Two time defending champion Roosters against the undefeated Eels. The heavyweight clash fulfilled the hype.
After a mammoth first half defensive effort, Parramatta came out swinging. They briefly hit the lead but a Luke Keary inspired Sydney outfit conquered adversity to reign supreme.
The game was exhilarating, with neither side having conceded more than 50 points over the course of the season. Attack and defence complimented each other brilliantly to construct the pinnacle of dazzling, yet tough and hard-fought, rugby league.
The battle of the ones was a feature for the clash, James Tedesco had his time in the spotlight last week, but now it was Clint Gutherson putting his name up in lights. Overshadowing the incumbent Australian fullback to run 255 metres.
Sydney were as potent as ever from the opening stages, almost constantly threatening the Parramatta line with countless near chances until Brett Morris finally broke through with the opening try.
The ageless winger scooped up a dribbling pass from Tedesco that had missed it’s intended target, running a tightrope down the touchline and expertly utilising his strength and speed to bust two tackles over the 15 metre journey whilst keeping his footing with the touchline beckoning.
Brett Morris scoring a brilliant try
Blake Ferguson and Michael Jennings gave Eels fans some hope of scoring before the half, but it wasn’t to be. Kyle Flanagan converted two Roosters penalty goals after missing the try conversion – which ended his hot streak of 17 straight – to take the Sydney lead to 8-0 at the interim.
Staring down their biggest challenge of the season, Parramatta banded together and took the game to the Roosters.
It took just three minutes of the second half for the Eels to hit the scoreboard. Precision passing from halves Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown found Michael Jennings who sliced through for his 150th career try.
Desperately searching for a way through the Sydney defence, Parramatta were playing ad-lib footy. An offload fest found them on the right side and a few long sharp passes quickly switched to the left.
Daniel Tupou burst off his line hungry for Michael Jennings’ blood, but the veteran – who would finish with eight tackle breaks – was all composure, silkily averting the tackle. Now it was the Eels left side pairing that could smell blood in the water. Jennings lay Flanagan out like a rag doll, leaving his palm print in the baby-faced playmaker’s sternum before offloading to Maika Sivo. The man turned wrecking ball bulldozed towards four points, leaving a temporarily unconscious Tedesco in his wake.
Maika Sivo delivering his massive hit on James Tedesco
After what seemed like an eternity, Tedesco was able to get up and make his way off the field, but he wouldn’t return.
Trailing 8-10 with their superstar out of the picture, and Parramatta charging to a 6-0 start to the season. Most teams would have kneeled over, but not under Luke Keary’s watch.
The five-eighth placed all responsibility squarely on his shoulders, and let Parramatta bask in the lead for a whole of two minutes before throwing a line-breaking dummy that would see Boyd Cordner score his 50th career try.
Two more penalty goals stretched the Roosters lead to 18-10. The first coming after a moment of temporary confusion when Nathan brown took Victor Radley high, but
Parramatta were awarded the penalty. Luckily the brain-fade was rectified, and Flanagan converted the goal.
With ten minutes remaining, Jennings was thrown in the sin-bin for a deliberate offside, dashing faint Eels hopes of a comeback.
Tupou skipped over the line after a flashy Josh Morris offload to make the result a certainty at 24-10.
Parramatta were courageous and did their credentials no harm, but if it is to be the year of the Eels, they now know what they’re up against.
Round 6 was the night of the Roosters as they knocked off the ladder leaders to remain undefeated post COVID shutdown, and were unwavering amidst the loss of a champion, scoring 16 of their 24 points in the final 20 Tedesco-less minutes.