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Eels keep their finals charge on track
Parramatta Eels 28 v St George Illawarra Dragons 6
at Parramatta Stadium
Referee: Steve Clark
The Parramatta Eels have continued their unlikely finals charge by defeating the St George Illawarra Dragons by 28-6 in front of 19,137 wet fans at Parramatta Stadium tonight.
The first twenty minutes of the match belonged almost exclusively to the Dragons, and an early penalty goal followed by a superb Colin Best try opened up a 6-0 lead to the visitors. However, as has so often been the case in recent weeks, the Dragons weren't able to keep their foot on the pedal and allowed the Eels to slowly but surely graft their way back into the match.
After building plenty of pressure, the Eels were able to cut loose within the final ten minutes of the first half. Tries to Luke Burt and Eric Grothe (and a further two very near misses) had the Eels up by 10-6 at the break, and the momentum of the match had quickly swung around to the home team.
Any chance of a Dragons revival was dented by a second Eric Grothe try in the 46th minute, and shortly afterwards Danny Wicks was sin-binned as punishment for repeated infringements in the ruck by the Dragons team. Luke Burt was able to extend the Eels lead with a couple of penalty goals before fill-in front rower Chad Robinson claimed a 64th minute try to put the match well out of the Dragons reach.
Apart from the opening quarter, there was very little for Dragons fans to get excited about tonight. Their general discipline was dreadful, and although Mathew Head tried hard, they lacked a certain spark on attack. After tonight's result, the Dragons now find themselves with a negative points differential - and that could be crucial as the race for finals positions intensifies.
While it looked like a relatively comfortable win for the Eels, they weren't at their best either - although the wet conditions probably contributed to that as well. Nathan Cayless was a tower of strength up front, best illustrated by his recovery of a Trent Barrett chip-kick in the 78th minute. PJ Marsh had an excellent game from the bench, providing plenty of spark around dummy-half, while Eric Grothe, John Morris, Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt were other strong contributors to the final result.
Parramatta Eels: 28
Tries: Eric Grothe (2), Luke Burt, Chad Robinson
Goals: Luke Burt 6/7
St George Illawarra Dragons: 6
Tries: Colin Best
Goals: Mathew Head 1/2
By the Clock:
Welcome to Parramatta Stadium for what promises to be a ripper of a clash between the Eels and the Dragons!
For the Dragons, Clint Greenshields comes onto the bench in place of Michael Henderson. The Eels are unchanged from 1-17.
KICKOFF: We're underway!
2 min: Matt Bickerstaff is penalised for a dodgy-looking hit on Jeremy Smith after he had kicked the ball upfield. Eels on attack ...
3 min: The first attacking opportunity of the night amounts to nothing as an Eels grubber kick goes dead in-goal.
5 min: PENALTY GOAL St George Illawarra Dragons
Glenn Morrison is penalised for stripping the ball in the tackle - Mathew Head steps up and opens the scoring tonight.
8 min: The crowd are getting stuck into referee Steve Clark nice and early, and he responds by handing a penalty to the Eels - but on the very next hit-up, Nathan Cayless loses the ball in a great Dragons tackle.
9 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons
Trent Barrett hoists a perfectly timed bomb 35 metres out from the tryline; Colin Best claims the ball beautifully and crosses the line untouched.
Head misses the conversion attempt.
13 min: Jeremy Smith is pressured on a last-tackle kick again (legally this time), and he puts the ball out on the full well inside Eels territory.
14 min: A dropped ball from Matt Bickerstaff saves the Eels from conceding another try.
17 min: There have been 7 penalties already tonight (split 4-3 to the Eels), mostly for offside infringements.
18 min: A great Eric Grothe offload sets up a good chance for the Eels, but John Morris knocks-on close to the Dragons try-line. It's raining quite heavily in Parramatta which is obviously going to affect the handling from both teams tonight.
20 min: NO TRY Parramatta Eels
Mark Riddell tries a barge-over right under the posts, but loses the ball among the Dragons defenders.
26 min: Matt Cooper combines with Ben Hornby to split the Eels up the middle, and on the next tackle they force the Eels into a goal line drop-out.
30 min: VIDEO REF - possible Eels try ...
30 min: TRY Parramatta Eels
John Morris kicks into the in-goal very early in the tackle count, and Luke Burt races through to dot down for the try.
Burt converts his own try, and we're all locked up.
32 min: Mathew Head intercepts a Dean Widders pass, and puts Brett Morris into space with a clear run to the line - but some great covering defence from Jarryd Hayne and Nathan Hindmarsh pushes him into touch just inches away from the tryline.
38 min: NO TRY Parramatta Eels
John Morris puts in another pinpoint kick, this time out to the wing of Jarryd Hayne. Hayne is able to get above Brett Morris to claim the ball, but loses it as he's trying to put it down.
39 min: NO TRY Parramatta Eels
A dropped ball from the Dragons gives the Eels another chance - this time, Jeremy Smith is declined as the Dragons defence pulls him down just short of the line.
39 min: TRY Parramatta Eels
All the pressure finally pays off! Ben Smith produces a beauty of a flick pass to Eric Grothe, who spins out of an attempted tackle from Colin Best and scores in the corner.
Luke Burt misses the conversion.
HALFTIME: Eels 10 Dragons 6
So far, it's an all-too-familiar tale for the Dragons as they started strongly but then retreated back into their shells and allowed the Eels back into the match. Despite copping a warning for getting too lippy to the ref, PJ Marsh has produced a lot of spark for the Eels since coming into the match from the bench.
Possession: Eels 56% Dragons 44%
Completion: Eels 13/21 Dragons 13/20
Dummy half runs: Eels 15 Dragons 6
Penalties: Eels 7 Dragons 5
The second half is underway!
42 min: The Dragons get an early chance to hit back, but Ben Creagh fumbles a Trent Barrett pass with the try-line beckoning.
46 min: TRY Parramatta Eels
Eric Grothe claims his second try following some great pressure from the Eels. Josh Cordoba makes a good break up the middle, and on the next play the ball is spun wide to Grothe, who again ignores Colin Best to score.
Luke Burt converts from out wide.
50 min: Mathew Head puts in a little chip for Brett Morris, but the ball goes over the sideline in-goal.
52: SIN BIN - Danny Wicks is sin-binned for holding down in the tackle as the Dragons discipline goes from bad to worse.
52 min: PENALTY GOAL Parramatta Eels
Luke Burt pots another two points from the ensuing penalty.
54 min: The Dragons try to spin the ball wide on the last tackle inside their own 30-metre line, but the play is called back for a forward pass.
57 min: PENALTY GOAL Parramatta Eels
The Eels force a goal-line drop out, and Trent Barrett kicks the ball out on the full. Luke Burt kicks the penalty goal from right in front of the posts.
60 min: A charge-down gives the Dragons a full set of six only twenty metres out from the Eels line - but a forward pass spoils their chance to reduce the defecit.
62 min: Danny Wicks returns to the field.
62 min: A great forty metre kick-return from Luke Burt sets up a brilliant chance for the Eels - but some desperate Dragons defence pushes Luke O'Dwyer into touch close to the tryline.
64 min: VIDEO REF - possible Eels try ...
64 min: TRY Parramatta Eels
Dean Widders puts a neat grubber into the in-goal, and three Dragons defenders make a complete mess of trying to cover it. Chad Robinson is on hand to claim the try.
Luke Burt adds the extras.
69 min: Yet again, a Mathew Head pass is fumbled as the Dragons search for a way through to the tryline. The Eels have gone off the boil slightly after their last try.
73 min: PJ Marsh puts in a long kick that is fumbled by Brett Morris and goes over the sideline 10 metres out from the Dragons tryline.
74 min: PENALTY GOAL Parramatta Eels
Clint Greenshields is penalised for a high shot on Mark Riddell that looked worse than it probably was. Luke Burt adds another penalty goal from right in front of the posts.
79 min: Plenty of fumbles from both teams now as the match winds down.
FULLTIME: Eels 28 Dragons 6
Both teams have continued their recent form here tonight - the Eels run just keeps on going, while the Dragons have plenty of soul-searching to do in the lead-up to the finals.
Possession: Eels 56% Dragons 44%
Completion: Eels 33/46 Dragons 25/38
Dummy half runs: Eels 29 Dragons 11
Penalties: Eels 13 Dragons 8
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 - Nathan Cayless (Eels)
2 - Peter-John Marsh (Eels)
1 - John Morris (Eels)