Eels send finals warning with Broncos demolition
A growing buzz around the streets of Parramatta has escalated into a cacophonous roar after the Eels thundered into the Telstra Premiership top four with a stunning 52-34 defeat of the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
If Parramatta's 28-14 win over Brisbane in Round 21 signified their standing as a finals threat their demolition of one of the competition favourites and the manner in which they did it was more than enough to give blue and gold fans belief that anything is indeed possible in 2017.
Winger Semi Radradra was devastating for the Eels, scoring a hat-trick inside 20 minutes and adding a fourth five minutes into the second half, an extraordinary 98-metre effort to complete his second four-try haul of the season.
After falling behind by 24 points after just 20 minutes Brisbane scored the next two tries of the first half to claw their way back somewhat into the contest only for Eels centre Michael Jennings to slice through four minutes from half-time for a 30-10 lead at the break.
Radradra's fourth early in the second half extended the lead to 26 points and after further tries for the Broncos to Herman Ese'ese and Alex Glenn the Eels kicked away again, Takairangi, Michael Jennings and David Gower scoring tries, Parramatta becoming just the second side after the Warriors in 2013 to put 50 points on the Broncos on their home turf.
The final score was lopsided but the Eels weren't without their own obstacles to overcome, losing Tepai Moeroa to concussion midway through the first half and Frank Pritchard in the second term with a suspected shoulder injury.
The match opened in stunning fashion when an Adam Blair brain explosion on the first tackle of the game saw the ball popped out the back without a Bronco in sight, allowing Eels winger Kirisome Auva'a to pounce and score the fastest try in NRL history.
The previous quickest was Reece Robinson's 33-second effort against the Panthers in Round 10, 2014 but Auva'a set a mark that will perhaps never be beaten, diving over to score after just 12 seconds.
And they didn't stop there.
Less than five minutes later Radradra took a run from his 20-metre line and skirted James Roberts and David Mead before turning Darius Boyd inside and out on his way to score underneath the posts without barely a hand being laid on him.
The Eels lost Siosaia Vave to a head knock in the eighth minute but with a Broncos team well and truly on the back foot the Eels kept the hammer down, producing a wonderful set of six that asked questions of the Brisbane defence on every tackle.
It culminated on the last tackle with a switch back across the ruck and a Corey Norman kick to the corner where Radradra leapt above Mead to score his second.
An 18-0 scoreline that stunned those assembled in Suncorp Stadium soon got worse when Radradra came back on an unders ball from fullback Will Smith, juggled the pass through the Brisbane defensive line before scoring next to the posts, the Bunker giving its approval for a Radradra hat-trick inside 20 minutes and a stunning 24-0 scoreline.
Radradra's treble sent the statisticians scurrying to see whether he had in fact scored the fastest hat-trick in NRL history but he was still minutes shy of David Vaealiki's 11-minute hat-trick for the Eels against the Panthers in 2002.
The Broncos eventually found points of their own when a sublime Boyd pass put Mead over in the corner in the 25th minute but they almost had any good work undone with a turnover from the next set that led to Moeroa having a try disallowed due to an obstruction call by referee Ashley Klein.
The bizarre beginning continued when Boyd inexplicably threw a pass on a kick return to Corey Oates's ankles that the giant winger dropped but the home side were the next to score, Anthony Milford's grubber kick meant for James Roberts bouncing off the goalpost and into the path of Josh McGuire.
But just as the Broncos eyed a half-time lead that could be reined in over the closing 40 minutes Kenny Edwards went to the line on the last tackle and rather than playing out the back to Mitchell Moses hit Jennings short who pierced the Broncos' defence for his side's fifth try of the half.
Parramatta Eels 52 (Semi Radradra 4, Michael Jennings 2, Kirisome Auva'a, Brad Takairangi, David Gower tries; Mitchell Moses 8 goals) def. Brisbane Broncos 34 (David Mead, Josh McGuire, Herman Ese'ese, Alex Glenn, Tautau Moga, Corey Oates tries; Anthony Milford 5 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Half-time: Eels 30-10. Crowd: 29,058. Holden Cup: Broncos 14-8.
Unofficial Dally M votes: 3 points: Semi Radradra. 2 points: Corey Norman. 1 point: Nathan Brown.