Parramatta have upset defending champions Sydney Roosters to join last season’s wooden spooners Newcastle in the NRLW grand final.
The Eels had snuck into the semi-finals with their only win of the season last week over the Broncos and were given no chance against the previously undefeated Roosters on Sunday. But they were never heeded in a stunning 24-10 victory.
Earlier, the Knights’ high-profile recruits Tamika Upton and Millie Boyle powered them to victory. Full-back Upton scored twice while prop and captain Boyle produced a spectacular solo try in the 30-6 defeat of last season’s grand finalists St George Illawarra.
The Eels win will make for a sea of blue and gold at Accor Stadium on Sunday with the NRLW decider the curtain-raiser to the NRL’s Eels-Panthers showdown.
Inspired displays by Eels halves Ashleigh Quinlan and Tayla Preston behind a ferocious and resolute pack laid a foundation of success for the Dean Widders-coached side.
Quinlan scored herself with a light-stepping move and put centre Abbi Church over to give the Eels a 12-4 half-time lead.
Half-back Preston was enormous and charged like a forward at times. She chased hooker’s Brooke Anderson kick to score after the break and then put up a trademark wobbly bomb for Rikeya Horne to seal the deal.
The Roosters were well off their game and bombed two certain tries with winger Leianne Tufuga and centre Isabelle Kelly dropping balls with the line wide open. Those mistakes were a result of the blowtorch applied by the Eels middle forwards Simaima Taufa and Kennedy Cherrington.
Earlier former Brisbane pair Upton and Boyle starred on their old turf at Suncorp Stadium in the first of Sunday’s double-headers. They played a key role in rebooting the Knights, who lost all five games in their debut season.
The Dragons trailed 12-6 when star full-back Emma Tonegato crossed in the right corner only for the on-field decision to be overruled after a knock-on. The Dragons dominated territory in the second half, but the Knights’ defence held firm.
Upton breezed through for her second try before winger Kiana Takairangi’s crossed to ice the cake. Beaming Newcastle coach Ronnie Griffiths raved about his captain, who made 25 tackles and 160 metres from 20 rampaging runs.
“Quite possibly the best performance from a skipper I’ve seen in a long time,” he said of Boyle. “We’ve asked plenty of her defensively and she has two carries a set.
“One of the bravest performances from a middle front row captain. And oh [her try was] unbelievable – we just went up, we were in raptures.”