The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs eliminated the Parramatta Eels from the 2018 Jersey Flegg competition in a 22-18 thriller at Panthers Stadium.
An even start to the game saw some brilliant end-to-end footy that turned out to be the theme of the match, but once the Bulldogs got back-to-back sets they were able to capitalise. A ball ricocheted off a Parramatta defender while the Bulldogs were on the attack, and Alex Seve took advantage by hitting a hole and taking an early lead.
Parramatta hit back with a long-range effort soon after when Haze Dunster made a bust during a left-side raid and gave the ball to Todd Sapienza, who was looming in support, before he stretched out and planted the ball for a try despite the Bulldogs' best efforts to bring him down.
That try was finesse, but the next as brute strength when Sione Fonua wound up from 10 metres out and forced his way over, before Ethan Parry did almost the same shortly afterwards as he ducked underneath the first defender and powerfully found his way to the try-line.
A miss-timed kick gave the Bulldogs a 20-metre restart with seven tackles up their sleeve and they certainly made the Eels pay. Brandon Wakeham took the ball to the line before he threw an absolutely perfect pass to Dalton Smith, who caught the ball on the outside of his defender and strolled through the hole to score.
Despite Parramatta having scored three tries to two, 12-all was the half-time score, but the Bulldogs overtook that statistic in the space of six minutes when Tuipulotu Katoa scored before Smith crossed for his second to kick off the second half.
The Eels hit back when Sapienza secured his double after some strong charges and an offload by Stefano Utoikamanu which etched the margin back to four, and it looked like the Bulldogs had secured the game when Ryan Gray threw a magic flick-pass that almost led to a try, but the scrambling Parramatta defence kept them in the battle.
A frantic final minute saw the Eels throw the ball to all points of the park in a desperate attempt to score, but it would be an important tackle by Gray that shut them down, eliminating the Blue & Gold from the finals.
Parramatta Eels Jersey Flegg 18 (Tries: Todd Sapienza (2), Sione Fonua, Ethan Parry; Goals: Todd Sapienza 1/4)
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Jersey Flegg 22 (Tries: Dalton Smith (2), Alex Seve, Tuipulotu Katoa; Goals: Brandon Wakeham 3/4)