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Junior Reps Semi Finals Wrap-Up: Eels reach SG Ball Grand Final

The Parramatta Eels advanced to the 2023 SG Ball Grand Final with an outstanding win over the competition’s minor premiers Canberra.

The hard-fought win on a wet Leichhardt Oval was based on unrelenting defensive resolve which continually denied the Raiders attack.

Earlier, the Eels’ Harold Matthews team fell just short of securing a Grand Final berth in a gallant, narrow loss to Newcastle.

SG Ball Cup: Resilient Eels advance to the Grand Final

A showdown with Newcastle in the SG Ball decider awaits Parramatta after they produced their best performance of the season to defeat Canberra in the Semi Finals.

The minor premiers had lost just one game all season and recorded a 24-point victory over Parramatta when the two teams met in the regular season.

With lessons learned from that encounter, the Eels met and denied everything the Raiders could throw at them, including the late inclusion of their gun fullback, Chevy Stewart.

Eels fullback Apa Twidle and hooker Matt Arthur scored crucial tries for the second week in a row as the Blue & Gold booked their ticket to a Grand Final meeting with Newcastle, who defeated Penrith in their Semi Final.

The Eels executed their game plan to perfection in the first half. The forwards won the collision, halfback Ethan Sanders’ kicking game was on song, and the contributions of key Raiders players were nullified. Then when the opportunities came to score points, the Eels grabbed them.

The first to score was Matt Arthur. The Raiders were having extreme trouble reading his play and when they looked to cover his option runners close to the line, Arthur took full advantage of their hesitation and darted over himself.

The Raiders were determined to reply and had the possession to do so. But after absorbing enormous pressure in their own red zone, it was the Eels who were next to score.

A superb set saw the Eels forwards advance from their own half into the Raiders quarter. The ball was then shifted right to Blaize Talagi who did well to shift the ball to Devonte Vaivela. The Eels winger still had plenty to do, but stepped inside and beat a wave of cover defenders on his surge to the try line.

Sanders added the conversion, and the Eels were out to a 10-point lead after 25 minutes.

The Eels continued to turn the Raiders away in their search for a response, and Parramatta’s defensive resolve was rewarded once more with an all-important third try.

As the Raiders looked to ruck the ball off their own line, a terrific tackle by Arthur got under the arm of the runner and jolted the ball free. From the ensuing scrum, the ball went right to Apa Twidle and the Eels fullback scythed through the defence to score.

The 14-0 lead was a huge advantage for the Eels to take into the second half of a Grand Final qualifier, but the Raiders came out after the break with all guns blazing.

What followed was a lift in intensity for an already physical match. The Raiders were finding extra impact in their hits and asking bigger questions in attack.

Canberra finally ate into the deficit when prop Jake Clydsdale powered his way over for a converted try in the 45th minute.

Buoyed by their try, a fired-up Raiders threw everything in their attacking arsenal at the Eels, but Parramatta never shirked from their task. The Blue & Gold maintained their composure as the forwards bravely carried the ball into contact and the team continued to repel any raids on their line.

As the clock marched towards full-time, the Eels’ success in strangling the Raiders out of the contest was typified when their final tackle of the match forced a Canberra error.

The eight-point victory sees the Eels proceed to a Grand Final against Newcastle Knights at Leichhardt Oval this Saturday. The Knights staged their own Semi Final upset against the second-placed Panthers over the weekend, pitting third against fourth in the decider.

Eels 14 (Tries: Arthur, Vaivela, Twidle; Goals: Sanders 1) defeated Raiders 6.

Harold Matthews Cup: Eels fightback falls agonisingly short

A late surge by the Eels was just not enough against an impressive Knights side in the Harold Matthews Cup Grand Final qualifier.

The Eels rallied back from an 18-6 deficit in the final ten minutes to set up a grandstand finish, but Newcastle stopped them two points short to deny them a place in the decider.

Newcastle’s tactic of hoisting high kicks in the rainy conditions proved a critical difference, bringing them the first try and forcing a dropout which preceded the decisive four-pointer.

A greasy field was always going to make handling difficult, and when the Eels grassed an early bomb, Newcastle halfback Haaimi Loza was there to open the Knights’ account.

Parramatta struck back minutes later as searching runs from Jezaiah Funa-Iuta and Zaidas Muagututi’a laid the platform for Jordan Uta to crash his way over from close range. Dom Farrugia’s angled conversion sailed between the uprights to level the scores at the 11-minute mark.

The Eels’ celebrations were short-lived as Newcastle marched back into attacking territory. They added their second try when fullback Connor Votano cut through just left of the posts.

The remainder of the half was played at a frenetic pace but the defence of both teams held strong. Points were at a premium and Newcastle took a valuable 12-6 lead to the break.

Parramatta’s task was made harder when the Knights extended their lead early in the second half, again through Loza. From there the Knights held the ascendancy and the Eels were doing their best to hold on.

Few opportunities came their way but on the back of great composure, the Eels begun to ask questions late in the match.

Lachlan Vella ignited hope into the camp when he cut back off his left foot inside the Knights red zone and got down low to ground the ball over the line. Farrugia calmly added the extras and there was a six-point margin with just over six minutes remaining.

Strong work from Parramatta’s pack immediately put them back into the Knights quarter. A perfectly-weighted chip kick from Lorenzo Talataina saw Farrugia swoop onto it at full pace before beating the defence to score in the corner.

The conversion attempt was just wide of the mark, leaving the Eels two points adrift with four minutes left.

Despite having two more sets in possession, the Eels were unable to breach Newcastle’s defence again and fell to a cruel 18-16 loss.

Regardless, the Eels enjoyed a terrific Harold Matthews Cup campaign with the Semi Finals finish a credit to their efforts.

Knights 18 defeated Eels 16 (Tries: Uta, Vella, Farrugia; Goals: Farrugia 2).

Acknowledgement of Country

Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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