MATCH HIGHLIGHTS | Eels v Bulldogs, Round 22
Parramatta have made it six straight wins with a convincing 20-4 win over Canterbury at a sodden ANZ Stadium on Thursday night but face a nervous wait on a hamstring injury to fullback Bevan French.
Eels coach Brad Arthur could ill-afford to lose another fullback after the in-form Clint Gutherson was recently rubbed out for the season but the injury is believed to be minor.
The win assures the Eels of a finals berth for the first time since 2009 and temporarily moves them into the top four on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
A decision to gamble on centre Chase Stanley did not pay off for Dogs coach Des Hasler with the former Dragon and Storm three-quarter throwing plenty of rusty passes and producing a few errors.
The Eels had no such issues with halves Corey Norman and in particular Mitch Moses controlling proceedings expertly with a masterful kicking display, including a whopping nine forced goal line drop outs.
The Dogs were their own worst enemy, doubling the Eels error tally 11-6 including some absolute clangers, scuppering their own attacking chances and including a cold drop from a penalty tap restart.
Moses pulled the Dogs apart early, splitting the line to set Bevan French up for his sixth try in as many games and showing wonderful deception to create space for Semi Radradra to score.
Those two scores came after an early try to bench prop Daniel Alvaro – on the field while Nathan Brown went for a head injury assessment – who carried a number of defenders over the line for a soft try that would have had Dogs coach Des Hasler tearing his hair out.
In between Canterbury continually found new and inventive ways to cough up possession and piggy-back the Eels into attacking range, conceding five first-half goal line drop outs and only earning their first play inside the Eels 10 metre zone in the shadows of half-time but were unable to cash in.
With French not returning from half-time, Norman moved to fullback and Kenny Edwards to five-eighth and whether it was the slight weakening of the Eels line-up or a big half-time spray from Hasler, the Dogs did look an improved side after the break.
Next points eventually came via a Moses penalty goal to make it 18-0 and the two points proved important when the Dogs bagged their first try.
Recalled centre Brenko Lee brushed off Radradra to streak into space and send Marcelo Montoya over in the corner but Stanley's missed conversion kept the difference at 14 points with just 20 minutes of the contest to play.
The remainder of the game was dour as the under-strength Eels ground their way towards a win and the Dogs struggled to find any sort of fluency with the ball.
The only eventual addition to the score came when Reynolds kicked the final drop-out of the night from well over his goal-line to hand Moses a free two points to wind the remainder of the clock down on a 20-4 win.
Parramatta Eels 20 (Alvaro, French, Radradra tries; Moses 4 goals) defeated Canterbury Bulldogs 4 (Montoya try) at ANZ Stadium. Half time: Eels 16-0. Crowd: 12,137.