The rain was still lurking, and the New Era Stadium turf was heavy, but after a month without football, it was a welcome return to action for the Eels Junior Representative teams on Saturday.
A fully cancelled round has shortened this year’s competitions, so every remaining match is now critical.
Junior Reps Round Six Highlights
Fortunately, the Eels rebooted their respective campaigns with wins in all three grades against the North Sydney Bears.
Tarsha Gale Cup
Parra hit the ground running in the Tarsha Gale Cup clash with the Bears, and soon had their opponents on the back foot with early territory and possession.
After receiving a penalty in the Bears red zone, five-eighth Tallara Bamblett brought Debbie Doueihi into a sweeping right-side play. The Eels fullback showed a clean pair of heels to score in the corner, taking the home team to a four-nil lead after three minutes.
The right side was proving the place to be, and just four minutes later the Eels were once more hitting that edge. This time, centre Petesa Lio provided a terrific offload for Ellah Hughes to post a try on debut.
It was one-way traffic as the Eels launched assault after assault on the Bears line. Ashlee Pottinger was next to appear on the scorer’s sheet. After appearing to take the wrong option when she ran from dummy half on the last tackle, her strength saw her roll out of contact as she planted the ball close to the posts.
The conversion from Summah Terare extended Parra’s lead to 14 nil after 15 minutes.
A greater share of possession ignited the Bears in the ten minutes before the break. Tries to Grace-Lee Weekes and Bella Hunt took their total to ten points and reduced the margin to four as both teams hit the sheds.
The Eels were straight on the attack after the break and looked to have crossed in the second minute but the referee ruled an obstruction.
Not deterred, halfback Rosemarie Beckett soon won the ball back for her team. Moments later Petesa Lio reeled in a sensational catch on the Bears line and linked with Ellah Hughes for the winger to cross for her second try of the day.
The conversion was unsuccessful but at 18 to 10 the Eels lead had now pushed past a converted try.
Lio wouldn’t have long to wait for a try of her own. Classy halves play from Bamblett had her feigning a pass out the back before delivering a flat ball to a charging Lio. A successful conversion by Beckett took the score out to 24 to 10 with 16 minutes to go.
The Eels wrapped up the match with two classy tries to Jacinta Tui. She firstly combined with Doueihi on the left, scything through the Bears defence with power and footwork. She scored her second try by diving on a clever Beckett kick into the in-goal.
Both tries were unconverted, with Parra finishing with seven tries in their 32 to 10 victory. It was a complete team performance with the forwards laying a strong platform and the halves providing quality service to the outside backs.
Eels 32 (Tries: Ellah Hughes 2, Jacinta Tui 2, Debbie Doueihi, Ashlee Pottinger, Petesa Lio Goals: Summah Terare, Rosemarie Beckett) defeated Bears 10
Harold Matthews Cup
They made their task harder with a high error rate, but it was an encouraging return to the winner’s list for the Eels Harold Matthews team in their match against the Bears.
The Eels were on the front foot early in the contest when a penalty, followed by a quick tap and go by Matt Arthur, put them deep into Bears territory. A sweeping move to the left paid dividends with Blaize Talagi and Lorenzo Talataina linking to put fullback Mohamed Alameddine across out wide.
Parra’s custodian nailed the angled conversion and the Eels took a six point lead after four minutes.
A multitude of errors from the home team kept the Bears in the game despite the Eels physical superiority. Tries and line breaks went wanting as Parra spilt the ball at inopportune moments.
The wet conditions were wreaking havoc with the handling, and after being continually invited into the Eels half by errors, the Bears finally scored off a crash play under the posts. The scores were locked at six all with ten minutes left in the half.
No further scores were added before the break as completions became challenging for both teams.
Parra took a four-point lead five minutes into the second half through some magic from Richard Penisini. Drawing in two defenders around the halfway line, the talented centre created space for debutant Dominic Farrugia who scorched the turf in a 50-metre dash to the line.
It was rapid-fire action from the kick-off as a penalty put the Eels immediately on the attack. A scintillating backline movement from Talagi, Talataina and Alameddine put Penisini over down the right edge. This time the conversion was successful and Parra now had a ten-point buffer.
Just when it seemed like the Eels were ready to skip away, those errors opened the door for the visitors once more. With critical territory and possession falling their way, two unconverted tries from the Bears in quick time reduced the Eels lead to 16-14 with 13 minutes remaining.
The see-sawing nature of the game continued when four minutes later the Eels were the next to score. Taking on the defence near the posts, Blaize Talagi stood strong in the tackle and offloaded for Zaidas Muagututia to cross. The try was converted by Alameddine.
That man Talagi put the exclamation point on the match with an individual try from close range. The 26 to 14 scoreline remained unchanged for the final five minutes of play.
The Eels are yet to fully hit their stride, but the much-needed win has elevated them to 6th spot in a heavily congested ladder.
Eels 26 (Tries: Mohamed Alameddine, Dominic Farrugia, Richard Penisini, Zaidas Muagututia, Blaize Talagi Goals: Mohamed Alameddine 3) defeated Bear 14
SG Ball Cup
Near enough hadn’t been good enough for the Eels in their three S G Ball encounters this season. Coming into this round with two close losses and a draw, and missing a number of key players who’d been elevated to Flegg Cup, a win was imperative for the team.
The Eels began strongly and their early pressure was rewarded with repeat possessions on the Bears’ line. Zippy five-eighth Reilly Canning took full advantage of the weakened defence, backing himself and his pace to dash over from close range. Canning then took his personal points tally to six when he converted his own try.
Parra seemed to be winning the territorial battle until a terrific long-range try by the Bears put them on the scoreboard. Darcy Brettle converted his own try to level the scores after 18 minutes.
Buoyed by that effort, the Bears lifted in intensity and the rest of the half became a tough, physical arm wrestle, with neither team able to gain the ascendancy.
The Eels looked like being the first to break the deadlock after the break, but a try by Terrence Lafai was disallowed for obstruction.
Fortune fell Parra’s way shortly afterwards when a deep kick from Canning broke 90 degrees to the right, beating the fullback. Declan Murray emphasised the value of a good chase by claiming the ball to score a converted try.
All momentum was immediately lost with an error by the Eels in the kick offset. The Bears then struck back with a try of their own off a kick. The conversion was unsuccessful, and the two-point margin made it anybody’s game.
With ten minutes remaining, a big call from the referee could have proved costly for the Eels. Lance Fualema charged through defenders close to the line and appeared to ground the ball. The referee was in the process of pointing to the spot but received what looked like a late call from the sideline and signalled held up. The Eels prop was upset by the call, and was then penalised and sin-binned for dissent.
It was edge of the seat stuff for both teams during the final minutes, with neither side taking a backwards step. Ultimately the scoreboard didn’t change with the Eels holding on with only 12 men.
The hard-fought victory could just be the fillip the Eels need for their confidence as they hit the back half of the season.
Eels 12 ( Tries: Reilly Canning, Declan Murray Goals: Reilly Canning 2) defeated Bears 10.
Team of the Week
- Debbie Douehi (TG)
- Luke Maroun (HM)
- Richard Penisini (HM)
- Petesa Lio (TG)
- Ellah Hughes (TG)
- Blaize Talagi (HM
- Rose Beckett (TG)
- Petalina Atoa (TG)
- Ashlee Pottinger (TG)
- Ruby-Jean Kennard (TG)
- Tahlesha Maeva (TG)
- Saxon Pryke (SG)
- Nic Lenaz (SG)
- Katalina Vave (TG)
- Markis Atoa (SG)
- Chelsea Steel (TG)
- Lance Fualema (SG)