Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
10 hours ago
A gallant Parramatta Eels side has suffered a 22-8 defeat at the hands of the in-form St George-Illawarra Dragons at Parramatta Stadium. The Eels tried hard and never lacked enthusiasm but seemed to miss the direction of an experienced half back.
The Eels were hoping to put behind them a week of unwanted headlines with a strong showing against competion heavyweights the Dragons. A handy crowd of over 19,000 was on hand to cheer on the Blue and Gold.
The early part of the first half showed plenty of promise. The Eels were brimming with enthusiasm, and displayed no signs of being overawed by their highly fancied opponents. The game was an arm wrestle with neither team being able to penetrate the other team's defence. A penalty goal by each team kept the score line at 2-2 until late into the first half.
In the 34th minute, Dragons skipper Ben Hornby caught a Jamie Soward mini bomb that was deliberately aimed at the goal posts. On catching the ball, Hornby collided with the padding on the posts and landed under the black dot to score. Four minutes later the Dragons were in again. Neville Costigan, recovered from his fracas with Eric Grothe Jnr, crashed over the line adjacent to the uprights to give the Dragons a 12 point lead into the break.
The Dragons looked to control the match early in the second half. Their forwards making easy metres and halfback Soward finding plenty of open space with his clearing kicks, pinning the Eels in their own half. A penalty goal in the 54th minute putting the Dragons further ahead.
The Eels were gifted a perfect opportunity to mount a comeback when Dragons enforcer, Jeremy Smith, was sin binned for a professional foul on Eels fullback Luke Burt. Jarryd Hayne made a nice break up the middle of the field before off loading to Burt. Smith made the tackle on Burt but was deemed to have used his forearm on the head of Burt after the tackle was made. Referee Ashley Klein did not hesitate to send Smith to the bin.
The Eels tried valiantly but to no avail. They seemed to lack a genuine playmaker, a role normally undertaken by the recently departed Brett Finch. It wasn't till the 77th minute before Burt pounced on a Kris Keating grubber to add some respectability to the score line.
This reprieve was only short lived. Dragons stalwart Wendell Sailor crossed over in the dying seconds of the match. The Eels were attacking the Dragons line before a loose pass was picked up. Two tackles later the Dragons put together some slick passes which culminated in Sailor crossing near the corner. The fat lady had sung, and the hapless Eels were on the end of a 22-8 scoreline.
The Dragons played to win and they did exactly that. Their forwards were solid without being fancy. Ben Creagh and Beau Scott stood out in both attack and defense respectively. Sowards kicking game was pin point and held the Eels down in their own half. For the Eels, the ever present Nathan Hindmarsh was once again inspirational for the Blue and Golds. Unfortunately he had little support of note, with the usual creative playmaker, Feleti Mateo having an unhappy night with his hands.
Match Details St George Illawarra Dragons 22 def Parramatta Eels 8 Round 5 - Friday April 10th, 2009 7:35pm Venue: Parramatta Stadium Referee: Ashley Klein & Brett Suttor Sideline Officials: Gavin Reynolds & Steve Carrall Video Referee: Steve Clark Crowd: 19,017 Half time: Dragons 14-2 Parramatta Eels 8 Tries: Luke Burt Goals: Luke Burt (2/2) St George Illawarra Dragons 22 Tries: Ben Hornby, Neville Costigan, Wendell Sailor Goals: Jamie Soward (5/5) LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Ben Creagh (Dragons) 2 Points: Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) 1 Point: Beau Scott (Dragons) LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
EELS: 1. Luke Burt 2. Taulima Tautai 6. Jarryd Hayne 4. Krisnan Inu 5. Eric Grothe 13 Feleti Mateo 19. Jeff Robson 8. Nathan Cayless (c) 9. Matthew Keating 10. Fuifui Moimoi 3 Ben Smith 12. Todd Lowrie 11 Nathan Hindmarsh Interchange: 14. Kris Keating 15. Joe Galuvao 16. Tim Mannah 18. Brendan Oake DRAGONS: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Brett Morris 3. Beau Scott 4. Neville Costigan 5. Wendell Sailor 6. Jamie Soward 7. Ben Hornby (c) 15. Justin Poore 9. Dean Young 10. Michael Weyman 11. Matt Prior 12. Ben Creagh 13. Jeremy Smith Interchange: 14. Dan Hunt 16. Mathew Head 17. Luke Priddis 19. Jason Nightingale
Welcome to Parramatta Stadium. Beautiful Night for football. Crowd of over 15,000 already for this Good Friday encounter.
Can the Dragons continue their red hot form or will the Eels roller coaster continue.
Kick Off Shortly
1 min: Costigan drops the ball on catching the Kick Off. Parramatta scrum 25m out.
2 min: Robson in his debut for the Eels grubbers into the in goal - too big 20m restart.
4 min: Dragons attacking raid ends with a Penalty to the Eels for Sailor tackling Tautai in the air after a cross field bomb.
7 min: Eels playing some enteprising football. Knock On on the last after Inu flicked a pass to Robson who couldnt handle it 10 out from the Dragons line
13 min: On Report - Michael Weyman on report for a swinging arm on Fui Fui
14 min: Biffo - Eric Grothe and Neville Costigan exchange a couple of love taps. Costigan resents a tackle by Grothe. Dragons Penalty
17 min: Inu knocks on a Cross field bomb, Boyd fields the ball but is taken into touch. No advantage 20m restart to the Dragons.
21 min: PENALTY GOAL St George Illawarra Dragons Offside Penalty to the Dragons just left of the uprights. 2-0
30 min: PENALTY GOAL Parramatta Eels Hindmarsh tackled on suspicion 5 out from the Dragons line. Eels opt for the two points. 2 all
30 min: Hornby Kicks out on the full. Penalty Eels.
32 min: Poor finshing by the Eels on the last. They have been down on the Dragons line a few times with no repeat sets.
34 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Hornby catches a Soward Mini Bomb crashes into the goal post padding and bounces off landing under the black dot. Referred to the video ref but there is no problem with that freakish try. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 8-2
38 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Costigan scores after a bomb is batted back by the Dragons. Sailor crabs across field and passes to Soward who passes to a rampaging Costigan who scores near the posts. Video ref checking on side but all is ok. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 14-2
Half Time - Score line does not reflect the even nature of this game. The Eels have been playing extremely well but with little result. They need to improve their last tackle options and get repeat sets to place pressure on the Dragons.
The Dragons on the other hand are playing the way they have been all season. Nothing fancy, just doing the basics well and playing for field position. Their defence is outstanding, they are handling this Parramatta attack with ease.
The Eels need to find something different in the Second Half.
Can the Dragons continue their winning run or will the Eels come back and cause an upset. We will find out when the 2nd Half resumes shortly
41 min: Dragons kick off to restart the 2nd Half
43 min: Mateo drops the ball attempting his trademark off load. Dragons feed on Half Way.
44 min: Grothe diffuses a Soward cross field bomb in his own in-goal. Good lead up by the Dragons but chase wasnt great.
46 min: Eels allow a bomb to bounce inside their own 10. Luckily the Dragons knock it on. Change over.
50 min: Mateo drops the ball again. Hes having a bad day with his hands. Doesnt seem to be relishing the return to 5/8.
51 min: Grothe fumbles a Soward kick and the ball goes over the dead ball line. Repeat set for the Dragons.
54 min: PENALTY GOAL St George Illawarra Dragons Penalty against Robson for lying in the ruck. St George Illawarra Dragons 16-2
56 min: Deja Vu. Mateo drops the ball AGAIN. Out of the scrum Robson passes to Mateo and he puts it down.
57 min: Video Ref - Big Dell on the end of a slick backline movement. The big fella steamed over the line but his rear hoof caught the corner post before he got the ball down.
67 min: Sin Bin - The Eels make a nice break up the middle through a Jarryd Hayne break offloading to Burt. He ducks under a high one from Creagh and is finished off by Justin Smith. Smith proceeds to give him a facial with the forearm. Referee Klein doesnt hesitate to Sin Bin him.
71 min: Eels attacking the Dragons line. They push a couple of passes and eventually they drop it. The Eels have lifted but this is not their night.
73 min: Mateo grubbers for himself but its easily cleaned up by Soward.
76 min: This game has become predictable. The Dragons are protecting their lead and the Eels are playing desperation footy for no result.
77 min: TRY Parramatta Eels Burt chases a Kris Keating grubber. Boyd is wrong footed by the bounce and Burt is on the spot. Video ref checked onside and grouding. Eels wont be denied, and they deserved a try. Conversion attempt by Luke Burt successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 16-8
80 min: The Eels are playing hot potato footy. It passes and kicks everywhere. In the end the Dragons get the ball.
80 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons From broken play the Dragons go way way way down field. Big Dell is on the end of some back line passes. He crashes over near the corner post. Soward hooks the conversion around to finish off the Eels misery. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 22-8
And thats FULL TIME. The Dragons complete a methodical display against a rudderless Eels team. They enough ball and field position to trouble the scorer way before Burts 77th minute try. The Eels need a half back, I hear Michael Monaghan wants to return to NRL.