It was two wins from two matches for the Eels Junior Rep teams in their Round 9 fixtures at McCredie Park on Saturday.
Unfortunately, the outcomes of these victories would prove to be vastly different.
The Harold Matthews clash featured Parra against the Central Coast Roosters. The Roosters were looking to hold on to a top six berth, whilst the Eels were trying to strengthen their grip on second place.
It was all Parra during a dominant first half as pivot, Blaize Talagi, stamped his class on the game. The first try to Suliasi Aho came from a clever cut-out pass from Talagi, before the Eels five-eighth did it all himself as he navigated his way through the Roosters defence to plant the ball to the left of the posts.
If that wasn’t enough, a huge defensive play from Talagi just before half time forced an error from the Roosters. He then followed that up with several attacking involvements on the way to providing the ball for Tyrese Lokeni to add the third try which took the Eels to a 14 to nil lead at the break.
Junior Reps Highlights, Round 9
The second half was only a couple of minutes old when Talagi again provided a big defensive play to force another Roosters turnover. From the ensuing scrum, a bold offload from Saxon Pryke released Declan Murray into open pastures.
It appeared that the centre was going to reach the line himself, but he chose to kick into the in-goal and the ever-present Ethan Sanders won the race to ground the ball for the Eels fourth try.
The Roosters temporarily stemmed the flow of points with a try of their own ten minutes into the half, but it would only be a temporary reprieve.
Just five minutes later, Sanders offered a delightful short ball for Joshua Alhazim close to the line, and the interchange forward delivered the knockout blow to the Central Coast as he crossed with fifteen minutes remaining.
Patrick Spence provided the icing for this Easter cake when he was the recipient of a classic outside/inside play from Talagi and fullback Patrick Spence. The custodian’s try was a terrific reward for another busy display.
The Eels are now sitting in second place with one round to play. The top two teams receive a bye in the first week of the finals and move directly to the grand final qualifier.
Parra’s SG Ball clash with the Victoria Thunderbolts was a must-win encounter. Though the Eels duly saluted in a come-from-behind victory, the narrow margin saw the Eels drop from 6th to 7th place on the ladder.
The Thunderbolts led for most of this game taking full advantage of unforced Eels errors.
They were first to score after an Eels penalty kick failed to find touch. The visitors marched from their own half to the Eels quarter in the subsequent set of six, and an attacking kick saw the Thunderbolt’s winger score in the corner.
Despite a raft of errors, the Eels were next to score on the back of a Josh Chappell kick which found centre Kamoe Fekitoa in a try assist akin to a legal forward pass. The half-time score of 6-4 to the Thunderbolts was probably a fair indication of Parra’s struggles to complete sets or finish scoring opportunities.
The Victorians were the first team to register points after the break via their dummy half. Not to be outdone, the Eels replacement number 9, Keanu Wright-Dunrobbin, added his own try following a dart from dummy half.
Just when it looked like the Eels were ready to exert some authority on proceedings, another error in possession provided the Thunderbolts with good territory and ultimately another try to their live-wire dummy half.
With less than a quarter of the match remaining, and facing an eight point deficit, the Eels finally flexed their attacking muscle, running in three tries in quick succession.
The Eels forwards were proving far too strong for their southern counterparts, and a try double to Jontay-Junior Bentham-Misa and one to captain Peter Taateo took the final scoreline to Eels 28, Thunderbolts 18.
Despite winning, the Eels have been overtaken in the race for 6th spot by the Steelers. The Illawarra team enjoyed a 30 point victory in their round 9 match and now hold a 17 point differential advantage over the Eels, with only a match against the winless Bears remaining.
Then again, rugby league results should never be taken for granted.
Harold Matthews Cup
Parramatta 28 (Tries: Suliasi Aho, Blaize Talagi, Tyrese Lokeni, Ethan Sanders, Joshua Alhazim, Patrick Spence Goals: Ethan Sanders 2) defeated Central Coast Roosters 4
SG Ball Cup
Parramatta 28 (Tries: Jontay-Junior Bentham-Misa 2, Kamoe Fekitoa, Keanu Wright-Dunrobbin, Peter Taateo Goals: Josh Chappell 4) defeated Victoria Thunderbolts 18
Tarsha Gale Cup
Photo Credit: Bryden Sharp