Eels defeat Broncos in Holden Cup qualifying final
The Parramatta Eels have overcome some ordinary ball-handling to power past the Broncos and win their Second Qualifying Final 32-26 at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night.
Rather than their ball control Eels coach Justin Holbrook will have been pleased with the way they finished the game, scoring two tries in the final 10 minutes to finish the stronger and earn a week off.
The Broncos get a second chance against the Wests Tigers next week but will rue some missed opportunities late in the game and poor defence down the opposition end, having led 26-20 with 10 to play and having gone in at half-time level at 16 apiece.
With Kelepi Tanginoa being placed on report for a heavy tackle on Jordan Drew in the opening minute of the second half it was the Broncos who posted first points after the break when replacement Alex Barr powered his way over out wide.
After another scrappy period of play the Broncos unsuccessfully used a captain's challenge on a knock-on call 20m out from their line and the Eels made them pay from the very next play, Halauafu Lavaka crossing virtually untouched on the end of a sweeping backline movement to the right to level the scores at 20-all through 60 minutes.
But it was a lead that wouldn't last long when after failing to get to their kick from the ensuing set, the Eels were punished by a nice interplay between Ashley Taylor and Kodi Nikorima with Nikorima scooting through to collect Taylor's short kick beside the posts to score.
Despite poor ball-handling from the Eels they once again clawed their way back into the contest when after a long break Ryan Matterson strolled through under the posts from the next play and then from the first set after the kick-off an unstoppable charge from Kelepi Tanginoa they scored again.
Tanginoa broke into the back-field and out-paced the outside backs before being hauled in metres from the try-line but not before offloading to Zach Dockar-Clay who scored just inside the right touchline eight minutes from full-time.
The Broncos threw all they had at the Eels defence in the dying stages but the line held firm with an assignment against the Wests Tigers now awaiting Brisbane in the second week of the finals.
The two teams went to the main break locked together at 16-apiece after the Broncos were denied a try in the dying seconds after a bizarre piece of play on the Eels' line.
Inside the final minute of the half the Eels spread the ball to the left 10m out from their own line before coming up with another handling error.
Ajuma Adams collected possession for Brisbane before being pushed towards the touch-line before passing infield for Tom Opacic who got his way to the try-line but was ruled to have advanced the ball over the line after being tackled.
It was a fitting end to a frantic first half where both sides scored three tries apiece.
Parramatta halfback Zach Dockar-Clay opened the scoring in just the second minute when he pushed through some ordinary Broncos goal-line defence but it took Brisbane just eight minutes to come up with a response, late inclusion Jordan Drew running onto a nice inside pass from Ashley Taylor to crash over next to the posts.
The Broncos defence on their line was again found wanting when Eels hooker Kaysa Pritchard wrestled his way across in the 13th minute and then six minutes later the Broncos hit the lead for the first time when Duncan Paia'aua converted a Jack Tuttle try.
John Folau cruised over out wide to put the Eels back in front in the 25th minute and then a clever short-side play saw Drew get his second of the half in his first game back from a knee injury.
Parramatta Eels 32 (Zach Dockar-Clay 2, Kaysa Pritchard, John Folau, Halauafu Lavaka, Ryan Matterson tries; Nathan Davis 4 goals) def. Brisbane Broncos 26 (Jordan Drew 2, Jack Tuttle, Alex Barr, Kodi Nikorima tries; Duncan Paia'aua 3 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Half-time: 16-all. On report: Kelepi Tanginoa (Eels).