Parramatta are on the brink of a Top 4 finish in 2020, with an unconvincing 26-12 win over the bottom placed Broncos in wet conditions at Bankwest Stadium tonight.
Eels skipper Clint Gutherson scored a double in a matter of minutes just before halftime to give his side the advantage. However the win was far from impressive, with Parramatta's attack again failing to fire to the standards set following their red hot early season form.
The loss for the Broncos firmly places Queensland's glamour club in prime position for their first ever Wooden Spoon if they are unable to register a win against bitter rivals North Queensland in the final round of the season. Brisbane will likely have to get the win without strike weapon David Fifita, with the Titans bound backrower injuring his ankle just after halftime, when his leg got caught under the weight of Eels prop Junior Paulo. Fifita was seen on crutches on the sideline at the conclusion of the match and looks likely to have played his last game for the club.
This was a vital game for both sides for vastly different reasons. Parramatta needed to win to solidify their Top 4 position on the ladder, while after Canterbury's upset victory last night, Brisbane had pride and unwanted club history to avoid the Wooden Spoon.
The game got off to a shocking start for the visitors, when rookie half Tyson Gamble was knocked out by a trademark Maika Sivo charge in the first defensive set. Gamble managed to collect Sivo's shoulder in an unlucky collision for the young five-eighth.
As well documented in recent weeks, the Eels attack had been clunky at best and this was reflected in their first try, when halfback Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson combined to put winger Blake Ferguson over in the corner in an awkward try to open the Eels' account.
Off the back of the first try however, Parramatta then sprung to life when hooker Reed Mahoney made a bust and off the back of the quick play the ball. The Eels then spread the ball wide to the left, where Moses then found Maika Sivo with a looping pass over the top. The giant winger then displayed some silky skills to touch down just inches inside the corner post.
Just as the game seemed to be slipping away from the last placed Broncos, halfback Tom Deardon then provided David Fifita with a nice one on one opportunity close to the line and the Queensland Origin backrower then shrugged off Mitchell Moses with ease to score the Broncos first try of the match.
Skipper Gutherson then took the game by the scruff of the neck just prior to halftime with back to back tries. The first with an element of luck, when the Eels skipper kicked for the in-goal which luckily rebounded off Kotoni Staggs and Gutherson then regathered to score.
Minutes later, Gutherson then touched down off a set scrum play, with the Eels skipper selling a dummy close to the line to slide over to extend his side's lead. Moses missed the conversion from out wide but the Eels went to the break leading 20-6.
With the Wooden Spoon hovering, the Broncos needed to do something quick and they did so after halftime, when captain Darius Boyd thread through a neat kick on the last for centre Herbie Farnworth. The young Englishmen then showed tremendous speed to beat everyone to the ball to narrow the Eels lead.
Parramatta however again struck back almost immediately, when Jai Field pounced onto a loose pass from Broncos hooker Issac Luke and the former Dragon put on the afterburners to race 53m to score. Moses converted and the Eels were never headed from that point, winning the game 26-12.
The Eels now return to Bankwest for the last game of the regular season, where they face local rivals the Wests Tigers in one last chance to impress before the Finals Series begins the following week.
Brisbane now face one of the most important weeks in the club's history, where they will look to avoid the dreaded Wooden Spoon and you can be sure that their bitter Queensland rivals North Queensland will show them no sympathy given the history between both clubs.