Eels hand Souths first loss in thriller
A late field goal from man-of-the-match Eels halfback Chris Sandow has helped Parramatta to a stunning win over the defending premiers in Round 4 of the Telstra Premiership at Pirtek Stadium.
Powerful defence, energetic running and positive attacking play from the home side had the previously unbeaten Rabbitohs looking slightly frazzled, but the match was an arm wrestle right up until Sandow's 77th-minute field goal gave the Eels a seven-point buffer.
Rookie winger John Folau showed shades of his older brother and dual international Israel as he earned his first two tries in the NRL, while opposite flanker Reece Robinson also bagged a double.
It wasn't all good news for the Eels, who have Robinson on report for a throw on opposite number Joel Reddy, centre Brad Takairangi is in doubt for next week with a knee injury, while fullback Will Hopoate had a torrid night under the high ball to show he still has some work to do to evolve into a fullback.
Appreciate all the tweets. Great win from the boys. Fingers crossed with scans tomz 🙏 #BlueAndGoldArmy were outstanding tonight!!— Brad Takairangi (@Bradtaka_) March 27, 2015
But the efforts of the Parramatta pack to match it with the benchmark South Sydney side pleased Eels coach Brad Arthur, who said if they could find that sort of performance on a consistent basis they deserve to be spoken about alongside the Rabbitohs pack.
"I'm hoping that's going to be a turning point for us," Arthur said after the match.
"But we need to find that same attitude and that same energy away from Parramatta Stadium. We've showed if we complete our sets and make our tackles we can mix it with any team in the competition... but we've got to have that attitude away from home."
The home side had edged a pulsating first half when Folau bagged his second try on the stroke of half-time.
Things were going to script early with old Manly teammates Glenn Stewart and Anthony Watmough going at it in the middle – Stewart winning the early battle, forcing a turnover – before the premiers scored the first points.
With Eels captain Tim Mannah off for an early concussion test before later returning, former Eel Joel Reddy scored his 50th NRL try when he cashed in on a simple overlap after Souths had earned a repeat set at the Eels line.
But Parramatta hit back when a flat ball from in-form playmaker Corey Norman hit Folau on the chest and the youngster stepped his way to the line.
A penalty against Reynolds for dissent after Sandow had forced a dropout handed the Eels an easy shot for an 8-6 lead before the favourites reclaimed the lead when impressive youngster Chris Grevsmuhl earned his first NRL try. When Hopoate spilled a high floating kick, Alex Johnston's flick back infield was marked by Grevsmuhl who simply refused to go down, dragging seemingly half the Eels pack over the line with him.
Looking at a 12-8 halftime deficit, a brilliant Sandow run created some space down the right where centre Ryan Morgan got Folau one-on-one with Johnston. With the sideline looming Folau was forced back infield where he lived up to his famous surname to find the tryline despite three Rabbitohs defenders trying to drag him back.
The Eels stretched their lead shortly after the break; a penalty put the Eels in range before more quality work from Norman and quick hands from Brad Takairangi allowed Robinson to streak away in the left corner, but Sandow's miss kept Souths well in the hunt at 18-12.
A series of repeat sets finally told when Alex Johnston crossed but a rare miss from Adam Reynolds kept the Eels two points in front with 20 minutes to go.
The Eels hit back almost straight away; Parramatta made a break down the left, Robinson ran out of room but grubbered ahead and drew a penalty before a brilliant sweeping play to the left with plenty of bodies in motion. It finished with Robinson, who pinned the ears back and earned a classic winger's try and his second of the night with a classy put-down.
A shanked conversion meant the Rabbitohs had 10 minutes to erase the six-point deficit but Sandow's radar was working far better on the drop goal attempt. His 77th-minute one-pointer effectively ended the contest before the livewire half put the exclamation point on the win in the dying seconds when he grubbered for himself to score, clinching the impressive 29-16 win and handing Souths their first loss in any form of the game since their 2014, Round 26 loss to the Roosters on September 4.
Parramatta Eels 29 (John Folau 2, Reece Robinson 2, Chris Sandow tries; Chris Sandow 3 goals; Chris Sandow field goal) def South Sydney Rabbitohs 16 (Joel Reddy, Chris Grevsmuhl, Alex Johnston tries; Adam Reynolds 2 goals). Crowd: 15,562. Halftime: Eels 14-12. On report: Glenn Stewart, Reece Robinson.