Parramatta has survived a first-round shock by piling on 24 unanswered points in the second half to run down a much-improved Broncos side by 24-16 at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
The Eels simply didn't get off the bus in the first half, with last years wooden spooners racing out to a 16-0 lead in a stunning first half performance. Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford responded to his nay-sayers creating two tries for Queensland winger Xavier Coates in a dynamic first half display.
However, Parramatta were a different side after the break, with Eels' hooker Reed Mahoney sparking his sides comeback. The Eels rake scored a crucial try after halftime that created the momentum for the Parramatta onslaught, which will give coach Brad Arthur a lot of confidence that his side have the attacking arsenal to again be a threat in this year's premiership race.
The loss for the Broncos was further soured by injuries to prop Matt Lodge with a hamstring strain, utility John Asiata with a serious shoulder concern, as well as winger Xavier Coates who failed his HIA after colliding with Clint Gutherson in scoring his second try. Having just one player left on the bench for the majority of the second half just proved far too difficult for the home side under the new NRL rules designed for a faster game.
Both sides came into the match with plenty to prove in 2021 and it was last year's wooden spooners who struck first, when first choice halfback Brodie Croft combined with his outside man Herbie Farnworth to suck in the Eels edge defence on the left-hand side. Prodigal son David Mead then cut back on an angle to score the first try for the night. Jamayne Isakko converted and it was Brisbane with an early lead.
Costly handling errors were starving the Eels of possession and the Broncos again made them pay when Anthony Milford kicked over the top early in the tackle count and found his winger Coates who easily collected the ball on the full to score in the corner to extend the margin to 10-0.
The unforced errors continued to mount for the Eels, when winger Maika Sivo made a crucial error just 10m from his own line to give the home side a chance before the break. Anthony Milford then threw a superb cut out pass close to the line, which hit his winger Coates on the chest to score his second try. Isaako then converted from out wide and it was Brisbane leading 16-0 at halftime in a stunning first half performance to begin Kevin Walters' tenure at Red Hill.
The Eels were clearly stunned and whatever coach Brad Arthur said at halftime worked as the Eels scored two tries in a matter of minutes. Hooker Reed Mahoney lit the fuse for the visitors, forcing a David Mead error and then from the next set the nuggetty hooker caught the Broncos markers napping close to the line to scoot over to score beside the posts.
Eels winger Blake Ferguson then picked up a loose pass and then managed to tip toe down the right touchline. Ferguson then delivered a beautifully poised kick inside to find his skipper Gutherson jogging on the spot in support to narrow the Broncos lead to 16-12.
Parramatta then took the lead for the first time in the match when Dylan Brown and Gutherson combined off a scrum play to unleash Blake Ferguson for the corner and the former NSW winger bulldozed his way over the cover defence to score. Moses converted and the Eels were ahead by 18-16.
Parramatta then continued to delay the knock out punch in the final quarter, before fittingly heavyweight prop Junior Paulo sealed the win when he crashed over for the match winner off a superb Reed Mahoney pass close to the line.
While the Broncos and their fans will be disappointed in yet again falling away terribly in the second half, the performance and attitude looked more positive and they will be fired up to make amends in the local derby against the Titans next Friday night at CBUS Stadium.
Parramatta will now face the premiers Melbourne at Bankwest Stadium next week in an absolute blockbuster to kickoff Round 2 next Thursday night.