Despite a late fight back and charge from the Blue & Gold, the Parramatta Eels NYC side have suffered a 28-26 defeat to the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium tonight.
The Eels were without in-form halfback Troy Dargan and lock Ray Stone, who had been called into NSW U20’s Origin camp for the clash, along with hard-running centre Tuimavave Afualo (injury) seeing Head Coach Luke Burt having to make some changes to his starting line up.
The new Eels line up was tested early, when the young Blue & Gold found themselves camped on their own try line, as the Rabbitohs built pressure with a long kicking game and some brutal defence.
The pressure turned into points in the 9th minute of the clash, off a forced drop out, half Adam Doueihi received a ball close to the line to slice through the Eels defence.
The half running around underneath the posts, before converting his own try to give the home side a 6 point lead.
The Eels struck back in the 20th minute, when makeshift half Reed Mahoney drifted across the line before dropping a ball back on the inside for Sean Keppie. The prop crashed over close to the line, for a converted try to level the score.
However the home side regained the lead in the 27th minute of the clash, when Rabbitohs utility Theo Hippi pounced on a bouncing ball that deflected off the posts for a converted try.
The Eels crossed to level up the scored in the 34th minute when backrower Filia Utoikamanu ran a lovely line to put him himself into a hole, before stepping and shrugging off the fullback to dive over out wide.
The score remained unchanged in the last 5 minutes of the opening half, with the Eels heading to the sheds with 12 points a piece.
The Eels were the first to put points on the board in the second half, with a freakish bit of play close to the line. Out of dummy-half, Mahoney scooped up the ball and with a flat, cross-field kick, the ball rocketed into the arms of Beni Valu who crashed over to the left of the posts.
However the Eels first lead of the game was short lived, with an individual effort from Rabbitohs fullback Beau Cordtz charging from 20m, carrying Eels defenders over the line. The try was converted as the Rabbitohs took a 18-16 lead in the 50th minute.
Cordtz was over for his second, when the Rabbitohs swung the play back down the short side from 20m out. The fullback on the end of a shift, stepping and swerving his way to the line.
Minutes later, the Rabbitohs had their third try in quick succession, when a grubber to end their set ricocheted off the post, back into the arms of half Dean Hawkins, as he planted it underneath the posts, giving the home side a 12 point lead.
Mahoney barged over close to the line in the 68th minute, to keep the Blue & Gold in the contest, forcing his way underneath the posts with an individual effort close to the line.
The try sparked the Eels into attacking mode and a try from captain and half Dean Matterson put the Eels within two. The ball spread through the hands to the right edge and Matterson sliced through to score out wide, Eels trailing 26-28 in the final 10 minutes.
The Eels threw plenty of various attacking options in the final 10 minutes of play, but the Rabbitohs held on with some desperate defence to come away 28-26 victors.
Parramatta Eels 26 (Tries: Sean Keppie, Filia Utoikamanu, Beni Valu, Reed Mahoney, Dean Matterson; Goals: Anthony Layoun 2/3, Mitch Butfield 1/2)
South Sydney Rabbitohs 28 (Tries: Beau Cordtz (2) Adam Doueihi, Theo Hippi, Dean Hawkins; Goals: Adam Doueihi 4/5)