TWL RD 3: EELS RESTART IN STYLE

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Every rugby league fan swelled with pride as the NRL returned as scheduled on May 28 – but Parramatta Eels supporters were justified in flexing that little bit more after a one-sided second half carried their team to an emphatic 34-6 win over the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.

The Eels led 12-6 at halftime but having a paltry 37 percent possession eventually wore a brave Broncos outfit down and they conceded the only four tries after the break.

The controversial return to one referee passed its first test – Gerard Sutton controlled a free-flowing contest with aplomb and without incident.

Meanwhile, the contentious new ‘six-again’ rule had an immediate impact, Parramatta posting the opening try through Warriors junior Marata Niukore in just the third minute after Brisbane was forced to defend an uninterrupted nine straight tackles.

The Broncos weathered the subsequent storm with gritty defence, however, and made their own inroads through their hulking young forwards and the brilliance of NSW centre-in-waiting Kotoni Staggs.

The hosts hit the scoreboard in the 17th minute through a dazzling individual try to halfback Brodie Croft, who endured a dramatic build-up to the match after twice failing temperature checks.

The Eels reclaimed the lead thanks to a slick backline sweep, Michael Jennings’ guile and a stunning finish from Maiko Sivo.

But outstanding Broncos defence prevented them from falling further behind and a 12-6 halftime scoreline was a satisfactory result – though they could have levelled up in the dying moments if not for Darius Boyd flubbing a chance.

The Broncos lost skipper Alex Glenn, who was taken to hospital with a bad laceration on his calf.

The Eels made an equally dominant start to the second stanza, Clint Gutherson slicing through with worrying ease and putting his side 10 points in front.

But again the Broncos’ defensive resilience came to the fore. Despite not enjoying a second-half tackle in possession in Parramatta’s territory, they repelled countless Eels raids to stay in the game.

The visitors finally broke that resolve with 18 minutes remaining as Jennings powered over under the posts.

The result was beyond doubt soon afterwards as tall timber Shaun Lane crashed over the top of Staggs after steaming onto a Gutherson short ball. Waqa Blake iced the win with a late four-pointer in his 100th NRL game.

Parrramatta’s pack comprehensively outplayed their (albeit Fifita- and Pangai Jr-less) Broncos counterparts, while the pace and energy Gutherson, Dylan Brown and Reed Mahoney played the game at constantly had the home side on their heels.

The blue-and-gold gauntlet has been laid down.

Parramatta Eels 34 (Marata Niukore, Maika Sivo, Clint Gutherson, Michael Jennings, Shaun Lane, Waqa Blake tries; Mitchell Moses 5 goals) d Brisbane Broncos (Brodie Croft try; Jamayne Isaako goal) at Suncorp Stadium

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