The Dragons have come back from 16-0 down to record a 26-22 trial win over the Eels at CommBank Stadium on Sunday evening.
The Eels raced out to a 16-0 lead as they charged through the Dragons' middle and exposed big holes in their right edge, with the returning Reed Mahoney and stand-in captain Shaun Lane on fire to start the game.
Hayze Perham scored just three minutes in after a Lane line break, Mahoney set up Oregon Kaufusi and Lane passed for Sean Russell to score in a hot opening stanza.
That period also included sin bins for Tyrell Fuimaono and Tautau Moga for dangerous tackles, with Fuimaono's hip-drop forcing Haze Dunster from the field.
With both sides ringing in the changes at the 20-minute drinks break the Dragons dominated the next 20 with tries to Max Feagai, bench hooker Connor Muhleisen off a clever Talatau Amone kick and Moga off a potent Moses Suli run and offload.
Some end-to-end footy culminated in a try to Eels winger Solomone Naiduki shortly after half time before a lovely Dragons team try finished off by Bailey Antrobus levelled up again.
Winger Jonathon Reuben put the Dragons in front for the first time with 15 minutes to go with the Dragons holding on for a four-point win.
Match: Eels v Dragons
Round 1 -
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Sydney
The Eels were by far the stronger team when the top sides were on the park in the opening 20 with the Dragons' right side defence a particular concern but coach Anthony Griffin should be buoyed by the fightback to win from 16-0 down.
- The Eels will be sweating on the fitness of winger Haze Dunster, who had his leg folded awkwardly under him in a Tyrell Fuimaono tackle and had to be helped from the field with concerns over a knee injury.
- Fuimaono was placed on report and sin-binned for the hip-drop tackle that caused Dunster's injury.
- Tautau Moga was sin-binned just two minutes after Fuimaono for a high shot on Bailey Simsonsson, although it remained 13-on-13 because replacements are allowed for sin-bins in trial games.
- Ryan Matterson became the third player - and first Eel - to be sent to the bin for his high contact on Moses Suli in the 29th minute.
- Shaun Lane was named captain and relished the responsibility with an impressive attacking effort on the left edge.
- Tyrell Sloan and Cody Ramsey swapped between wing and fullback, with Sloan staking the bigger claim for the Dragons' No.1 jersey.
- Talatau Amone was close to the Dragons' most dangerous player to put his hand up for a start at five-eighth while halfback Moses Mbye was subbed off early.
- Reed Mahoney showed his teammates what they missed in last week's finals series with some deft passes and kicks including a try assist in the opening salvos before being pulled from the field early.
- Rookie Eels winger Sean Russell showed he is ready to step up to first grade if Dunster is not fit, with a try, an excellent try saver and a a long spell at fullback.
Play of the Game
Rookie Eels winger Sean Russell came up with an incredible try-saver on the much bigger Moses Suli around five minutes after half-time. Team-mate Matthew Komolafe ran 50 metres downfield only to be reeled in by an impressive try-saver by Cody Ramsey. The set culminated in an athletic try to Solomone Naiduki from a lovely floating cut-out ball from Jake Arthur to return the Eels to the lead.
Two try-saves in one play for both Eels and Dragons
What They Said
"It was pretty good to get a full game. For all the boys, they were a bit tired but pre-season so get that out of the way. We're just battling it out, two young guys that are very eager to play fullback but whatever decision 'Hook' makes for the team, it's going to be the best one. Cody's a great kid and we're best mates as well so it's healthy competition.": Tyrell Sloan on his fullback duel with Cody Ramsey.
"Our start was pretty important to us, we controlled the game well, completed high and played at the right end of the field then the last six minutes felt like we defended a lot and I'm ok with that as well because we had to learn a few things down on our try line … An injury to Haze Dunster is not ideal but that's footy, there's not a lot we can do about it. They're saying ligaments but he'll obviously have to go for scans. I think he'll be out a little while.": Eels coach Brad Arthur.
Solomone Naiduki restores the Eels lead
The Eels finish off their pre-season next Saturday at 5pm with a trip west to visit premiers Penrith. Expect a few more of their top-line players to get some minutes as coach Brad Arthur fine-tunes the largely settled line-up heading into round one.
The Dragons will feature in the annual Charity Shield clash against the Rabbitohs on Saturday night at Mudgee's picturesque Glen Willow Stadium. If coach Anthony Griffin has not yet settled on his No.1 and No.6 jersey, this could be the match to decide it.
Watch every game of the 2022 NRL pre-season live and ad-break free during play — exclusive to Fox League and available on Kayo Sports.