League: Eels comeback stuns Bulldogs

SYDNEY - Parramatta staged a remarkable fightback to come from 0-20 down at halftime and beat the Bulldogs 28-20 in their opening National Rugby League match here tonight.

The Bulldogs had looked to be coasting to an upset win at the break but the Eels came from the clouds to score five unanswered tries and record their second biggest comeback in history.

It was the biggest lead the Bulldogs have surrendered in their history.

Halfback Brett Finch inspired the comeback, having a hand in all five tries, while winger Joel Reddy and five-eighth Feleti Mateo bagged doubles and Eric Grothe also crossed.

They did it all without Jarryd Hayne, Weller Hauraki and Junior Paulo, who were stood down after being linked with a driveby shooting in Kings Cross this month.

The Eels were a different side in the first half, plagued by poor discipline and handling.

The Bulldogs needed only three minutes to open the scoring through lock Lee Te Maari after a simple backline move.

They then capitalised on an error from Eels winger Reddy five minutes later and Willie Tonga crashed over and grounded the ball despite the efforts of three Eels defenders.

Hasem El Masri crossed out wide in the 33rd and converted his own try from the sideline to send the Bulldogs into halftime with a more-than-comfortable lead.

But Grothe got the Eels back in the game five minutes after the break when he soared over Matt Utai to catch a Finch crossfield kick and plant the ball out wide.

Finch was again the provider four minutes later when he took on the line and delivered a fine offload for Mateo to crash over, Luke Burt adding the extras to get the Eels within eight.

Bulldogs substitute Michael Sullivan almost got on the end of an El Masri kick in the 54th but Nathan Hindmarsh was there to apply the pressure and the video referee ruled Sullivan knocked the ball dead in goal.

The ensuing 20m tap and piggyback penalty up the field resulted in another try for the Eels and Finch was again the creator, this time Reddy getting on the end of his crossfield bomb.

The winger then struck again to give the Eels the lead for the first time.

Finch spun a cutout ball to Mateo, who produced a clever offload and Parramatta spread quickly for the winger to apply the finish.

Parramatta defended their lead gallantly and Finch and Mateo combined again to put the result beyond doubt with a try in the final minute.

A sour note in the win for the Eels came when centre Krisnan Inu hobbled off with what looked like a knee injury with five minutes to go.

Only their 22-point comeback against Canberra in 1987 was bigger than tonight's.

- AAP

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