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Junior Reps Grand Final Wrap-Up: Eels crowned 2023 SG Ball Premiers

In a landmark moment for Parramatta’s Junior Reps program, the Eels claimed their 14th SG Ball Cup title in a gripping Grand Final.

The Eels dug deep in wet conditions to hold out a determined Newcastle Knights outfit in a 28-22 victory before a vocal crowd at Leichhardt Oval.

In a special post-game moment, the team was greeted in the sheds by Parramatta’s NRL squad celebrating their premiership triumph.

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Halfback Ethan Sanders was named man of the match for his composed performance in a rainy, high-stakes situation. He crossed for the opening try and kicked four goals, while Devonte Vaivela notched a double and Charlie Guymer and Richard Penisini rounded out the scoring.

Prop Sam Tuivaiti stood out in a powerful Parramatta forward pack, which set the tone early with powerful runs in the opening exchanges.

Sanders stamped his class on the match when he engineered and scored the Eels’ first try. Taking play towards Newcastle’s right edge, his pinpoint pass put Dom DeStradis into space before he backed up to accept the return ball and touch down.

Shortly after, five-eighth Joshua Lynn produced his own magic down the Eels’ right, sending Charlie Guymer through a hole to set up Devonte Vaivela to cross in the corner. Sanders’ sideline conversion took the Eels out to a 12-point lead in even time.

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Momentum shifted Newcastle’s way as they dominated possession for the next 20 minutes. The Knights eventually found a breakthrough via Beau Slade, before Ethan Ferguson scored on the stroke of halftime to level the scores at halftime.

The Eels’ defensive resolve was tested by an energetic Knights during the early stages of the second half, but hooker Matt Arthur’s sublime 40/20 laid the platform for Parramatta to regain the lead.

Attacking the line, Arthur’s last-tackle pass to a rampaging Charlie Guymer sent the Eels skipper crashing over between the posts.

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Now on a roll, the Eels extended their lead to 10 points when Richard Penisini punished a backpedalling Knights defence to charge over in the left corner.

Just as they did in the first half, the Knights subsequently enjoyed a flow of possession and trimmed the margin down to four points via Mayson Metcalf’s converted try.

The decider was on a knife’s edge with both sides fighting to gain the ascendancy, and Parramatta prevailed.

Devonte Vaivela scored a decisive second try, hauling in Apa Twidle’s bouncing pass to cross out wide, where Ethan Sanders landed another sideline conversion and restored the Eels’ 10-point lead.

Refusing to lay down, the Knights quickly replied with a right-corner try to Taj Blackman, putting Newcastle within a converted try as a tense finale unfolded.

The play flowed from end to end as the clock ticked down. A Knights penalty in the dying seconds set the stage for a thrilling conclusion, but the Eels defended to the death and claimed the SG Ball Cup.

NRL squad members joined the team in the sheds post-match to celebrate the next generation of Parramatta Eels talent.

Eels 28 (Tries: Vaivela 2, Sanders, Guymer, Penisini; Goals: Sanders 4) defeated Knights 22.

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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