The Parramatta Eels have come away with a physical 20-12 victory over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at Lottoland in their opening clash of the 2017 NRL Telstra Premiership today (Sunday 5 March) in front of 11,317 fans.
The Eels had several club debutants, with Josh Hoffman, Suaia Matagi, Nathan Brown and Frank Prithcard all pulling on the Blue & Gold on the first time.
However it was Manly’s new recruit Blake Green who had the biggest impact to kick off the game. After earning a repeat set for the home side, Green had the final pass for fellow debutant Brian Kelly to carry some Eels defenders over the line to open the scoring with a converted try after six minutes.
However it didn’t take long for the Eels to strike back. The Blue & Gold made their way down field, and after Hoffman was pulled down just centimetres short of the line, half Corey Norman kicked close to the line, regathered and planted it as his individual effort earnt the Eels first try of the game.
The Eels made their way down field on their following set, and with the attack probing at the line, the Eels earnt a penalty in the play the ball. Clint Gutherson opted to knock over the two as the Eels took their first lead of the game (8-6).
The Sea Eagles tried to muscle up in defence and pin the Eels in their own end. Their effort in defence looked to be rewarded, but an individual piece of brilliance from Norman saw the halfback kick a 40/20 to relieve all the pressure.
The change in fortune was amplified when the Eels went over through Bevan French who crossed over out wide. After a shift through the hands, second rower Manu Ma’u caught two defenders interest, and managed to flick a ball out the back as he looked to be all wrapped up. The fullback was there in support to cross for a converted try.
As the half continued, the Eels continued to mount pressure as Manly’s ball control slipped in the damp conditions. The Eels looked to be over again, when fullback French threw a cut out ball for winger Hoffman, but as the new recruit planted the ball, a forward pass was ruled and a try went begging.
The Sea Eagles continued to throw plenty of attack at the Eels as the half time siren loomed, but the defence held strong, repelling wave after wave before the siren rang and the Eels entered the sheds with a 14-6 lead.
The second half resumed and the Eels began to build an enormous amount of pressure.
Camped down the Sea Eagles half, the Eels earnt repeat set after repeat set, with some deft weighted kicks from Corey Norman and some brutal defence forcing the Sea Eagles in goal. The pressure eventually became too much, when Clint Gutherson found his way to the line, brushing past some defence to score a four pointer.
The following 10 minutes of play saw the Eels continue to pepper the Sea Eagles line as they looked to cross the line for their second of the second half, but the home side defence managed to find effort after effort.
The pressure eventually saw a penalty blown from right in front of the posts in the 65th minute, as the Eels opted to take the two points and extend their lead to greater than two converted tries (20-6).
In individual effort from Tom Trbojevic out of his own end had the home side running down field and on the attack for the first time in the second half.
A penalty close to the line saw the Sea Eagles with a repeat set, and it provided dividends when Green stepped, found some space in the line and crossed for a converted try in the 77th minute.
But the score remained unchanged in the final three minutes of the match, as the Eels came away with a 8 point victory over the Sea Eagles to kick off the season.
Parramatta Eels 20 (Tries: Corey Norman, Bevan French, Clint Gutherson; Goals: Clint Gutherson 2/3; Penalties: Clint Gutherson 2/2).
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 12 (Tries: Brian Kelly, Blake Green; Dylan Walker 2/2)