PARRAMATTA raided the Raiders in a match that was heading for the ‘do not bother watching ever again pile’ until its final 20 minutes produced more excitement than a day at the circus.
The home side had bumbled and stumbled their way to a 16-4 deficit after three quarters of the match and looked like a disjointed rabble, while the Raiders didn’t look so flash either.
Passes hit the deck constantly and some of the service by both sides out of dummy-half was abysmal.
But tries to Joel Monaghan, Jarrod Croker and Joe Picker had seemingly set up a Canberra victory before a 10-minute points frenzy saved the Eels.
Tries to Jarryd Hayne, Krisnan Inu and finally the ‘born again’ Eric Groth Jnr between the 61st and 71st minutes wrestled the lead back for the Eels and they hung on to claim the two competition points.
Young Raiders centre Croker appeared to have turned villain to hero (he had moments earlier rushed out of the line to attempt an intercept only to leave the necessary space for Grothe to score) when he amazingly gathered in a Terry Campese grubber and slid his body into the tightest of spaces in the corner with just five minutes remaining, only for replays to show him drop the ball while trying to ground it.
As a result the Eels moved their record to 2-1, leaving the Raiders winless at the foot of the NRL ladder.
The Game Swung When… Video referee Russell Smith was called upon to judge a potential Canberra try to winger Justin Carney in the 60th minute.
Young Travis Waddell, playing intriguingly well at hooker up to this point, released a sketchy pass along the ground towards the Raiders winger. Carney picked it up on the run before cutting back inside and stepping several defenders in his way to the line.
But Eels centre Krisnan Inu threw his body into the path of the runaway train and zeroed in on the ball as Carney attempted to get it down. Several replays of the incident looked inconclusive. Did he get it down on the first attempt? The second attempt? Was he short of the line?
Englishman Smith chose the latter and with the score at 16-4 at the time a green light would have buried the Eels.
Just a minute later, the Raiders moved the ball left and attacked the Parramatta right-side defence – a honey pot previously on the night – but Terry Campese’s pass was snatched out of the air by Jarryd Hayne, the former Test winger racing 95 metres to score. It heralded a 10-minute run of 14 points that would eventually clinch the match.
Who Was Hot… Eels prop Fuifui Moimoi produced some great charges to lift the Parramatta side. His 119 metres gained was pretty impressive, as plenty of runs came at crucial times while coming off the Parramatta line.
Winger Eric Grothe Jnr still has some errors in his game but he did bring back his imposing physique with two line breaks; if he stays focused he will be a handful this year.
Nathan Hindmarsh was his usual dependable self on the way to 54 tackles but he also produced some attacking football including a clever cut-out pass that resulted in a long break down the right side.
Terry Campese battled hard for the Raiders, setting up two tries and producing a 40/20 in amongst an impressive kicking game.
Prop David Shillington also had a busy night, running for 171metres, while Milne ran the ball back with gusto, racking up 194 metres despite being in the sin bin for 10 minutes.
Who Was Not… Hookers Matthew Keating (Eels) and Stuart Flanagan (Raiders) had off nights.
Passes from dummy-half were far from crisp, with both sides even having moments where passes rebounded off unsuspecting receivers.
Parramatta fans are also waiting for lock Feleti Mateo to wake up. While he made a mammoth 42 tackles his attacking skill hasn’t really shown in 2009.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… The Green Machine wound back the clock with a sensational scrum play that would have brought six points if not for a minor amount of overzealousness from Raiders hooker Stuart Flanagan.
Packing down near halfway, winger Carney moved into the lock forward position and when the ball appeared the Canberra boys split the scrum, sending Carney streaking through the guts of the two packs all the way to the try line. On referral to the video referee it became apparent the move was almost executed perfectly – almost. Except Flanagan had clearly held on to his opposite number – unnecessarily, but illegally nonetheless. The try was denied.
Injuries… Both teams will be thankful no major injuries came out of the contest.
Bad Boys… A calm knight for the whistleblowers.
Ref Watch… While the use of the sin bin for professional fouls is a part of the game that is often overlooked Steve Lyons might want to rethink what appeared to be a gung-ho approach in banishing Raider David Milne in the 21st minute.
Eels’ fullback Luke Burt burst in to the clear but was tackled brilliantly by Milne. The Eels’ custodian then did his best impersonation of a dying fish flapping about on the deck of a boat, a performance clearly bought into by Lyons who sent Milne on his way despite the fact the Canberra fullback had plainly made an effort to free himself from the tackled player.
And Chris James will rue blowing a penalty too early. Terry Campese had produced another booming kick downfield and was felled while doing so, an action that results in a penalty where the ball landed. However on this occasion, the ball landed near the sideline and Luke Burt tapped it back into the field of play – and into the hands of the Raiders with the try line open.
Alas, their scoring effort was thwarted by the shrill sound of the whistle being blown in their favour.
Had James held off a fraction longer the Raiders would have grabbed six points. As luck would have it Joe Picker crashed over in the ensuing set of six.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Fuifui Moimoi (Eels): The Eels prop lifted the crowd and his team-mates with every bullocking run, constantly knocking over Raiders defenders like tenpins; 2 points – Terry Campese (Raiders): Carried the Raiders’ attack and although he provided the crucial intercept pass was still a dominant force on the match with his kicking game and deft touches; 1 point – Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels): The ultimate clean-up man. Made 54 massive tackles and still found time to contribute in attack. Without him the Eels may have lost by 20-plus.
Eels 18 (E Grothe 2, J Hayne, K Inu tries; L Burt goal) def Raiders 16 (J Monaghan, J Croker, J Picker tries; T Campese 2 goals) at Parramatta Stadium. Crowd: 11,116.