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Parramatta's current cohort have been hailed as likely as any to end the club's 34-year premiership drought, and they've started with an Eighties-esque 8-2 grinding down of arch-rivals Canterbury.

On a night of coronavirus contingencies, concussion drama and sex scandal fallout, the Eels and Bulldogs gave a nod to their famed grand final bouts of yesteryear with bruising defence and a try-less first half.

The comparisons to Parramatta's golden age ended there as errors and infringements dominated.

But their 2020 season kicks off with two points nonetheless.

It took Parramatta over an hour to register a four-pointer, and even then it came in fumbled fashion when Lachlan Lewis couldn't defuse a Mitch Moses grubber.

Scrambling on to the 65th minute loose ball was former Canterbury junior Reed Mahoney – cut loose from Belmore and first signed by the Eels on a $6000 deal – for the defining try of the game by default.

Heavy hits provided the thrills and spills where any great attacking passages did not.

Shots from Eels big men Nathan Brown and Shaun Lane were answered in kind by Bulldogs Adam Elliott and Renouf To'omaga.

Mahoney breaks the deadlock at Bankwest

Meanwhile speedsters on both sides also made several desperate cover tackles out wide, Michael Jennings and Will Hopoate waging their own entertaining war.

The Bulldogs ground their way through the contest after a week from hell, losing another sponsor in MPA just hours before kick-off as a result of allegations from their pre-season trip to Port Macquarie.

Their 1988-premiership winning coach Phil Gould had warned the drama could derail Canterbury's campaign before it even started.

But the defensive commitment of Dean Pay's men at least spoke of a side desperate to keep the issue on the sidelines.

They did so in front of a 21,363-Bankwest Stadium crowd impacted by growing coronavirus fears.

Winger Christian Crichton could face a judiciary-imposed isolation next weekend himself after landing on report for an ugly shoulder to the head of Maika Sivo.

The Parramatta powerhouse looked rattled by the shot but was cleared of a HIA by the club's trainer and stayed on the field for the duration.

However an NRL spokesperson confirmed that connection issues meant the usual sideline surveillance of such incidents was not available to NRL medicos.

A penalty goal each was all either side had to show for their efforts in the first half, with six errors in the Eels' first 10 sets cruelling them of any fluency in attack.

The first captain's challenge of the NRL season went the same way, Parramatta wasting it by contesting a blatant knock-on from Reagan Campbell-Gillard. Canterbury similarly botched their challenge early in the second stanza.

An hour later Mahoney's try was all that separated the fierce rivals.

The Bulldogs stayed in it right until the final minutes but their last attacking foray – ended by a misdirected early kick in the tackle count from Lewis – went the same as all the rest.

Parramatta's defence held strong and the Dogs were held at bay.