Bulldogs v Eels Review

In a highly charged game of big hits and brilliance, Parramatta offloaded more times than Australia Post on a strike to overpower a brave but out-played Sydney Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.<br><br>This was an emotion-charged game with vocal spectators, highly committed desperate defenders and jubilation for the blue-and-gold. A classic Preliminary Final worthy of the build-up. &nbsp;<br><b><br>The Game Swung When…</b> The Bulldogs’ defence in the opening set was prison riot brutal. Hit followed hit followed hit in an Origin-like opening stanza. But the Eels survived, punted the pill down field where Luke Patten retrieved and took it in, his head coming into contact with Nathan Cayless’ knee… and that was the end of Patten for the next 56 minutes.<br><br>A few minutes later Hazem El Masri, playing fullback in Patten's absence, sent a perfect grubber kick through the line that Bryson Goodwin did brilliantly to dive, retrieve and plant in the corner. Jarryd Hayne came across in cover and was pinged for a late, knees-first tackle that saw a possible eight-point try awarded. El Masri missed the conversion from out wide, then blew over the next one in front. &nbsp;<br>&nbsp;<br>The teams traded tries until Eels reserve Tim Mannah got on the end of some nice work from his inside men to plunge over for a fine four-pointer. It was Mannah’s first every try in the NRL and he clutched it to his chest like a rare golden goose.<br><br>In the 61st minute, Goodwin took the ball out of his 20-metre line but coughed it up in a solid tackle that left him injured. Hayne laid on some of his fancy footwork, bounced around with the ball in two hands, brushed off a couple of tacklers as time stood still before he slid through a grubber that Krisnan Inu only just knocked on.<br><br>Ten minutes later the try of the match: Fuifui Moimoi carted it up and bounced off a tackler, offloaded and set free Luke Burt, Jeff Robson and Daniel Mortimer, the latter scurrying over adjacent the posts. Burt’s conversion made it 10 points the difference, the Eels continued their staunch defence and held on. <br><b><br>Who Was Hot…</b> Hard to single out individuals when both squads of 17 turned on a brutal rollercoaster of passion and skill and desperation. There were injuries and big hits, parry and thrust. A great game of footy. <br><b><br>That said ...&nbsp;</b> Moimoi had another stormer. The big tattooed birds-nest-for-hair front-rower is in the form of his life and carted the ball into the midst of the Bulldogs’ defence like a bowling ball into pins. Twenty-two runs for a massive 215 metres!<br><br>Hayne was typically zany, holding the ball in two hands and dancing about like he's playing Sevens. The kid's got funnel webs on him. Two try assists.<br><br>Eels’ halfback Jeff Robson also did everything right, Krisnan Inu ran like a pinball, Nathan Hindmarsh made 47 tackles and Ben Smith 36.<br><br>The Bulldogs were well served by the great Hazem El Masri (see you later, Hazem, been a pleasure) who took up the slack at fullback after the ’Dogs lost one of their best in Patten.<br><br>Greg Eastwood made the most metres (107) for his team; he's got a running style that just seems to eat up the field. Very good player, the Kiwi international. &nbsp;<br><br>Out wide Josh Morris ran fast and with great menace and scored a fine try (should be on the ’Roo tour with his bro, one would suggest), Brett Kimmorley, although largely silenced, did his best and never looked like he had three plates in his cheekbone, while David Stagg made a game-high 57 tackles.<br><br>But it was the Eels’ night. They played like they didn’t care. They're a highly skilled outfit and just keep on coming, trying things. They’re like a 17-man troupe of circus performers paid by the stunt.<br><br><b>Who Was Not... </b>Jamal Idris was shown up in defence on the right and dropped the pill twice.<br><br><b>Had To Be Seen To Be Believed…</b> Hayne has been doing it for a solid 10 weeks or so now so maybe we shouldn't be surprised. But the footwork, pace, power and hands that set up Joe Galuvao’s try was a jinking piece of brilliance that Hayne made look easy. Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee. <br><br>How Patten came back onto the field after Cayless’ knee had sledge-hammered into his temple will mystify doctors, should any watch the replay.<br><br><b>Bad Boys…</b> Hayne was put on report for a knees-first tackle trying to prevent Bryson Goodwin's try. Hayne was trying to tuck his legs in and go hip-first; but his knees ended up collecting Goodwin in the melon. But phew – although charged by the match review committee he escaped suspension with an early guilty plea and will trot out on Sunday.<br><br>Likewise Eels’ hooker Matthew Keating, who was put on report for a chicken wing, of sorts, on Ben Hannant that saw the Bulldogs’ prop clutching at a shoulder and getting testy. Yes, Hannant's arm was bent back – but it was in the act of a dominant tackle. Keating’s free to play, too.<br><br><b>Injuries… </b>Eels skipper Nathan Cayless managed just nine minutes before leaving the field with a hamstring strain. He’ll be monitored all week and is rated a 50:50 chance of playing in the big one.<br><br><b>Refs Watch… </b>Hayne roosted a brilliant 40/20 that touch judge David Abood ruled had landed five metres inside the goal line. But he’s had a guess there, Abood, really. That said, fair enough. It was probably straight over the corner flag. But he had to rule it one way or the other. And he did. So good on him. <br><br>In the 16th minute Joel Reddy was about to be tackled into touch but flung the ball back into touch like a basketballer flinging a very hard loop shot. The ball struck Ben Roberts in the chest before he’d even had a chance to flinch, and the ball went into touch. Scrum feed: Parra. But if Roberts played at the ball then he has the reflexes of a bionic leopard.<br><br>Overall, though, the officials had very good games; particularly Archer, the stand-out referee in the game.<br><br><b>NRL.com Best &amp; Fairest…</b> 3 points – Fuifui Moimoi (Eels): A storming running game from the game's form prop; 2 points – Jeff Robson (Eels): Skilful service, fine kicks and penetrative running; 1 point – Krisnan Inu (Eels): Storming work down the left-hand side; a constant menace.<br><br><b>Eels 22</b> (J Galuvao, L Burt, T Mannah, D Mortimer tries; L Burt 3 goals) def <b>Bulldogs 12</b> (B Goodwin, J Morris tries; H El Masri 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 74,549.