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Eels save their best for last as semi-finals locked in




The final week of the regular season of the Women’s National Rugby League premiership was full of surprises.

The Parramatta Eels won their first game of the season and managed to secure a place in the finals thanks to other results falling their way.

The Roosters continued their unbeaten streak with a big win over the Gold Coast Titans and the Newcastle Knights had a dominant win over the St George Illawarra Dragons who they will face again next week in the semi-finals.

Parramatta Eels book their finals spot

Until now it has been a tough season for the Eels. Heading into their game against the Brisbane Broncos, the Eels had not managed a win, but had lost three games by less than four points against the Dragons, Knights and Titans. Errors had proven costly for the Eels as well as their inability to close out games.

They saved the best for last.

Before kick-off yesterday afternoon Parramatta were still in the hunt for a finals spot and they delivered, beating the Broncos 28-16. This was the first time the Eels had beaten the Broncos in the NRLW and also, the first time that the Broncos had missed the finals. Following the game, Broncos captain Ali Brigginshaw was devastated.

The Eels had key contributors all over the field including Somalia Taufa who had several barnstorming runs, Kennedy Cherrington who brought plenty of energy to the team and Tiana Penitani, who despite leaving the field with an injury midway through the first half scored the first try for the Eels.

(Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Whilst it may not be ideal that a team with just one win gets into the finals, it demonstrates the hierarchy of teams in this year’s NRLW. The Roosters have been most dominant, followed by the Dragons and the Knights followed by the bottom three teams who were battling it out for fourth spot throughout the season.

Jesse Southwell continues to impress

I was expecting the game between the Dragons and the Knights to be much closer, but in the end the Knights ran away with it 30-8. The Knights scored three tries in each half and managed to keep the Dragons scoreless in the second half.

The key difference was Jesse Southwell.

The 17-year-old had to get special dispensation from the NRL to compete, given her age, but the teenager looks at home in the top division. She showed plenty of composure throughout the game, had a role in almost every try the Knights scored and showed plenty of courage with her attacking kicks.

Additionally the forwards led with strength, with Caitlin Johnston running for 194 metres.

Jess Gentle also managed to score a try just before half-time on debut.

It’s been an incredible turnaround for the Knights, who just six months ago finished the season without a win.

Triple-header success

With most of the NRLW games aligned to NRL games this season, it was great to give NRLW fans the opportunity to watch all the teams in a triple-header at Gosford.

Over 5000 fans were in the stands and what was most pleasing was the number of people who stayed after the final siren to run onto the field.

We often talk about the influence of our NRLW players but to see so many of them stay back to sign autographs was a highlight, with Millie Boyle mobbed by kids hoping to get a selfie or an autograph.

Quick hits

– Kennedy Cherrington scored in the 68th minute and put the cherry on top for the Eels. Each try is important but this was also Cherrington’s first in the NRLW.

– Hayley Maddick from the Broncos also showed dazzling speed to score her first NRLW try.

– With a 38-12 victory over the Titans, the Roosters not only remained unbeaten but also sealed the minor premiership.

– The Roosters scored five first-half tries which effectively pushed the game out of reach for the Titans.

To the next

The NRLW semi-finals are upon us!

The first-placed Roosters will play the fourth-placed Eels. The Chooks will have several key players returning including Samantha Bremner and Raecene McGregor whilst Parramatta will be waiting to see if Penitani will be fit.

The second-placed Knights will play the third-placed Dragons with St George Illawarra looking forward to the return of Kezie Apps. Newcastle are also expected to welcome back Tamika Upton and Caitlin Moran.

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