Eels defy Hayne hoodoo to beat Bulldogs
Parramatta have defied a poor record without Jarryd Hayne to record a 22-12 victory over the Bulldogs before a 24,012-strong crowd at ANZ Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Having won just four of their past 29 games without their attacking spearhead, it was two moments of brilliance from rookie second-rower Pauli Pauli that proved to be the difference between two sides forced into radical positional surgery before and during the game.
There was a hooker playing halfback, a second-rower named in the centres but playing five-eighth, and the hooker named at halfback but standing behind the ruck.
And that was just one team.
The other crew had their halfback playing fullback (Sandow) and a hooker who had just met his new teammates a week ago.
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Both were short -side plays and both fifth-tackle options, with underarm passes from to Toutai and Morgan respectively to put the visitors well in command.
A second try to Morgan – this time from a 75th-minute Bulldogs error on halfway – rubber-stamped the victory, before Thompson bagged a second and consolation try with a grubber for himself with two minutes remaining.
Eels second-rower Manu Ma'u also failed to finish the game after succumbing to a possible arm fracture early in the first half.
Quite clearly from the kick-off it was a matter of which team would make the most sense of this Origin/injury disruption that would come out looking less disrupted than the other.
And, while Chris Sandow's 50-metre line break down the left fringe didn't result in a try, it was the kind of jump-out-of-your-seat moment that wouldn't have warmed the hearts of Bulldogs fans.
Neither exactly, did Mick Ennis' two botched kicks at the end of their next two sets, or the 18th-minute intercept pass thrown by Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Jackson that ended in Eels winger Semi Radradra running 90 metres to score his 13th try of the season.
In fact, when Sandow again split the defence clean on the halfway line to gift Vai Toutai a try just five minutes later – as well as rookie firebrand David Klemmer done for the match with an ankle injury moments beforehand – the warning bells were well and truly ringing for the home side.
Eventually though, the Bulldogs found their bearings and could've reduced the deficit had Krisnan Inu reached over after hitting the ground in the 27th minute, but the 10-0 buffer was the way it stayed until the halftime break.
Making their task harder was a knee injury to fullback Sam Perrett just before halftime, reducing their bench to just two healthy bodies.
With their backs to the wall, the home side raced out of the sheds and immediately over the try line courtesy of the deceptively strong Corey Thompson, who burrowed his way past three defenders in the 44th minute.
Inu's sideline conversion cut the lead to two and put the game in the balance.
But two moments of Pauli Pauli magic – one in the 58th minute and another in the 67th minute – all but put the game to bed.
Parramatta 22 (Toutai 2, Morgan 2, Radradra tries; Sandow goal) defeated Canterbury-Bankstown 12(Thompson 2 tries; Inu, Ennis goal) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 24,012.