A match-winning golden point field goal from Mitchell Moses has seen the Parramatta Eels pip the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 13-12 at ANZ Stadium tonight in front of 14,061 fans.
The long-time rivals played out a game of two halves at the Olympic venue, in what was the opening match of the NRL's seventeeth round. Parramatta dominated the first half before the Bulldogs reeled them back in the second, forcing golden point before the Eels won the 'lottery' - launching upfield two minutes into extra time period off a penalty before Moses found space to pot the winner.
Despite some fairly average football being played in the opening forty, there was some action early when the Eels looked to have scored the opener through Moses, only to be denied by Marcelo Montoya and the video referee after the Bulldogs' winger edged the Eels' half out of the way contesting a grubbered ball toward the in-goal. Despite hints of a potential penalty try, the Bunker opted for the conservative option - a penalty only for Montoya's actions, which referee Henry Perenara therefore deemed a professional foul and sent the Bulldogs' #5 for a spell in the rooms for ten minutes.
The subsequent penalty goal was the only points the Eels added during the Sin Bin period, failing to take advantage of the extra man - and not longer after the Bulldogs levelled proceedings at 2-all after picking up a penalty in the 15th minute.
It was at the 22nd minute some flair finally stole the show - Bevan French dropped in a superb chip and chase, beating all the Bulldogs chasers to a cleverly placed kick. Parramatta extended their lead five minutes from halftime when Semi Radradra scored on the opposite wing, taking the home side's lead to ten points, a 12-2 scoreline at the break.
That was really where the Eels' ascendency ended, with Canterbury taking control in the second half. The 'Dogs dominated possession and gave the Eels' little room to move with stoic defending allowing few metres when the hosts did get a shot at carrying the ball. A simple numbers play to the left edge got the Belmore-based outfit on the tryscoring list at the 50 minute mark, Josh Morris holding up the play long enough to put his brother Brett over the line out wide. Moses Mbye missed the conversion, but the Bulldogs trailed by just six despite a poor first half.
Then, surprisingly given the story of the 2017 season so far, a Des Hasler masterstroke seemingly changed the game. Michael Lichaa was hooked with Matt Frawley interchanged on, the fringe first-grader thrust into the halves role he had occupied for several weeks during Josh Reynolds' absence. With Reynolds now on the field, Hasler's game plan saw Mbye shift to hooker with Frawley able to take control of the contest. Never was his impact more evident than a 69th minute try where he exposed the Eels' middle defenders with a simple show and go, and with Mbye's conversion, scores were level with ten minutes left on the clock.
What followed was a war of attrition with the Eels trying to simply get some ball while the Dogs ruined a golden chance late in the piece when Adam Elliot was forced into touch. Parramatta had one field goal shot - ironically from Moses - in regulation time which was well short and wide.
Come golden point, the Eels picked up a penalty after a Tepai Moeroa lost ball was deemed a strip by Perenara, propelling the hosts up the park and putting Moses in position for the match-winner.
The loss for Canterbury just about ends any rough hopes they had of a late season surge to the finals, but they'll still want to avoid the spectre of the wooden spoon - which they can almost certainly rule out with a win over Newcastle on Sunday week at Belmore. Parramatta will fly to Melbourne to take on 2009 Grand Final opponents the Storm at AAMI Park on Saturday week.