|Match Date||25th Sep, 2009|
|Venue||Homebush (ANZ Stadium)|
Parramatta secured a place in the NRL decider, decimating the Bulldogs 22-12 in Friday night's preliminary final at Sydney's Olympic stadium.
The Eels will now meet the winner of tomorrow night's clash between the Broncos and the Storm next weekend in their first grand final appearance since 2001.
This season has seen a meteoric rise by the club, which was languishing in 14th place in round 18 of the regular season and the idea of finals contention was laughable.
But the boys in blue and gold have now won 10 of their last 11 matches, only being defeated by the minor premier Dragons in the final round of the regular season.
Since then they have regained their confidence, comfortably dispatching St George Illawarra the following week before eliminating the Titans in their first finals campaign.
Jarryd Hayne said the idea of going to the grand final had not yet sunk in.
"Woah. Woah. No way," he told Grandstand after the match.
"It always was going to be a good game but at the end of the day it's the bounce of the ball.
"The Bulldogs, they gave 100 per cent, we gave 100 per cent, but it's just the way the ball bounces.
"They had a great year but we came a long way."
The loss put the Bulldogs' dream result out of reach after a fairytale season of football that saw them completely reverse their fortunes from wooden spooner in 2008 to narrowly missing out on the minor premiership.
Canterbury will be licking its wounds in the next few days and would potentially have struggled had it made it into the grand final.
Luke Patten, Bryson Goodwin, Ben Hannant and David Stagg were all injured to various degrees in 80 minutes of crunching defence and bone-jarring hit-ups.
The win was not all good news for Parramatta - Hayne and hooker Matthew Keating were both placed on report after dangerous defensive plays in what pundits were calling the "Sydney grand final" in the lead-up this week.
Injured Eels Daniel Mortimer and Krisnan Inu were late additions to the side after being of questionable health in the week approaching the game.
It was winger Luke Burt's 100th career try that gave Parramatta hope in the second half as the Eels began their run over a pedestrian-looking Bulldogs outfit that lost its bark and bite after the break.
Burt crossed in the corner and nailed the conversion attempt, and Tim Mannah put four more points on the board minutes later to stretch the Eels' lead.
Parramatta could taste victory but would not let its old rival off the hook until the full-time siren, and Mortimer punctuated his return from injury to score with seven minutes remaining.
In an intense opening stanza the Bulldogs' forwards made their intentions clear, drilling Fuifui Moimoi twice in the opening set of six.
But despite being lined up seemingly every time he had the ball, Moimoi kept coming at the Bulldogs' line and finished with a game-high 20 hit-ups.
The Eels responded immediately by chasing their first clearing kick downfield and when Patten gathered the football, his head was on the receiving end of a Parramatta player's knee.
He left the field looking groggy and only minutes later, Goodwin suffered a similar fate when Hayne kneed him in the head as he slid in an attempt to cut off the four-pointer.
But Goodwin's try, in what has been proven time and again this year as the Bulldogs' favourite corner, was successful and Hazem El Masri was given the opportunity to make it an eight-point try after Hayne was put on report.
El Masri set up the flying winger with a splendidly-weighted grubber kick that popped up perfectly for Goodwin, but could not replicate his super boot-work when he missed the conversion, but slotted the penalty goal.
But after getting their first points on the board the Dogs looked to have lost their bite, and Parramatta dominated possession in its opponent's half.
El Masri slotted into the full-back role well for Patten, and his on-field kicking game was technically precise and a joy to watch in a game that was more memorable for its savage defence.
|Hazem El Masri||Wing||0||2||0||4|
|Ben Roberts||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Brett Kimmorley||Half Back||0||0||0||0|
|Andrew Ryan||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Gary Warburton||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Michael Hodgson||Front Row||0||0||0||0|
|Ben Hannant||Front Row||0||0||0||0|