The Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles defeated the Parramatta Eels 34-24 in Round 11 of the NSW Cup at Bankwest Stadium, with centre Tim Simona grabbing a hat-trick to help his side win their third match of the season, leaping past two opponents on the ladder.
Parramatta shot out the gates with an early lead, but were only ahead for ten minutes, with Blacktown scoring to level the points and eventually take the lead, which they wouldn’t drop for the rest of the match. The scores were level 12-all at half-time and it looked to be turning into a close encounter in the second half, only for the Workers to hit back with two tries in the opening ten minutes of the second half, extending the gap between the two sides.
An early error from Blacktown 20 metres out from their own line handed Parramatta an early opportunity, with a try coming in the third minute through hooker Nathaniel Roache. Halfback Jordan Rankin made the conversion to take the score to 6-0.
Following the early try, Blacktown had a chance to get points back but were unable to capitalise, having to defend a number of sets at their own line. The Eels pushed forward with grubber kicks through and forced two repeat sets in the space of five minutes.
Centre Tim Simona scored for the Workers’ in the 14th minute with a spectacular long-range effort, which saw him gather the ball just shy of his own tryline before racing 95 metres downfield and scoring under the posts. Captain Brad Keighran, who was shifted from halfback to hooker during the week, converted the try from in front to level the scores at 6-all.
Some strong defence led to a sloppy error in the play-the-ball from Parramatta 30 metres out, halting their attack, as the Blacktown side looked to continue with their momentum and grab another try.
After gaining a penalty inside the Eels’ 20 metre line, the Workers struck again through back-rower Jordin Leiu in the 22nd minute. Keighran faked a pass out of dummy half and dragged in the defender to the right of him, allowing for Leiu to dive over through the hole. The hooker converted from the right side of the posts to give his side the lead 12-6.
Seven minutes later, Parramatta second-rower Ray Stone charged down a Blacktown kick on the 40-metre line and regathered to race away and score his sides second try. Rankin converted to make the scores level again at 12-all.
Blacktown went close in the final stages of the first half with a handful of chances but were unable to punch through the oppositions’ defence, with the sides heading into the sheds for halftime after a back-and-forth battle.
A mistake from Parramatta in the opening four minutes led to Blacktown’s third try of the match, with five-eighth Kauri Aupouri-Puketapu strolling over for an easy try after some silky passes and smart hold-up play. Keighran converted to the left of the posts to bring the score to 18-12.
The Workers’ continued to shift the momentum in their favour with a strong defensive effort to take Parramatta over the sideline. Following this, Simona grabbed his double in the 50th minute after being on the receiving end of a perfectly placed cross-field kick to the corner, running in field to ground the ball closer to the posts. Keighran converted next to the posts to further extend Blacktown’s lead to 24-12.
The Eels replied five minutes later with a try of their own as they attempted to get themselves back into the match. Second-rower Elie El-Zakhem scored in the right corner after pushing past two defenders that rushed off their line. Rankin made the conversion from the sideline to make the score 24-18.
Forward Terrell May was on the receiving end of a high tackle after a strong run, handing Blacktown a set inside Parramatta’s 20 metres following the kick to touch. After shifting the ball to the right edge, Simona got a hold of the ball and beat his opposing winger to grab his third try of the match. Keighran missed the conversion from the sideline with the score at 28-18 with 20 minutes to play.
A battle between two wingers followed the kick-off, with Workers’ winger Tolutau Koula making a break down the sideline from inside his own half, only to be taken out by a last-gasp, strong defensive effort from Eels winger Haze Dunster in what could have been a try that closed out the game.
Parramatta seemed to be edging to another try with 13 minutes to play, only for Koula to step in and force an error from Dunster at the line in a diving effort, as the game slowly slipped out of the home side’s grasps.
Another full-field effort from Blacktown to ultimately seal the match, with Koula grabbing the ball from inside his own 20 metres before bursting past the defenders and running away to score in the 75th minute. Keighran converted from in front to extend the lead to 34-18.
The Eels grabbed themselves a consolation try through centre Michael Oldfield with three minutes left on the clock. Rankin converted from the sideline to bring the score to 34-24.
Centre Jorge Taufua was sent to the sin bin with just over a minute to play for a dangerous tackle, with the siren eventually sounding at Bankwest Stadium, Blacktown leaving victorious after a ten-point win.
The Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles face the Newcastle Knights at McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle, on Sunday May 30, 1.30pm, in Round 12 of the NSW Cup.