winger Anthony Don to grab the ball in a defensive scramble and score in the corner.
Roberts’ third attempt at a conversion for the night was unsuccessful, leaving the Blue and Gold with a 22-12 lead with just 5 minutes on the clock.
The final frantic minutes saw both sides struggle with possession, and a late penalty goal attempt from Michael Gordon was unsuccessful, with the Eels taking home a 22-12 victory.
Dyldam Parramatta Eels - 22 (French, Gordon, Pritchard. Gordon: 3/3. Penalty goals - Gordon: 2/3)
Gold Coast Titans - 12 (Don 2, Paasi. Roberts: 0/3)