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A pre-game reshuffle of the Parramatta backline courtesy of a returning Michael Jennings has been the catalyst for a 24-10 win over St George Illawarra today at ANZ Stadium.
With Origin stars Josh Dugan and Tyson Frizell watching from the stands, the Dragons were always going to face a difficult task. Eager to prove their poor showing against Canterbury was a blip in an otherwise positive season for the Red V, the away team didn't get off to a great start, making minimal metres in their opening set before conceding the first try.
It was Clint Gutherson who crossed for that four-pointer, himself converting for an early 6-0 lead to the Eels. 'Gutho' continued accumulating points with the Eels' second after 25 minutes, although having run 80 metres he handed kicking duties to Mitch Moses who duly added the extras for a 12-0 lead before the half hour mark.
It wasn't all wine and roses for the Eels in the first half - hooker Kaysa Pritchard's knee appeared to buckle in a 23rd minute tackle, and he was taken from the field, eventually making his way to hospital.
After a lacklustre performance for most of the first forty, the Dragons ended with a flourish, Nene Macdonald crossing in the corner with assistance from Nightingale. A missed conversion from Widdop meant the away side trailled 12-4 going into the break.
The returning Jennings was the star early after the resumption - 'Jenko' scored in the 47th minute to put the Eels up 18-4 and from there the blue and gold never really looked likely to give up the lead. Bevan French all but sealed it just before the hour-mark, adding his name to the scoresheet in style, and with Gutherson's extras it was a runaway 20-point lead.
A consolation try was offered and accepted with Paul Vaughan crossing for the Saints with fifteen remaining but that would be as close as the big Red V would come to the Eels in the end, Parramatta holding on for a 24-10 victory.
Next weekend the Eels finally enjoy the bye - the last of the 16 teams to receive their first weekend off this season - before hosting Canterbury the following Thursday night at ANZ Stadium. The Dragons head home to Kogarah where they'll host the Knights on Sunday afternoon, hopefully for their sake with Dugan and Frizell in tow.
Parramatta Eels 24 - St George Illawarra Dragons 10
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Halftime Score: Parramatta Eels 12 St George Illawarra Dragons 4
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Clint Gutherson
2 points - Manu Ma'u
1 points - Bevan French
PARRAMATTA EELS (24)
Tries: Clint Gutherson (2), Michael Jennings, Bevan French
Conversions: Clint Gutherson (3/3), Mitchell Moses (1/1)
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS (10)
Tries: Nene Macdonald, Paul Vaughan
Conversions: Gareth Widdop (1/2)