The Parramatta Eels lost their home game in a tough match against the St George Illawarra Dragons this afternoon at CommBank Stadium, 16-10. With a number of HIAs, penalties and errors, this week's game was tough, with both the Dragons and Eels playing dirty.
Right off the bat, Eels Captain Tiana Penitani made a small error, followed by one by Shaylee Bent from the Dragons.
6 minutes in, a Dragons penalty against Second-Rower Holli Wheeler gave the Eels an upper hand.
The first breakthrough of the game came nearly ten minutes in, with Eels debutant Ashleigh Quinlan getting a fantastic line break, but the Dragons strong defence kept her back.
Shortly after, there was a small slip up from Eels Second-Rower Christian Pio, with a poor forward pass despite no pressure, opening up on opportunity for the Dragons.
Sixteen minutes in, the Dragons had the advantage in a scrum, with Centre Keele Browne managing to score the first try of the afternoon, her first of the season. Rachel Pearson missed the Conversion, with the score settling 4-0 to the Dragons.
Just a minute later, Christian Pio was given a penalty for holding down, and less than a minute passed before Parramatta was charged again – with Kennedy Cherrington slowly peeling away from the tackle.
We saw an incredible run from Dragons Second-Rower Kezie Apps, with fan favourite Page McGregor benefitting off this, to score the Dragons second try of the afternoon. Rachel Pearson again missed the Conversion. The Dragons sat happily at 8-0.
Rachel Pearson did a great Dragons kick bomb with 12 minutes left, but shortly after, teammate Talei Holmes suffered an ankle injury. Sent off the field, Monalisa Soliola replaced her.
Just a minute later, Eels player Brooke Anderson was sent off for a HIA. Ruby-Jean Kennard replaced her.
We saw some fresh motivation from the Eels, with an absolutely incredible run down the field by Tiana Penitani, giving the Eels their first try of the afternoon – her first of the year. Tayla Preston missed the Conversion, with the score settling at 8-4, Dragons in the lead.
28 minutes in, Page McGregor suffered a hard head injury, having been lying on the ground for quite some time. McGregor was sent off for a HIA, with Keeley Davis replacing her.
Shortly after, Tiana Penitani had another fantastic line break, running down the field, passing to Fullback Gayle Broughton, who scored the Eels second try – evening the score. Tayla Preston nailed the Conversion, bringing the Eels into the lead – 10-8.
31 minutes in, Dragons player Tara McGrath-West had a slow peel penalty, giving Eels the upper hand. Shortly after, Dragons teammate Shaylee Bent was penalised for a dangerous tackle – benefitting the Eels even more.
Brooke Anderson came back on the field after being cleared with the HIA, with Seli Mailangi coming off.
We saw a few errors from both teams, including Eels players Tayla Preston and Tess Staines, and Dragons Teagan Berry.
The second half started strong for the Dragons, with Page McGregor coming back on after being her HIA being cleared.
Just two minutes in to the second half, Eels Simaima Taufa was offside inside the 10m, and was penalised.
Dragons Rachel Pearson had a great line dropout in the 39th minute, and shortly after, Eels Christian Pio was penalised again, with a dangerous tackle. She was put on report.
Just a few minutes later, Eels were penalised with another dangerous tackle from position on Kennedy Cherrington, who was taken off the field a minute later and replaced with Filomina Hanisi.
At the 44th minute, we had a Captains Challenge from Dragons captain Kezie Apps, which was unsuccessful. A scrum followed shortly, which gave the Eels an upper hand.
46 minutes in, Dragons Prop Elsie Albert was penalised with a slow peel, then a minute later, again penalised with a late tackle.
Teagan Berry, Dragons Winger, had a fantastic line break, but was held back by Eels defence.
There was a small error from Eels Ellie Johnston, and Dragons were given an advantage from the scrum. Teagan Berry scored a try for the Dragons, her third try in 2 weeks.
After a long kick from the Dragons, Eels Zali Fay fumbled the ball just 3 metres away from the try line, knocking the ball on, giving Dragons an incredible advantage.
Dragons Captain Kezie Apps was sent off for a HIA, and returned with a minute remaining in the game.
An incredible team play following a scrum by the Dragons nearly got them to the try line, with strong passes down the right of the field. The momentum didn’t stop there, with the ball making its way down to the other wing, ending in another try by Page McGregor, with a great comeback after her injury in the first half. Rachel Pearson missed the Conversion again, but the Dragons are ahead 16-10.
Dragons player Taliah Fuimaono did a great kick bomb, landing with a funny bounce before Eels caught it – just 33 metres out from the try line.
With six minutes left, both teams were looking sharp, but some sloppy Eels tackles left the Dragons angry. We saw some errors from both sides, as the final whistle drew closer.
Parramatta captain Tiana Penitani had an unsuccessful Captain’s Challenge with three minutes remaining.
The game ended with a quick Dragons attack, with no successful follow through.
Dragons Coach Jamie Soward commented on the girls performance today.
“I’m always proud of the girls, [and] I think coming in today, we knew we were going to be desperate, and sometimes we don’t play our best, so we need to fight…But I am certainly really happy with their performance today.
“I know I’m probably hard on them, but I’m still learning as a young coach.”
The Dragons are up against last season’s champions, the Sydney Roosters, in just 5 days for Round Three. Soward acknowledged that next week will be tough for the girls.
“To be on the back end of this week’s schedule, and then be the first game next week, the short turn around is hard. The Roosters were really good yesterday, so it’ll be tough.”
Dragons Centre Keele Browne commented on her pride for the girls this week, comparing the team to last season.
“It’s completely different this year, we obviously had a really young playing group last season, so we’ve gained a lot of experience and this year we’re really moving forward, and everyone has really stepped up.”
Eels Coach, Dean Widders, was proud of his girls, despite the tough loss.
“We obviously didn’t get the points today, but I couldn’t be prouder of the girls efforts…Even though we didn’t win today, we walked away with a lot of boxes ticked and a lot of success, and I feel good about it.
“I’m really pleased about their performance and attitude, because we can build from there and go to the next level."
Commenting on the Eels defence in today’s game, Widders was impressed.
“I thought our defence at times out there, we really dominated. We are a really young club, so for me, that was a real good moment to know what we have got to work on.”
Having played both the 2021 season grand finalists these first two rounds, Eels Captain Tiana Penitani says it has set them up for the rest of the season.
“It was a huge challenge, being probably the most inexperienced team in terms of debutants and new faces in this competition, to have both finalists show up for round one and two, but it really shows us where we need to be moving forward from here.
“Everyone has gone from strength to strength from last season, but the resilience and attitude shift from the girls, especially the younger players, has been fantastic.”
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