The Eels demonstrated their premiership credentials by holding out a fast finishing Titans outfit in a dramatic match at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday night.
Parramatta won 26-20 after withstanding a second half Gold Coast fightback in which the home side scored two tries on the back of controversial captain's challenge calls and another while Eels prop Junior Paulo was in the sinbin.
The Eels led 20-0 at the 50th minute mark when Titans halfback Toby Sexton deliberately conceded a penalty to seek a captain's challenge, with referee Peter Gough warning: "If the challenge is unsuccessful you will go to the sin bin".
Centre Patrick Herbert used the same ploy soon after and Gold Coast five-eighth AJ Brimson laid on a try on each occasion as the home team fought their way back into the game.
NRL head of football Graham Annesley warned last week that players deliberately conceding a penalty to exploit the captain's challenge system risked being sin binned and would not be allowed to contest the referee's decision.
There was further controversy when Junior Paulo was sinbinned for a heavy tackle on Brimson and Titans forward David Fifita scored one of the best individual try of the season in his absence.
Match: Titans v Eels
Round 5 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
- Eels fullback Clint Gutherson denied AJ Brimson from scoring the opening try in the 18th minute when he swiped the ball out of the Gold Coast five-eighth's grasp as he went to collect a Toby Sexton grubber.
- Gutherson then turned try scorer three minutes later after hooker Reed Mahoney fired a long pass to halfback Mitchell Moses, who held up a short ball for his skipper.
Clint Gutherson hits the gap hard
- The Eels lost Fijian centre Waqa Blake with a knee injury but it didn't have any impact on their domination, with props Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo combining to help lay on a 26th minute try for winger Bailey Simonsson.
- Gutherson grabbed his second try off a Moses bomb to put Parramatta ahead 14-0 after 33 minutes and they went to the halftime break seemingly in control, after completing 20 of 24 sets of possession.
Gutho in absolutely everything
- A try to Ryan Matterson, who had been forced to shift to the centres, extended the Eels lead to 20-0 in the 48th minute but the match was just about to get interesting.
- A controversial captain's challenge after Titans halfback Toby Sexton deliberately flopped on Reed Mahoney to concede a penalty in order to seek a review of a missed knock-on by the Eels hooker, changed the momentum of the match.
- Gold Coast winger Phillip Sami scored off a Brimson grubber kick in the 51st minute to start a remarkable fightback.
Phillip Sami opens the Titans scoring
- Another controversial captain's challenge after Patrick Herbert refused to let Mitch Rein get to his feet to try and force a review of an incident in which Dylan Brown held him off the ball led to another try.
- This time it was hooker Erin Clark who pounced on a Brimson grubber to score in the 59th minute.
- With Eels prop Junior Paulo sin-binned for dangerous contact on Brimson, Titans star forward David Fifita took it upon himself to close the gap with a remarkable 40 metre run in which he pushed off five defenders to score.
Paulo sent to the bin
- However, hopes of a Titans comeback were all but snuffed out in the 72nd minute when Dylan Brown scored after Patrick Herbert was unable to take a Mitchell Moses bomb.
- Gold Coast winger Greg Marzhew narrowed the gap when he scored in the 75th minute but the Eels held on to claim a dramatic win.
Marzhew monsters his way over
Plays of the game
Eels props Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo combined before shifting the ball wide through Mitchell Moses, Clint Gutherson and Isaiah Papali’i for winger Bailey Simonsson to score in the corner and give his side an early 8-0 lead.
Simonsson puts it down in the corner
Titans second-rower David Fifita scored a try few other players could when he pushed off five defenders in a 40 metre charge from dummy half to score in the corner and put his side to within reach of the Eels in the 68th minute.
Activating beast mode
What they said
"We just didn't win any key moments of that first half. We did it tough down 14-0 so that made it really hard to win the game. They are one of the top sides, we are getting closer but we have got to start winning those games. The idea of the captain's challenge is to use it if you think the call is wrong. They were backing themselves a number of times because we felt like we didn't get the call that should have been. The easy way is to get it right the first time": Titans coach Justin Holbrook.
Gold Coast Titans
"I remember watching a game last week and the ref said to the captain you can only challenge that last play, not the play before, so I was just asking the question because it obviously happened to us twice. They were pretty crucial, they scored off the back of both of them. It is obviously pretty inconsistent. We just moved on and played the game but I would like a bit of clarity": Eels captain Clint Gutherson.
NRL Press Conference: Titans v Eels - Round 5, 2022
The Titans travel to Manly to take on the Sea Eagles at 4 Pines Park on Saturday, while the Eels host Wests Tigers in their annual Easter Monday clash at CommBank Stadium.
Gold Coast centre Brian Kelly (COVID protocols) will be available for the match against Manly, while fullback Jayden Campbell may be fit to return from a rib injury.
Eels coach Brad Arthur has had his three-quarter depth further stretched after Fiji centre Waqa Blake was forced from the field with a knee injury in the 29th minute.
Second-rower Shaun Lane was a late withdrawal against the Titans after initially being named to return from a hamstring injury and he may be available for the Tigers clash.