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Parramatta survived Gold Coast in a messy affair to start the season and the Eels repeated the dose as they represented the Titans on Saturday night.
After recording a 32-28 first-round triumph in controversial fashion via two late penalties, this time around they converted a 14-0 half-time lead into a 20-point advantage before overcoming a late comeback of the Titans to win 26-20 at Cbus Super Stadium.
The win doesn’t make or break Parramatta’s title credentials by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s the kind of result any prime minister contender needs to get to make it to the final.
Neither side could bother the scorers or the bunker until the 18th minute when Toby Sexton ripped off AJ Brimson but Clint Gutherson got his hands on a certain try and it was 0-0.
Gutherson opened the deadlock at the other end minutes later when he ran over the shoulder of Mitch Moses to make it 4-0 from close range.
Parra shredded the tiring defense in the 26th minute when they cleared the ball away to Bailey Simonsson to dive into the corner to double their advantage.
Gutherson took advantage of the kindness of strangers in the 34th minute when Jarrod Wallace escaped a cross kick from Moses and he leapt into the end zone and all of a sudden it was 14-0 for visitors.
The Eels made it 20-0 seven minutes into the restart when Ryan Matterson broke in before the Titans finally broke their duck 10 minutes later when AJ Brimson dribbled in a kick for Phil Sami to register his fifth try of the season.
Midway through the second half, she was back down to a 10-point deficit when Erin Clark dived on a loose fly ball.
Eel stalwart Junior Paulo was sent to the trash a few minutes later after hitting Brimson high with his shoulder.
David Fifita cashed in when he ran through three defenders and pushed Gutherson back to land in the corner and when Toby Sexton completed the conversion from the touchline, the hosts were just four points behind.
Dylan Brown stemmed the tide when he latched on to a juggled cross kick from Moses and with Paulo back and the rain suddenly starting to fall, the 10-point lead looked like a win with seven minutes left .
Titans winger Greg Marzhew put up a thrilling finish when he went down when it didn’t look like much was going on with five to go, but Sexton’s conversion bounced off the post.
Despite some anxious moments in the closing stages, Parra held on to get the better of Justin Holbrook’s team for the second time in the space of five rounds.
Parramatta was booed as he entered the stadium, feeling as welcome as a knock on a sheep by the Titans faithful.
Gold Coast are potentially the most curious team in the NRL. They have potential, there’s no doubt about it. But they are impatient and inconsistent. They came into this game with a loss, a victory, a loss, a victory. So it shouldn’t be surprising that they lost this one to mathematicians.
Fans expect a leap forward after reaching the final last year and they showed enough in their heartbreaking week one outing against the Roosters to suggest the long-awaited good times aren’t too far away. But this year they have now shown that they will go further.
Parramatta is in a similar boat although his fans haven’t just waited 15 years for the good times to unfold – the prime minister’s drought lasts another two decades and shows no signs of abating.
There’s also a sense of dread that if they can’t break through with this crop of players under Brad Arthur, there’s another long, slow rebuild ahead of them before they can compete for a title again.
With Tigers, Knights and Cowboys in the next three rounds, the Eels have a chance to solidify their place in the final equation before bigger tests await the next three weeks against Penrith, the Roosters and Manly.