The Parramatta Eels NYC side have topped the Minor Premiers, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, in today’s Qualifying Final at Allianz Stadium.
An Eels second half blitz saw the Eels come away with a convincing 35-22 victory, securing a week off next week, before their preliminary final in a fortnight.
The Eels had the first real attacking opportunity of the clash 10 minutes in, when following an Eels bomb, a Sharks knock on gifted the young Blue & Gold with early field position.
And whilst the Eels probed with their attack looking for early points, it was a strong charge by Sharks prop Ryan King who swung the momentum around.
The prop busted through the Eels middle defence from inside his own half, running 40m before offloading to halfback Kyla Flanagan in support to cross under the posts for the opening try of the game.
However it wasn’t long before the Eels struck back. As they made their way down field, a ball from five-eighth Dean Matterson found right centre Dane Aukafolau close to the line. Still with plenty of work to do, the rangy footballer bulldozed his way over three Sharks defenders to score.
Halfback Troy Dargan converting the try to level the scores after 15 minutes.
The Sharks struck again in the 23rd minute of the clash, when on half way, the ball spread through the hands of their backline. Left centre Jesse Ramien finding space out wide, drawing the fullback and offloading to winger Josh Tuilagi who crossed over out wide to put the Sharks back in front.
The Eels made their way down field, and after forcing a drop out off the back of Dargan’s boot, they looked for points. After a few strong hit ups by the forwards to put the side into attacking position, a bullet pass from dummy half Reed Mahoney saw Dargan with the ball. As the defence rushed up, Dargan dummied and sliced his way over the posts for a converted try to put the Eels ahead by two.
However some quick hands from half Luke Metcalf just moments before half time, who caught a grubber on the full, saw the Sharks streak away down field, running 80m to score out wide.
The try was converted and the Eels NYC side headed to the sheds trailing 12-16.
The Eels NYC would have been looking to strike first in the second half, and they did so through winger Greg Leleisiuao in the 43rd minute. The winger cut back on an angle close to the try line to crash over underneath the posts for a converted try.
The Eels then extended their lead further, when prop Sean Keppie crashed over underneath the posts. The forward received the ball 10m out, and he swerved his way through some brittle Sharks defence to cross for a converted try in the 50th minute.
Aukafolau crossed for his second of the afternoon, when prop Faingaa poked his head through the line and offloaded a ball around the corner. The centre stepping the fullback before running 30m to score a converted try.
The tries kept coming when winger Leleisiuao crossed for his second in the 66th minute. The ball spread through the hands of the Eels back line and the try-scoring winger brushed past his defender to dive over out wide, putting the Eels 34-16 ahead.
The Shark NYC side struck back through fullback William Kennedy, after some enterprising play in the 70th minute of the clash. The fullback grubbered through the line, and after it was collected by Sharks centre Isaac Lumelume, who put in another grubber, Kennedy won the race to the ball to plant it to the right of the posts.
The try was converted and the Eels led 34-22 heading into the final 10 minutes.
Despite their best efforts in attack, the Sharks NYC side was unable to penetrate the Blue & Gold defence.
With the clock counting down, half Dean Matterson knocked over a field goal in the 78th minute of the clash to extend their lead to beyond two tries.
The score remained unchanged as the Eels NYC side secured a 35-22 victory in the Qualifying Final.
Parramatta Eels 35 (Tries: Dane Aukafolau (2), Troy Dargan, Greg Leleisiuao (2), Sean Keppie; Goals: Troy Dargan 5/6; Field Goals: Dean Matterson 1)
Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 22 (Tries: Kyle Flanagan, Josh Tuilagi, Luke Metcalf, William Kennedy; Goals: Kyle Flanagan 3/4)