Eels set up preliminary final with 'Dogs - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Eels set up preliminary final with 'Dogs

By Todd Balym 18/09/2009 10:39:05 PM Comments (0)

Parramatta put an end to the Gold Coast's season with a 27-2 semi-final win on Friday night that set up the biggest preliminary final showdown in the history of the NRL.

The eighth-placed Eels disposed of the third-placed Titans at the Sydney Football Stadium in front of 28,524 fans to set the stage for a blockbuster grand final qualifier with the Bulldogs next Friday at ANZ Stadium.

The rags to riches story of both clubs - the Dogs looking to go from wooden spooners to premiers in one season and the Eels rising from second-last just 10 weeks ago - could pull in excess of 60,000 fans.

It is the first all-Sydney preliminary final since St George Illawarra met the Wests Tigers at the SFS four years ago and the first to be held at the 83,500 capacity stadium at Homebush.

The Eels showed they would be every bit worthy champions with an at first grinding then entertaining victory over the Titans to take their streak to nine wins from their last ten games.

Parramatta absorbed plenty of early pressure and the loss of young gun Daniel Mortimer (hip) after just 12 minutes to lead 13-2 at half-time following tries to Feleti Mateo and Ben Smith, plus a Jarryd Hayne field goal on the siren.

The Eels then withstood a barrage of attack from the Titans in the first 10 minutes of the second half, Nathan Hindmarsh executing a match-turning trysaver to dislodge the ball from Matthew White as he was about to score beneath the posts in the 48th minute.

Hindmarsh was on the spot again to clear a dangerous Scott Prince grubber two minutes later, and from that moment the Eels never looked like losing.

The return of rampaging prop Fuifui Moimoi got the Eels motoring forward, but it was his short pass along the backline that helped set up Kevin Kingston for the clincher in the 60th minute.

Rookie centre Jonathan Wright, again a late replacement for Krisnan Inu (hamstring), then sealed a memorable win by stepping around prop Luke Bailey off a scrum in the 67th minute.

Eels fans celebrated the superb victory by chanting "Bring on the Bulldogs" for the final 10 minutes of the game.

Mortimer said he was hopeful of being fit for next week's mouth-watering clash.

"I'm not too sure at the moment," said Mortimer.

"I will be doing everything I can to be back."

Eels coach Daniel Anderson praised the brave performance by his men, especially after they kept inviting the Titans back into the game with easy field position.

"Very brave, very courageous, we were a little tired but we will be ready for next week," said Anderson.

"I was very anxious ... I thought we invited the Titans to play to their field position. We looked like we were slipping in mud a bit.

"We never got out of our own half but we answered everything that was thrown at us."

The Eels beat the Bulldogs 27-8 eight weeks ago at the same ground they will meet on next Friday, but Anderson believes his men will carry confidence into the clash simply because they've been playing must-win football since July.

"The confidence comes from just playing in tough matches week after week," he said.

"Realising we are good enough to withstand pressure and counter-punch.

"That is what the confidence comes from."

Titans coach John Cartwright said the Eels were simply too strong for his side, labelling the pointless 10 minutes after half-time as a crucial turning point.

Cartwright believes Parramatta's defensive effort will be enough to carry them to the title: "Parra is on a roll, they are going to be very hard to beat."

Titans skipper Scott Prince agreed: "They have just got that belief in their team at the moment that they can beat anybody."

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