The Parramatta Eels have fallen in a thriller to the quick finishing St. George Illawarra Dragons at WIN Stadium, suffering a 26-22 defeat on Sunday 12 March in Round Two of their competition.
The Eels were looking to bounce back from last week’s defeat to the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, and were in control at halftime as they headed to the sheds with an 18-4 lead, but four tries to the home side in the second half secured the result to the Dragons.
Kicking off the game, the Eels worked their way down field in great attacking position, when Troy Dargan threw a long cut out pass to find winger John Fonua in space.
The winger busted down field, running 40m before being met with the Dragons fullback. A grubber in behind was unable to be cleaned up by the Dragons, giving the Eels the perfect opportunity to open the scoring.
With the field position, Anthony Layoun crossed over for the first try of the game. The fullback on the end of a shift through the hands of halves Dargan and Dean Matterson, powering over close to the line.
The Dragons were however, quick to strike back. Their forwards rolled down field before half Jackson Willis kicked a perfectly weighed chip to the corner, sailing just above Haze Dunster’s hands, giving Tristan Sailor the home side’s first four pointer of the afternoon.
However the Eels struck back, and struck back quick.
Off the back of two penalties, the Eels made their way down field, and centre Dane Aukafolau proved too strong close to the line, dragging two defenders with him.
Then in the 19th minute, hooker and co-captain Denzal Tonise dove over from dummy half for a converted try, to give the Eels a 14-4 lead.
The Eels were over again in the 30th minute, when storming centre Tuimavave Afualo won the race to a bouncing grubber off the boot of Matterson. The centre gathered the bouncing ball, stepped off his right before diving over out wide.
The score remained unchanged for the remaining of the first half, as the Eels headed to the sheds with a 18-4 lead at half time.
The Eels were building plenty of pressure on the Dragons try line in the opening minutes of the second half, but an effort close to the line saw a change of momentum, as Dragons fullback Steve Marsters scooped up the loose ball. The fullback had plenty of work to do through the broken defence, but he managed to find clear space before running the length of the field for a try.
However the Eels remained calm and continued to apply pressure with some brutal defence.
Their efforts were rewarded in the 52nd minute when centre Aukafolau crossed for his second of the afternoon. Dargan gave fullback Layoun plenty of space to move with a ball out the back, and the fullback, stepped and offloaded to Aukafolau who carried across his opposite number to score.
The Eels looked to play some expansive football, and as they spread the ball in their own end, a wayward pass found the ground and winger Reuben Garrick was the first man to the ball. The winger picked it up in one clean swoop before running 20m untouched to score a converted try under the posts.
Both sides continued to throw plenty in attack and hit just as hard in defence, and as the game entered the final 10 minutes the Dragons struck back to set up for a grandstand finish.
Busting down the Eels right edge, interchange forward Tom Angel loomed in support as Dragons centre Zac Lomax found space down the sideline. Angel crossed over for a converted try as the Dragons closed the gap to just two points.
With 4 minutes remaining on the clock, winger Tristan Sailor bust through the Eels defence to score his second of the day. The winger swerved his way through the defence, and bust through a few tackles before crawling over the line to put the Dragons in front.
The Eels looked to strike back in the last play of the game. They made their way down the Dragons end after winger Haze Dunster streaked 40m down the sideline to put the Eels in attacking position. Dargan sliced through
Parramatta Eels 22 (Tries: Anthony Layoun, Dane Aukafolau, Denzel Tonise, Tuimavave Afualo; Goals: Anthony Layoun 1/4)
St. George Illawarra Dragons 26 (Tries: Tristan Sailor (2), Steve Marsters, Reuben Garrick, Tom Angel; Goals: Zac Lomax 2/4)