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The Parramatta Eels have put the cleaners through the Canterbury Bulldogs, with a thoroughly deserved 36-16 win at ANZ Stadium.
The Dogs raced out of the blocks to a strong 10-nil lead with tries to Keiran Foran and Reimis Smith, after a mountain of possession garnered a reward.
The Eels worked their way back into the game, and once they got some possession of their own, they responded with back-to-back tries through Blake Ferguson and Clint Gutherson, to give the Eels a surprising 2-point lead going into half-time.
While the second half was set up for a battle, it ended up being a cakewalk, with Gutherson helping himself to a double in the first minute of the half, and a near length of the field intercept try to Ferguson, who continued his brilliantly strong start to the season.
The Bulldogs were reeling, and when Shawn Lane grabbed an intercept try himself to cap off a significant ten minute period for the Eels, the match looked gone.
Dylan Napa grabbed a try next to the posts to give his side some hope, but it was all for naught, with Dylan Brown capping off a great day out personally and for his team with a try in the final ten minutes.
Mitchell Moses stayed perfect on the boot with six from six conversions.
The Eels then go undefeated in their first two matches, and what will please Brad Arthur most is that they came back from a less than desirable start, but not only did they come back, they dominated their opposition.
For Dean Pay, that whiteboard is calling, as he coaches a side conceding the most points in the competition to date.
For two weeks in a row now, the Bulldogs have simply been outplayed, so it may be a case of trying to keep his players’ confidence up, but one or two more results like today’s will have difficult questions being asked.
The Eels head into next round with a Friday night blockbuster against the Roosters, in what will be a true test of the Eels’ early season title credentials.
As for the Bulldogs, they face a tricky game against a resurgent Tigers outfit.
For today though, the spoils are heading to Parramatta, in a result that bodes well for the rest of the season.
Canterbury Bulldogs 16
Parramatta Eels 36
It is game seven of Round 2, and what a cracker it is, with the grand traditional rivalry of the Canterbury Bulldogs playing host to the Parramatta Eels live from ANZ Stadium. Join The Roar from 4pm (AEDT) for live scores and blog of the game.
Sitting comfortably on the bottom of the table after only one round won’t be sitting very comfortably at all with the likes of Dean Pay, his players, and much of the Bulldogs supporters.
Of course you can’t judge an entire season on one first up match. And when you consider how well the Warriors had every single aspect of their team firing last weekend, you actually cannot be too critical of the Bulldogs, despite the hugely unflattering final scoreline.
Some reports think that the Warriors were so fired up last weekend, and it was something of an emotional weekend, they would have beaten the back-to-back premiership winning Broncos side of the early 90s.
It is still staggering to consider that the Bulldogs are not more highly rated, and can’t quite deliver on the park, when you stop and review the quality that this team has on paper.
Will Hopoate, who had a great game in a beaten team last weekend, is still a representative quality fullback.
Foran is still a premiership winning five-eighth, while the forwards Josh Jackson, Aiden Tolman, and Dylan Napa, so there is enough of a smattering of representative quality players that tells you this team is better than a 34-point loss to the Warriors, even when you factor in the departure of David Klemmer.
The clear weaknesses of this lies in the gaping holes in the rest of the backline outside of Hopoate, and the lack of creativity in Micheal Lichaa and Lachlan Lewis.
It the Bulldogs can just get a bit more out-put from their no-frills players, the Bulldogs might have something more to offer this weekend.
As for their opponent, they could not have asked for a better start to the season than the first up win away to Penrith in tough circumstances, and on the back of the huge loss through injury of Nathan Brown, who is reported to be missing three months to treat his pectoral muscle injury.
Coming off the disastrous 2018 season, that first up win should have reminded Parramatta: we are not a bad team, and if the Eels can hold onto a bit of that confidence, that could cause some concerns for the rest of the competition.
What will have pleased Brad Arthur more last weekend would have been the output from high profile, but under-performing, backs like Mitchell Moses, and more pointedly, Michael Jennings, and it is a huge shame that he misses this game through suspension.
Having been shopped around all off-season, Jennings may have been low of incentive to perform this season, but his outstanding game 1 performance may be a sign he is ready to re-capture the magic this year.
Nevertheless, Josh Hoffman gets the start instead, and he will be eager to grab the opportunity with both hands.
For Parramatta then, the key remains: confidence.
As already stated, they are a good team, and last year can be considered an historical anomaly, if the side can perform this season, which is all the more reason why Parramatta must follow up last week’s win with another game-winning performance today.
The Eels really are in the box seat to win today. Last-start winners, they have taken the 2 competition points against the Bulldogs four out of the last five meetings between these sides, it’s all lining up for Parramatta.
Surely they can’t lose, right?
This is tough to pick this one. Yes, the Eels won last start, and yes, the Bulldogs lost (against the Warriors), but the quality of the opponents faced last week should be given some consideration.
This match always throws up its surprises. The Eels are not yet that great, the Bulldogs were not necessarily that bad. Still, I tossed a coin, and it came up Parramatta.
Parramatta by 1.
When: Sunday, 24 March 2019, at 4:00 PM (AEDT)
Where: ANZ Stadium
TV: Channel 9, Fox Sports channel 502, and NRL.com app live streaming
Betting: Bulldogs $2.20, Eels $1.75, Draw $21.00
1. Will Hopoate, 2. Christian Crichton, 3. Kerrod Holland, 4. Marcelo Montoya, 5. Remis Smith, 6. Kieran Foran, 7. Lachlan Lewis, 8. Aiden Tolman, 9. Michael Lichaa, 10. Dylan Napa, 11. Josh Jackson, 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 13. Adam Elliott, 14. Jeremy Marshall-King, 15. Danny Fualalo, 16. Corey Harawira-Naera, 17. Sauaso Sue.
Reserves: 19. Jack Cogger, 20. Nick Meaney
1. Clinton Gutherson, 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Josh Hoffman, 4. Brad Takairangi, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. Dylan Brown, 7. Mitchell Moses, 8. Daniel Alvaro, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Junior Paulo, 11. Shaun Lane, 12. Marata Niukore, 13. Tepai Moeroa, 14. Jaeman Salmon, 15. Tim Mannah, 16. Kane Evans, 17. David Gower.
Reserves: 18. Bevan French, 19. Oregon Kaufusi.