Eels punish scrappy Broncos
Jarryd Hayne and Chris Sandow conspired to hand the Broncos a 25-18 defeat in an entertaining yet scrappy game in front of 32,009 frustrated Brisbane fans at Suncorp Stadium.
In a game punctuated by handling errors from both sides it was the Eels who made the most of their chances, punishing the Broncos for their wastefulness inside their attacking red zone.
Jarryd Hayne was at his mesmerising best, scoring one try, while Sandow laid on a try-assist as well as kicking four goals and a field goal.
The Broncos had multiple opportunities to score but time and time again poor ball control and a lack of attacking execution proved fatal, as the Eels ran in four tries to three.
Parramatta were dealt a blow prior to kick-off with barnstorming forward Fuifui Moimoi ruled out with a gashed leg, with Peni Terepo coming into the starting side as a result with Junior Paulo added to the bench.
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Broncos coach Anthony Griffin made one change to his named side with returning centre Justin Hodges dropping to the bench, with Lachlan Maranta coming straight back onto the wing and Dale Copley shifting to right centre.
The Eels were lively in the early stages with Hayne falling inches short of scoring the opener inside four minutes, while Sandow was showing ominous signs through the middle – including an audacious chip-kick in the very first set.
Despite an action-packed first 20 minutes, neither team had any impact on the scoreboard with handling errors the common denominator.
From almost out of nowhere the Eels opened the scoring after 24 minutes. Shifting the ball to the right, the Eels found space with Sandow shooting through a hole and finding Will Hopoate who touched down to hand the Eels a 4-0 lead.
Moments later Griffin introduced Hodges into the game, replacing Maranta as the Broncos went back on the offensive. However once again they spilt the ball short of the line to let the Eels off the hook.
Parramatta then made the Broncos pay for their profligacy in front of their try-line when they found space on the left inside their own 20, which allowed Semi Radradra space down the sideline. The steaming 'Semi Trailer' raced 50 metres down the flank, shrugging off Ben Barba to plant the ball down out wide. Sandow nailed a difficult conversion to hand the Eels a 10-0 lead with five minutes left in the half.
With less than a minute left in the first half, the Broncos struck back with a crucial try to Dale Copley. A typical Justin Hodges jinking run from dummy-half created confusion for the Eels, but it was his skilful offload to Copley which allowed the Broncos winger to scoot down the touchline to score in the corner. Corey Parker landed the extras, taking the score to 10-6 in favour of Parra heading into the break.
Parker kicked off the second half in fortuitous circumstances by striking the crossbar with his kick and Ben Hannant leaping on the ball to hand the Broncos an early crack at the line. But once again poor ball handling from halted any momentum as they failed to capitalise on their early foray into Parramatta's territory.
Brisbane kept chipping away and soon found passage through the Eels' defensive line. Halfback Ben Hunt dummied to create space for himself, racing downfield to become one-on-one with fullback Hayne.
Hunt then had an unmarked Barba on his outside, but refused the services of the former Dally M winner by throwing another dummy to fool Hayne and race away to score under the posts. Parker slotted the conversion from right in front to hand the Broncos the lead for the first time in the contest, enjoying a 12-10 lead over the Eels after 51 minutes.
Just as the Broncos looked like notching up another four-pointer the Eels slipped their way up the field, with an attacking kick batted into touch by Barba to defuse a potential try-scoring opportunity.
From the resulting scrum, Parramatta shifted the ball out to the right to find Hayne racing up from behind the line. Upon receiving the ball, Hayne brushed off a feeble tackle by Josh Hoffman to dash the remaining 10 metres to score the Eels' third try. Sandow steered his kick inside the uprights to help Parra resurrect their lead at 16-12 with 20 minutes left.
The Eels lead didn't last long though, as they hit back four minutes later through an unlikely try to Josh McGuire. Hunt directed a cross-field bomb in the direction of the Eels' Ken Sio, but the winger failed to grasp the ball and the Steeden eventually fell to McGuire who darted five metres to dive over under the sticks.
Corey Parker made no mistake with the conversion, taking his personal points tally for the Broncos to 1,000 points, becoming only the third Bronco to achieve such a milestone behind Michael De Vere and Darren Lockyer. The extra points also enabled the Broncos to snatch the lead back again, leading 18-16 with 15 minutes remaining.
Seemingly not content in holding onto their lead, the Broncos conceded another try to the Eels with less than 11 minutes remaining. Eels rake Nathan Peats took full advantage of some slack goal-line defence by the Broncos to score an easy four-pointer near the posts. Sandow converted to hand the Eels a 22-18 lead inside the last 10 minutes.
With eight minutes remaining Justin Hodges conceded a penalty for taking out Jarryd Hayne while the Eels fullback was trying to contest a high ball. As a result, the Eels decided to take the two points on offer to lead 24-18.
From the next set Parramatta worked their way down field to within field goal range and Sandow decided to have a crack from 40 metres out, with his wobbly effort making its way over the black dot.
The Broncos toiled to find another try, but they lost possession of the ball, trying to play razzle-dazzle football in the dying second which proved fruitless, as the Eels held for a 25-18 victory, their third win of the season.
Parramatta Eels 25 (W Hopoate, S Radradra, J Hayne, N Peats tries; Chris Sandow 4 goals, field goal) def. Brisbane Broncos 18 (D Copley, B Hunt, J McGuire tries; Corey Parker 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Half-time: Eels 10-6. Crowd: 32,009. Referees: Matt Cecchin & Grant Atkins.