The Parramatta Eels have triumphed 24-10 over long-time rivals the St George Illawarra Dragons in their Round 15 NRL Telstra Premiership match at ANZ Stadium.
Parramatta got off to a strong start and while the Dragons threatened to claw their way back in the second half the Blue and Golds were never headed.
The Eels welcomed back centre Michael Jennings which saw Clint Gutherson shift to fullback, Bevan French to the right wing and Kirisome Auva’a drop out of the side. Tepai Moeroa was also ruled out due to injury with Kenny Edwards moving into the starting side and Siosaia Vave promoted off an extended bench.
Clint Gutherson got the Eels off to the perfect start, scoring inside the first three minutes. The Blue and Gold ran it on the last tackle with Mitchell Moses going to the right edge and finding a hard-running Gutherson who hit a hole close to the Dragons’ line.
He converted his own try and the Eels led 6-0.
St George then exerted a little pressure of their own with Tim Lafai breaking down the left edge and then receiving multiple penalties. They were unable to make their field position pay when Gareth Widdop threw a forward pass and handed the ball back to the Blue and Gold.
In the 11th minute Dragons winger Nene MacDonald was unable to reel in a Corey Norman bomb and handed the Eels back possession via a goal line dropout. Kenny Edwards though spilt the ball when trying to pop an offload to Manu Ma’u.
With 16 minutes left in the half Kaysa Pritchard collected an offload from Manu Ma’u but was twisted in the tackle and was taken off due to a knee injury.
Clint Gutherson broke the game open when Kalifa Faifai Loa tried to grubber the ball past him only for the fullback to block the kick and scoop the ball up to race 70 metres untouched. Mitchell Moses converted to give the Eels a 12-0 lead.
With four minutes to go in the half Jason Nightingale managed to flick a pass to Nene MacDonald who scored in the right corner. Gareth Widdop was unable to convert from the sideline and the Eels led 12-4 at half time.
Just after half-time and the Eels were in after Michael Jennings swooped onto a dropped ball from Joel Thompson and scooted 55 metres to score under the posts. Gutherson converted from in-front and the Eels were out to an 18-4 lead in the 48th minute.
In the 57th minute Bevan French went over in the left corner after he won the race to a deft Moses kick and planted it down to the right of the uprights. Gutherson’s conversion was successful and the Eels were out to a 24-4 lead.
The Dragons then fought their way into good field position when Faifai Loa broke into the backfield and found Jack de Belin who was pulled down 10 metres from the line. Several tackles later and Paul Vaughan forced his way over from close range. Widdop converted and the Eels led 24-10 with 16 minutes to go.
Beau Scott was injured in the play and left the field with a right arm injury, leaving the Eels with two men on the bench.
The Eels began muscling up in defence and halted the Dragons’ momentum. Combined with a stellar kicking game from Moses and Norman, the Dragons were suffocated out of the game.
The win saw the Eels move back into the Top 8 ahead of their Round 16 bye.
Parramatta Eels 24 (Tries: Gutherson 2, Jennings, French. Goals: Gutherson 3/3, Moses 1/1)
St George Illawarra Dragons 10 (Tries: MacDonald, Vaughan. Goals: Widdop 1/2)