It was an unexpected trip to Eels HQ on Saturday when Sydney’s wet weather forced the transfer of the final round of the junior representative season to Kellyville Park.
The fixtures against the Canberra Raiders would be vital preparation for the finals bound Harold Matthews and Tarsha Gale teams, whilst the SG Ball squad was looking to finish their season with consecutive victories.
Tarsha Gale Cup
The dominance of the Tarsha Gale Cup Eels forwards was established soon after the kick off when a huge charge from Summah Terrare put the Parra deep in attack. From the next set the Raiders couldn’t contain Jacinta Tui and she bustled her way over for the first try.
Powerful carries from Tui and Ruby-Jean Kennard then caused all sorts of mayhem for the visitor’s defence. Rose Beckett knows how to play off that sort of platform and she sliced through Canberra’s line to score the next try.
Parramatta’s pack was near impossible for the Raiders to contain and the Eels marched downfield time and time again, creating pressure and forcing errors and penalties. Petalina Atoa was next on the scorer’s sheet, ploughing over the try line off a crash play.
Not long after, dummy half Kasey Quye had her choice of eager ball runners and a delightful short pass to Ruby-Jean Kennard provided the talented prop with the next four-pointer. At this stage, the Eels score was keeping pace with the clock.
Kennard was again in the thick of the action just a few minutes later, working a wrap-around scrum move with Debbie Doueihi who was stopped just short of the line. But the damage to the Raiders defence was already done. From the play the ball, Petesa Lio charged over from close range.
The trusty boot of Eels winger Alysha Bell was nailing conversions from all points of the field and the home team took a 28 to nil lead into the half time break.
Normal transmission was restored immediately after play resumed when Petalina Atoa charged onto the ball near the line and was just too powerful to hold out.
An Eels penalty following the restart put the home team back in the Raiders red zone and Atoa was once more ready to make them pay. Another almighty charge delivered her second try in as many minutes, and her third of the match, as Parra set about establishing new scoring records.
The Eels defence was finally tested when the Raiders enjoyed a short period of both possession and field position and launched a variety of crash plays on the Eels line. However, Parra’s defence was well up to the task and forced a six tackle turnover.
The Blue and Golds then returned fire, hoisting a well placed bomb on the last tackle which the Raiders duly fumbled. Jacinta Tui was there to swoop on the loose ball and score in the corner.
Petesa Lio advanced the Eels score past the half century mark when she cut through the Canberra defence and scored just to the right of the posts.
With Alysha Bell converting every second half try, the final score finished at Eels 52, Raiders nil.
After only losing one match this season, the Parramatta team has secured second place on the Tarsha Gale Cup ladder. Their reward is a bye in the first week of the finals as they advance directly to the grand final qualifier.
Eels 52 (Tries: Petalina Atoa 3, Petesa Lio 2, Jacinta Tui 2, Ruby-Jean Kennard, Rosemarie Beckett Goals: Alysha Bell 8) defeated Raiders nil.
Harold Matthews Cup
The sixth placed Eels looked to have a battle on their hands when they faced the fifth placed Raiders in a round 9 clash that would determine their finals opponents in the Harold Matthews Cup. The Canberra team had a distinct size advantage, and the clash began with all of the expected physicality.
For the first ten minutes, the ebb and flow of the match took play to each end of the field in rapid succession. The penalties were soon mounting as both sides defended their line then counterpunched on the back of repeat possessions.
The Raiders would be first to score when a scrum play from the centre of the Eels quarter line created space on the left and the visitors crossed in the corner for an unconverted try.
Penalty stoppages continued throughout the half and were becoming a significant feature of the game. Consequently both teams were finding it difficult to gain any momentum.
Canberra extended their lead in the 17th minute when they executed a crash play between the Eels posts. At ten points to nil the visitors had the upper hand.
Not surprisingly, Parra’s reply came via another penalty. This time Matt Arthur put the Eels on the front foot, taking a quick tap and run. With the defence under pressure, he then delivered a superb short ball to Jordan Uta who crashed over for a converted try.
The teams went to half time with the score at 10-6, knowing that the next 30 minutes would determine their first opponent in the upcoming finals series.
When play resumed, the Raiders were penalised in possession and the Eels went on the attack in the Canberra quarter. A late offload found Sam Tuivaiti right on the line and he planted the ball for the equaliser.
There were hearts in the mouths of Eels supporters as the conversion struck the upright, but when it rebounded through the posts the Eels had the lead for the first time in the match.
Unfortunately for the Eels, they were soon under the pump when they didn’t complete the set following the restart.
The Raiders took full advantage of their territory and possession, scoring near the posts to register a converted try and a four point lead.
Another series of penalties followed, before Matt Arthur again caught the Raiders napping with a quick tap and run. This time the dummy half did it all himself, diving through the defence for a critical try. With the conversion unsuccessful, the scores were locked at 16 all with fifteen minutes remaining.
The penalty count was showing no sign of abating, and the Eels were under pressure after a lifting tackle was called. Canberra shifted the ball to their left and appeared to have stripped the home team for numbers. A try was imminent.
Winger Luke Maroun then threw caution to the wind and opted for the intercept. When the Raiders’ pass hit his hands, 90 metres of open pasture stood between him and the try line. His scintillating pace carried him the distance and he managed to improve the position of the put down. The ensuing conversion provided a six point buffer.
The final ten minutes was edge of the seat footy, especially when the sideline official awarded a highly dubious 40/20 call to the Raiders.
Parra’s defence held firm and forced an error late in the count. From the resulting scrum, the Eels broke the line and Michael Gabrael sprinted into the backfield. After the Raiders cover defence seemed to have saved the day, Zaidus Muagututia sent the ball wide from the play the ball and Dom Farrugia scored in the left corner to put the match beyond doubt.
The Eels have finished the season in fifth place and will meet the Sharks in an elimination final at St Marys Stadium at 9:30am on Good Friday.
Eels 26 (Tries: Jordan Uta, Sam Tuivaiti, Matthew Arthur, Luke Maroun, Dominic Farrugia Goals: Mohamed Alameddine 3) defeated Raiders 16
SG Ball Cup
Both the Raiders and Eels were out of contention for finals footy in the S G Ball, but that didn’t mean that either side would be giving an inch in the last round of the regular season.
The Raiders were the first to score when they chased a well-placed grubber kick and grounded the ball just inside the dead-ball line.
Repeat possessions set the Eels up for their response as a sequence of penalties helped them to advance to the Raiders quarter. A clever short ball hit Mark Simon on a crash play and the tough lock forced his way over next to the posts.
The Raiders soon broke the deadlock when they stripped Parra’s right side defence for numbers. The Eels went for the jam but the Raiders harbour bridge pass was executed to perfection and they crossed in the corner.
Fortune favoured the Eels when a Raiders try was disallowed due to an obstruction. After a couple of penalties, Parra was then camped on the Raiders line and looking to strike back. After seemingly stopped by the Canberra defence, interchange forward Markis Atoa found a late offload to Jacob Davis who scored between the posts.
As the half time siren sounded, the Raiders opted for a midfield kick. It took a deflection and when the visitors cleaned it up they were adjudged offside. Goal kicking forward Dom De Stradis was confident he could get the 45 metres, and his faith was rewarded when the ball sailed between the posts for an unexpected two point lead at the break.
When play resumed, Canberra survived an early Eels attacking raid, then counter-punched on the back of a timely penalty. Now deep in Parra’s half, they shifted the ball right and the Eels defence opened up for the Raiders to score and reclaim the lead.
The second Eels charge down after the break then placed them in excellent field position. They pummelled the Raiders line and Ibrahim Fakhri would not be denied. The conversion from De Stradis restored the Eels two point lead.
Unfortunately that lead did not last long. The Eels lost possession from the restart and the Raiders delivered the pain when another shift to their right came up trumps with an unconverted try.
The match continued to see-saw when a big play from Declan Murray added the next try for the Eels. Chasing hard on a grubber into the Raiders in-goal, the centre planted the ball just inside the dead-ball line. The conversion by De Stradis took the Eels to a 26 - 22 lead with just over 15 minutes remaining.
This would be the Eels last scoring play as errors became very costly.
Looking to extend their lead, Parra shifted the ball to their right on the Raiders quarter, but the pass went astray. After swooping on the ball, the Raiders were piggy-backed downfield via a couple of penalties and the pressure was too much for the Eels who conceded a converted try.
Now leading by two points, the Raiders hoisted a bomb inside the Eels quarter. Their chaser was allowed to take an uncontested catch and then pull free of defenders to cross out wide for an unconverted try.
A final play from the Eels as the siren sounded looked to have salvaged a draw. A grubber kick in front of the posts was regathered by an Eels chaser who scrambled across the line for the try. However, it was not to be as the ball was clearly dropped as it was being planted.
Parra finished the season in tenth place, three points adrift of the sixth placed Bulldogs. Injuries and player elevations have taken their toll, but the team undoubtedly had higher aspirations for this year.
Raiders 32 defeated Eels 26 (Tries: Mark Simon, Ibrahim Fakhri, Jacob Davis, Declan Murray Goals: Domenico De Stradis 5)
Round 9 - Team of the Week
1. Mohamed Alameddine HM
2. Luke Maroun HM
3. Jacinta Tua TG
4. Petesa Lio TG
5. Alysha Bell TG
6. Tallara Bamblett HM
7. Rose Beckett TG
8. Petalina Atoa TG
9. Matt Arthur HM
10. Ruby-Jean Kennard TG
11. Jordan Faleono HM
12. Saxon Pryke SG
13. Summah Terare TG
14. Katalina Vave TG
15. Markis Atoa SG
16. Kasey Quye TG
17. Jordan Uta HM