Eighty minutes stood between two teams and an end to a difficult 2020 NRL season as the Paramatta Ells and South Sydney Rabbitohs went head to head for the final place in the Grand Final Eliminators and a game with the Penrith Panthers next weekend.
Despite finishing the regular season in sixth place, the Bunnies were big favourites against the third placed Eels after big wins in their last two outings indicate that they are reaching their peak at the ideal time of the season.
Wayne Bennett stuck with the same seventeen Rabbitohs that brough success last weekend while Brad Arthur made four changes bringing in Takairangi, George Jennings, Dunster and Stone.
The last time these two met it was a massacre in favour of the Rabbitohs, tonight’s encounter should be a far closer encounter.
A couple of defensive mistakes and relentless Rabbitohs pressure saw the opening stages of the game being played out deep in Eels territory. Following a deliberate offside South Sydney elected to kick the penalty goal and Adam Reynolds made no mistake with his trusty right boot on three minutes. Paramatta breathed a sigh of relief that they were only two points down.
Shaun Lane pushed his way over the line on twelve but was held on his back and the Rabbitohs diffused the bomb and broke back into the Eels half. Paramatta were getting themselves back into the game after withstanding the initial onslaught.
The first try came on seventeen, and went to South Sydney, as Jaxson Paulo went over on the overlap out right after the ball was given air from the back of the scrum. Reynolds converted from the touchline with aplomb for an 8-0 lead.
Paramatta struck back on twenty-three with Clinton Gutherson going through a gap off a Junior Paulo offload for a five metre try. Mitchell Moses added the conversion for 6-8, after being under the kosh the Eels were right back in it.
From the restart the Eels hit the front. Gutherson broke the line and went forty metres before putting in a round- the-corner pass to George Jennings who stooped to take the pass and walk in the try from five metres out. Moses added the conversion for a sensational switch in fortunes.
The Eels were in again on twenty-eight when Gutherson crashed the line to score under a pile of Rabbitohs tacklers. It was a sensational passage of play for Paramatta and when Moses added the extra two the inspirational full-back had almost single-handedly turned an eight-point deficit into a ten-point lead.
Five minutes after the restart Liam Knight scored the Rabbitohs second try as he hit the line at speed. Reynolds added the extra two to get his side back within four points, it was game on again, the half time roasting from Wayne Bennett had borne early fruit.
Cameron Murray completed a flowing move for the Rabbitohs to level the scores leaving Eels tacklers in his wake as he went for the line. Reynolds kicked the conversion and the Bunnies were back in the lead at 20-18.
Moses hit the post with a simple looking sixty-first minute penalty attempt which would have levelled the scores. The Rabbitohs marched downfield after collecting the loose ball and when a grubber wasn’t grounded in goal by a floundering Gutherson, Bailey Sironen pounced to get a hand on the ball for the try. Reynolds added the extras for an eight-point Bunnies lead.
The one-way traffic was now all headed towards the Paramatta line.
The game was over on seventy when a Dylan Brown pass on the halfway line was intercepted by Paulo, the winger pinning back his early and cantering the fifty metres to score under the uprights. Reynolds added the extras for a 32-18 lead.
There was a glimmer of hope for Paramatta on seventy-five when a Gutherson ling ball found Jennings in space to go in for his second, this time Moses converted from the touch line, but the Eels were still eight points adrift at 24-32.
A Damian Cook solo effort from fifty metres, carving through a broken Eels defence, was the icing on the cake for the Rabbitohs. Reynolds kicked his seventh goal of the night for a massive 38-24 victory after a sensational attacking game of rugby league.
In a game which see-sawed one way, and then the other, it was the South Sydney Rabbitohs who held their nerve to take the win and send out a warning to the other sides left in the competition that they are fighting for the champion's crown. The Penrith Panthers will have some trepidation over next weeks eliminator and who’d now bet against seeing the Bunnies in the Grand Final.
Paramatta Eels: Gutherson (2T), Jennings (2T), Blake, Takairangi, Dunster, Brown D, Moses (4G), Campbell-Gillard, Mahoney, Paulo, Lane, Matterson, Brown N. Subs: Smith, Davey, Evans, Stone.
Sydney Roosters: Allan, Johnston, Graham, Gagai, Paulo (2T), Walker, Reynolds (6G), Tatola, Cook (T), Burgess, Su’A, Sironen (T), Murray (T). Subs: Nicholls, Knight (T), Cartwright, Koloamatangi.
Referee: Gerard Sutton.
Half Time: 18-8.
Full Time: 24-38.
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney.