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Eels claim top spot, but lose
Fulltime score: Round 26 Parramatta Eels 28 v Brisbane Broncos 14
Match summary: The Parramatta Eels have claimed the 2005 Minor Premiership with a come-from-behind 28-14 victory over the Brisbane Broncos at Parramatta Stadium, but the victory has been tempered by a potentially season-ending knee injury to star forward Nathan Hindmarsh.
Hindmarsh was carried from the field in only the third minute of the match, and left the ground late in the second half for an MRI scan which will determine how much of a part he will play in the Eels finals charge for 2005.
The injury seemed to affect the Eels, and the Broncos capitalised with two strong tries to take a 14-6 lead into the break. The Eels were restricted on attack by some uncharacteristic errors and some very strong Brisbane defence, although Timana Tahu looked dangerous and Fui Fui Moi Moi made his usual impact from the bench. The Broncos were looking much stronger with returning stars Shane Webcke and Brett Seymour leading the way, along with able back-up from Sam Thaiday and Brent Tate.
But in a carbon copy of last weeks performance, the Eels came out looking like a completely different team after half-time. While the Broncos looked very tired after 60 minutes of the match, the Eels grew in confidence and scored some sparkling tries as they outscored the visitors 22-0 in the second half.
Dean Widders had another fantastic game for the Eels, scoring two tries and creating opportunities with his trademark barging runs. Fellow 'benchie' Fui Fui Moi Moi had the crowd going all night, and Tim Smith, Chad Robinson and Wade McKinnon all provided flashes of brilliance as the Eels claimed the J J Giltinan Shield.
The Broncos put in a brave effort, but still look like a team in desperate need of a rest before the finals. While Shane Webcke made a strong return from his knee injury, they have plenty of other stars that would need to return very shortly to keep their 2005 title hopes alive. Berrick Barnes was concussed late in the match in their only major injury concern.
Eels v Broncos match photos: Click here to see the photo gallery for this game
Scorers: PARRAMATTA EELS 28 Tries: Widders 2, B Smith, Vella, Burt Goals: Burt 4/5 BRISBANE BRONCOS 14 Tries: Civoniceva, Thaiday Goals: Seymour 3/3
Live commentary: Welcome to Parramatta Stadium for what promises to be a ripper of a clash between the Eels and the Broncos! Both teams are welcoming back some big guns, although Lockyer is still out for the Broncos. The weather looks good, and we're all set to go in front of a sold out Parramatta crowd.
0 min: KICKOFF!
3 min: INJURY - Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) has gone down clutching his right knee, and he is assisted from the field by the trainers.
5 min: Brent Tate takes a great short pass from Darren Smith and breaks through, but can't quite get the ball away to Scott Minto to finish the movement and the ball goes into touch.
8 min: PENALTY GOAL - Broncos Another great Brent Tate run gives the Broncos excellent field position before the Eels are penalised for being offside. Brett Seymour opens the scoring for tonight. Eels 0 Broncos 2
10 min: Leon Bott (Broncos) claims an Eels kick inside his own in-goal and runs 60 metres upfield to give the Broncos another good attacking chance.
11 min: NO TRY - Broncos Brad Thorn is held up over the line on the last tackle.
12 min: VIDEO REF - checking a possible Eels try ...
12 min: TRY - Eels It's been a frantic opening to this match! Chad Robinson made a huge bust up the middle to set up a chance for the Eels, and a Tim Smith grubber kick was missed by Scott Minto and left for Ben Smith to score the first try. Luke Burt adds the extras. Eels 6 Broncos 2
16 min: A Minties moment here, as a Broncos trainer falls flat on his backside while trying to evade a Tim Smith kick. The Eels have forced a goal-line drop out.
21 min: Errors are starting to creep in from both sides as they look to run the ball as much as possible. PJ Marsh is on for the Eels.
23 min: UPDATE - Nathan Hindmarsh's early diagnosis is cruciate ligament damage, he may not be back this year.
25 min: TRY - Broncos An Eels error hands the ball back to the Broncos 15 metres out from their line, and the next set sees Petero Civoniceva crash over from close range. Brett Seymour's conversion is successful. Eels 6 Broncos 8
31 min: Some brilliant ball movement from the Eels is brought undone when Glenn Morrison throws the ball behind Eric Grothe and into touch.
34 min: ON REPORT - Fui Fui Moi Moi (Eels) has absolutely smashed Berrick Barnes, although it looked like Barnes was slipping into the tackle.
35 min: TRY - Broncos Sam Thaiday has scored right under the posts. There is a hint of a possible obstruction from the Broncos, but Simpkins awards the try straight away. Seymour converts from in front. Eels 6 Broncos 14
40 min: The Eels have had two good attacking sets in the last two minutes, but scrambling Broncos defence has kept them out both times.
HALFTIME: Eels 6 Broncos 14
It's an absorbing contest here tonight. After a frantic opening quarter, both teams have settled into a more structured groove with the Broncos making the most of their chances so far. Sam Thaiday has had an explosive match after starting off the bench for the Broncos, and Timana Tahu is looking sharp out wide for the Eels. Possession: Eels 51% Broncos 49% Completion: Eels 12/18 Broncos 14/19 Missed tackles: Eels 27 Broncos 26 Offloads: Eels 13 Broncos 4
The second half is underway!
43 min: Tim Smith (Eels) is tackled late by Neville Costigan after putting a grubber kick through, Eels get a penalty.
44 min: Tim Smith has been smashed again, legally this time by Tonie Carroll. The last tackle kick is left to Nathan Cayless (!) and the Eels force a line drop-out.
47 min: TRY - Eels Dean Widders slides over to give the Eels the perfect start to the second half. It came on the back of a penalty after Brad Thorn had a bit too much to say to the referee after a Broncos forward pass. Luke Burt adds the two points. Eels 12 Broncos 14
52 min: The Eels have held out two promising Broncos chances, but are having trouble getting out of their own half.
56 min: The Eels make a good break upfield and Tim Smith puts in a cross-field kick, but the Broncos claim the ball. We've got two very evenly matched teams here tonight.
59 min: The Broncos have been forced into two consecutive line drop-outs, plenty of pressure being built by the Eels at the moment.
60 min: TRY - Eels Michael Vella latches onto a Tim Smith grubber and scores to give the Eels the lead. Luke Burt converts. Eels 18 Broncos 14
64 min: The Eels have visibly lifted now, and are regularly getting over the advantage line.
68 min: INJURY UPDATE - Nathan Hindmarsh has left the ground, he'll be having an MRI scan shortly. Berrick Barnes (Broncos) is off the field with concussion.
69 min: TRY - Eels Dean Widders grabs his second try of the night, smashing through some tired Broncos defenders and scoring next to the posts. Luke Burt converts once again. Eels 24 Broncos 14
72 min: TRY - Eels A fantastic effort here! Luke Burt climbs high to claim a Tim Smith kick, and crashes down with the ball to claim the try. Wade McKinnon set up the field position with a slashing run upfield. Burt fails to convert his own try from out wide. Eels 28 Broncos 14
76 min: FIELD GOAL ATTEMPT - Eels Mark Riddell gives it a shot for no apparent reason, and the kick goes wide.
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - Dean Widders (Eels) 2 - Fui Fui Moi Moi (Eels) 1 - Brent Tate (Broncos) -----------------------------------------