Eels fall to open day loss

Parramatta Eels have shown they will once again be the entertainers of the NRL after a spirited first-round 18-12 loss to the St George Illawarra Dragons.

The Parramatta Eels got off to a difficult start with centre Joel Reddy pulling out of the game before it even started after injuring his hamstring during the warm-up. A worthy replacement in Krisnan Inu stepped up though, and he was tested in the first few minutes of the game.

The Dragons had excellent field position and sent their attack down Parramatta’s right side, but Inu and halfback Jeff Robson withstood the onslaught and pulled the Eels out of trouble.

However a perfectly-placed kick by hooker Nathan Fien found the Eels stretched too far soon after and Ben Hornby grounded the bouncing ball just before the dead ball line. The Dragons took a 12-0 lead when back-rower Jeremy Smith bounced between Daniel Mortimer and Shane Shackleton, with neither player managing to hold onto him.

Parramatta replied through a Feleti Mateo offload, which put halfback Jeff Robson into space. Robson offloaded to Hayne, who was caught 15 metres out. Back-rower Ben Smith slipped quickly into dummy-half, getting the ball out to Inu who offloaded to Eric Grothe for a try in the corner.

The Dragons had the opportunity to go further ahead when they opted to take a penalty goal kick close to their line, but Soward missed. Tempers flared late in the half but the Dragons had the advantage 12-6 at half time.

The news did not get better for the Eels in the second half when forward Shane Shackleton, on debut for Parramatta, was forced to leave the field with a hamstring injury, joining Dragons hooker Fien, who has a suspected broken ankle.

It was a slow start from the Eels, but they rediscovered their flare in the second half and dazzled the crowd with offloads and half-breaks, but they lacked the finish in Round 1.

The Dragons took a safer approach and Soward booted two penalty goals to give his side a 10-point buffer. A spectacular face-ball from Jarryd Hayne to Luke Burt, who caught it one-handed, gave the Eels their second try of the game and Burt landed the conversion from the sideline for the second time of the night.

The Eels’ defence matched their attack though, and Timana Tahu wrapped up Jamie Soward on the last play of a set which could have delivered the knock-out blow to the Eels.

The Dragons again used Soward’s boot to lengthen the lead to six points when Parramatta were penalized on their line for stripping the ball. A late field goal attempt by Soward missed, but the Eels ran out of time and despite scoring two tries each, the Dragons won the match.

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS 16 (Ben Hornby, Jeremy Smith tries; Jamie Soward 4 goals) def PARRAMATTA EELS 12 (Eric Grothe, Luke Burt tries; Luke Burt 2 goals) at Parramatta Stadium. Crowd: 18,293.

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