A Canterbury Bulldogs side, missing a few key players, travelled to BankWest Stadium on Thursday to face a full-strength Parramatta Eels side with the 2020 NRL Season starting with a tight game.
The Eels were the first to put the ball down over the line after Blake Ferguson pushed off three Bulldogs’ defenders, then walked in for a try. He celebrated with his customary backflip. However, the try was brought back after the winger placed his boot on the touchline.
The Bulldogs hit straight back with a grounding off their own. After Blake Ferguson failed to catch a high Lachlan Lewis kick, the ball was grounded by Nick Meaney.
Unfortunately for the Dogs’ Reimis Smith took out Ferguson in the winger’s attempt to gain the ball and a penalty was conceded by Smith.
The visitors did take the lead just a minute later though as a late tackle on Lachlan Lewis allowed the Dogs to take a two point lead through the boot of Brandon Wakeham after 13 minutes.
That lead should have extended as further ill-discipline from the Eels in front of their own goal-line allowed Wakeham to take another shot at goal, unfortunately he sliced his kick wide to let Parramatta off the hook.
A historic moment followed as the first Captain’s Challenge came into play after 20 minutes. The Parramatta Eels captain, Clint Gutherson claimed that their knock-on was actually a ball strip. Unfortunately for the home-side the knock-on was the correct call at their challenge was lost for the rest of the game.
Neither team could keep hold of the ball with knock-ons and loose passes galore in the opening 25 minutes.
The next five minutes were a little more solid from both sides after a flurry of interchanges and after a middle field battle, the Eels picked up a scrum just 10 metres out after a dropped ball from Watene-Zelezniak.
A high tackle on Mitchell Moses from Dean Britt gave the halfback the chance to level the scores and he duly delivered on the two points.
Maika Sivo made a break down the left hand edge which included a huge fend on opposite number Christian Crichton. Crichton took exception to this and landed a shoulder directly on the head of Sivo.
Luckily for the Dogs’ Crichton was placed on the report and was not sin-binned for the offence.
The resulting set ending with yet another knock-on and the half drew to a close with the teams locked up.
HALF-TIME: Parramatta Eels 2-2 Canterbury Bulldogs
The second-half started with a Canterbury Bulldogs Captains Challenge following a knock-on from Will Hopoate. They also lost their review as it was deemed to have also been a correct decision by the officials.
A 45-metre break from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, the Bulldogs looked to get on the front-foot but despite the hard work from the full-back, it was a sloppy end of set from the Dogs with a loose kick from Lewis being dropped on by Gutherson.
Gutherson was deemed to have knocked the ball on though, and Canterbury started an attacking set just 10 metres from the Eels line.
Stern defence from Parramatta kept the Dogs out to keep the game at 2-2.
A lack of composure from Canterbury was letting the visitors down, as a loose carry from Joe Stimson allowed Parramatta to come away from their own line once without conceding, once again.
With 20 minutes of the game remaining, both sides were going tit-for-tat with each other as they looked for a victory.
A try was finally scored though, as a dribbled kick through by Mitchell Moses was fumbled by Lachlan Lewis over the try-line and Reed Mahoney dived on top of the loose ball to give the Eels the lead with 14 minutes remaining.
Moses converted for 8-2.
The Bulldogs looked to equalise as the game headed into the closing stages but a very laboured effort from the visitors meant that the Eels could hold on for a very tight victory.
FULL-TIME: Parramatta Eels 8-2 Canterbury Bulldogs
Gutherson, Sivo, Jennings, Blake, Ferguson,D. Brown, Moses, Campbell-Gillard, Mahoney, Paulo, Lane, Matterson, N. Brown.
Interchanges: Takairangi, Niukore, Evans, Terepo
Goals: Moses (2/2)
Watene-Zelezniak, Meaney, Smith, Hopoate, Crichton, Wakeham, Lewis, Tolman, Marshall-King, Napa, Jackson, Stimson, Elliott
Interchanges: Britt, To’omaga, Faitala-Mariner, Holland
Goals: Wakeham (1/2)