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Fulltime score: Round 18 Parramatta Eels 40 v St George Illawarra Dragons 14
Match summary: The Parramatta Eels have put together a sparkling second half performance to defeat the St George Illawarra Dragons by 40-14 in front of a very vocal Parramatta Stadium crowd in an explosive start to Round 18 NRL action.
The biggest talking point of the game will no doubt be a decision by the video referee to award an Eels try in the 53rd minute despite the majority of players from both teams being involved in a brawl on half-way, started after Trent Barrett took exception to a PJ Marsh tackle. That try took the Eels out to a 22-14 lead, and proved to be a distinctive turning point in the match.
Controversy aside, the Eels were simply awesome in the second 40. While the Dragons weren't as bad as the scoreline may suggest, they did struggle to come up with answers at times as Nathan Hindmarsh, Dean Widders and Ben Smith (who finished with three tries) created havoc at regular intervals. John Morris, Nathan Cayless and Wade McKinnon also deserve mentions for coming up with some inspirational plays to lift their team at exactly the right times.
The Dragons were best served by hard-working forwards Dean Young and Shaun Timmins, while Albert Torrens and Colin Best looked dangerous with limited opportunities. Chris Sheppard also showed promise in his first match for the Dragons after a mid-season transfer from the Cowboys.
Scorers: PARRAMATTA EELS 40 Tries: B Smith 3, Widders, McKinnon, Morrison, Robinson Goals: Morris 3/4, Riddell 3/3 ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 14 Tries: Torrens, Cooper Goals: Ennis 3/3, Gorrell 0/1
Venue: Parramatta Stadium Crowd: 20,199 Referee: Tim Mander Half time: Eels 10 Dragons 10
Live commentary: Welcome to Parramatta Stadium for what should be a ripper of a clash between the Eels and the Dragons tonight!
For the Dragons, Albert Torrens will replace Mark Gasnier in the centres and Jason Ryles & Luke Bailey have both joined the team and will start from the bench. No late changes for the Eels.
0 min: Kickoff!
3 min: NEWS - John Morris puts Nathan Hindmarsh into a gap close to the try-line, but Hindmarsh's next pass is intercepted by the Dragons.
5 min: NO TRY - Dragons Consecutive attacking sets for the Dragons, but they have nothing to show for it as Colin Best is shoved over the sideline with a try beckoning.
9 min: TRY - Dragons Albert Torrens opens the scoring tonight, chasing through a Dean Young grubber that deflected off a couple of Eels. Michael Ennis adds the extra two. Eels 0 Dragons 6
13 min: Some magical play from the Eels, with Nathan Cayless producing a great offload to put Wade McKinnon into a gap. The Eels have now forced a goal-line dropout.
15 min: A huge Tim Smith pass is intercepted by Albert Torrens who races 60 metres downfield before being dragged down by Eric Grothe.
16 min: PENALTY GOAL - Dragons The Eels tried to slow down the Dragons attack by conceding a penalty, and Michael Ennis steps up to add another two points. Eels 0 Dragons 8
19 min: NEWS - Luke Bailey now on for the Dragons, who are well ahead in the possession and territory stakes at the moment.
25 min: PENALTY GOAL - Dragons Michael Ennis kicks another goal following a penalty after a high shot from Chad Robinson. Eels 0 Dragons 10
29 min: Colin Best (Dragons) scoots out of dummy half and streaks 30 metres downfield before Wade McKinnon tackles him over the sideline.
32 min: TRY - Eels Ben Smith slides across after taking a brilliant offload from Dean Widders. The try comes on the back of four consecutive sets for the home team as errors and a lack of discipline have started creeping in for the Dragons. The conversion attempt from John Morris is a shocker. Eels 4 Dragons 10
39 min: TRY - Eels Ben Smith grabs a double, and again Dean Widders threw the final pass. The field position was set up by another slashing mid-field run from Wade McKinnon from a Nathan Hindmarsh offload. John Morris adds the extra two. Eels 10 Dragons 10
HALFTIME: Eels 10 Dragons 10 It's been a first half of two halves tonight. The Dragons started strongly but could only manage the one try, and the Eels fired up considerably once their bench players (and especially Dean Widders) were introduced. Nathan Hindmarsh and Wade McKinnon have been the Eels best, while Dean Young and Albert Torrens have looked dangerous for the visitors. Possession: Eels 50% Dragons 50% Completion: Eels 16/24 Dragons 13/18 Missed tackles: Eels 13 Dragons 16 Offloads: Eels 7 Dragons 4
The second half is underway!
42 min: The video ref is checking a possible Dragons try ...
42 min: TRY - Dragons Matt Cooper gets the Dragons off to the perfect start. A Chris Sheppard kick takes a nasty bounce for the Eels, and the Dragons are on hand to capitalise. Aaron Gorrell misses with the conversion. Eels 10 Dragons 14
48 min: The Dragons have started the second half full of fire, with several strong runs and some smashing hits on defence.
49 min: TRY - Eels Dean Widders scores completely against the run of play. Widders helped to set up an overlap for Eric Grothe to make a clean break on halfway, and then followed through to claim the try. John Morris adds the extras. Eels 16 Dragons 14
53 min: The video ref is called on again - Trent Barrett and PJ Marsh have been involved in a scuffle that has erupted, but meanwhile Wade McKinnon has raced through to claim a try. Decision pending ...
53 min: TRY - Eels (!!!) Trent Barrett put in a downfield kick and resented a slightly late & high tackle from PJ Marsh, and got up swinging. Most of the players from both teams got involved in the brawl, and Wade McKinnon ignored it all to pick up the ball and race away for the try. We're bound to hear more about this one! John Morris kicks the extra two. Eels 22 Dragons 14
61 min: The Dragons are throwing everything into their game now to claw back this defecit, but the Eels are holding firm. Trent Barrett is being very loudly 'booed' by a vocal Parra crowd every time he touches the ball.
63 min: Nathan Hindmarsh saves a certain Dragons try by diving on a Clint Greenshields grubber, only just beating Dean Young to the ball.
68 min: TRY - Eels Ben Smith claims a hat-trick in sensational style. The Dragons had only just received a repeat set within 10 metres from the Eels line, but a fumble handed the ball to Smith who raced away to score the try. Mark Riddell converts. Eels 28 Dragons 14
72 min: Another strong chance for a Dragons try is lost as Wes Naiqama knocks-on with a clear run to the line in front of him.
76 min: TRY - Eels Glenn Morrison scores. A great pass from Ben Smith created some space for Eric Grothe, who puts in an in-field chip which is well claimed by Morrison. Mark Riddell's conversion is successful. Eels 34 Dragons 14
80 min: TRY - Eels Chad Robinson finishes off a great Eels try, started on halfway after a Nathan Cayless offload. Plenty of jubilation from the home team as you'd expect, as they've certainly finished this match on fire. Mark Riddell kicks another two points. Eels 40 Dragons 14
FULL TIME: Eels 40 Dragons 14 The Parramatta Eels have outscored the Dragons by 30-4 in the second half to claim a very strong victory in front of their vocal home crowd tonight. Full time stats: Possession - Eels 51% Dragons 49% Completion - Eels 34/45 Dragons 26/37 Missed tackles - Eels 28 Dragons 35 Offloads - Eels 11 Dragons 11
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) 2 - Ben Smith (Eels) 1 - Wade McKinnon (Eels) -----------------------------------------