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Eels dust off cobwebs in opening trial

The Eels got their first taste of football for the season in a trial match against the Raiders, ending in a 38-16 victory for Canberra.

Fielding a youthful side, Parramatta enjoyed a strong start to the match and led 16-10 early in the second half. But as Brad Arthur begun withdrawing his experienced players from the contest, Canberra finished with a flurry to claim a trial win.

Eels recruit Kelma Tuilagi was highly impressive, registering 167 run metres, eight tackle breaks and one line break in his first appearance in Blue & Gold.

Fellow new signing Morgan Harper slotted nicely into the Eels’ backline, assisting a try and making a line break.

The Eels’ tries came courtesy of Ofahiki Ogden, Sean Russell and Bailey Simonsson.

Parramatta put Canberra under pressure from the outset in a positive start.

The Eels forwards had a spring in their step, while the starting spine of Blaize Talagi, Daejarn Asi, Ethan Sanders and Brendan Hands showed great composure in attack.

The Eels’ early dominance was rewarded with the opening try, as Ofahiki Ogden barrelled into the goal-line defence and found the try line.

Ofa goes over!

Sean Russell, who assumed goal-kicking duties in the first half, knocked over the conversion for a 6-0 lead.

Parramatta quickly marched back into the red zone, and continued to ask questions of Canberra as Hands came close to scoring and Asi forced a dropout. It was not long before the Eels scored their second however, and it came with a neat link-up on the right edge.

Morgan Harper showed great skill to shimmy away from the Raiders defence and flick a pass away to Sean Russell, who dived over in the corner to hands the Eels a 10-0 lead.

Morgan's moves send Sean over

On the cusp of quarter-time, Canberra clawed one back against the run of play as Kaeo Weekes scored in the corner after his own bomb hit the deck.

The try kickstarted Canberra’s afternoon, and Xavier Savage soon found himself breaking into the backfield from his own try line. But Sean Russell, in a show of great desperation, sprinted 75 metres to stop Savage in his tracks.

Russell’s heroics only delayed the Raiders however, as Peter Taateo crashed over a few plays later to level the scores at 10-10.

The Eels’ disappointing end to the second half was compounded by a game-ending head knock to young dummy half Matt Arthur, just moments after he was injected into the match. Meanwhile, Makahesi Makatoa was placed on report for an alleged hip drop.

The Raiders found themselves reduced to twelve men early in the second half, as Noah Martin was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle.

Kelma Tuilagi was quick to capitalise on the numerical advantage, making an impressive line break to put Parramatta into attacking range.

The opportunity would not go to waste, as Josh Lynn’s cross-field kick was plucked out by a soaring Bailey Simonsson to score Parramatta’s third try. Russell’s conversion re-established a six-point lead for Parramatta.

Simonsson soars, Simonsson scores!

Simonsson combined with Ethan Sanders for a spectacular try-saver to maintain the Eels’ lead shortly after.

However, as Brad Arthur begun pulling key players from the contest, Canberra stormed into their first lead of the match and ran away with victory.

The Raiders ran in five unanswered tries against Parramatta’s young brigade, ultimately winning by 22 points.

The Eels will travel to Ipswich for a second trial match against the Titans next week, their final hit-out before kicking off their NRL campaign against the Bulldogs.

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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