Wests Tigers snapped an eight-game losing streak against Parramatta and a five-game streak in 2009 to keep their flickering finals hopes alive with a 23-6 win at Parramatta Stadium.
But it took a remarkable defensive effort and three late tries to see off a home side that had enough chances to win two games.
The Eels dominated the early exchanges and much of the second half yet could only cross once across the entire 80 minutes when Luke Burt managed to find his way over shortly before the break to level the scores and give Parramatta the momentum heading into the second half.
But they appeared to run out of steam against a fired-up Tigers outfit, two shocking sets with the ball in hand 50-minutes in turning the tide before Willie Mataka crashed over in the 55th minute to give the visitors a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
In the end it was the class of Benji Marshall and the power of duo Taniela Tuiaki and Daine Laurie that proved too much for Parramatta, with Robbie Farah and Tuiaki scoring late to seal the win.
The Eels looked set to notch up a big total when they dominated early, but their best chance came when captain Nathan Cayless had the ball knocked loose as he reached out to score.
It seemed to knock the stuffing out of their attack and young halves Daniel Mortimer and Jeff Robson struggled for options for the remainder of the game.
The Tigers leapfrogged Parramatta and Canberra into 12th spot with the win.
The Game Swung When… Parramatta captain Nathan Cayless had the ball knocked from his grasp six minutes into the game.
The Eels had dominated the early exchanges and looked set to capitalise when Cayless broke clear, but Tigers fullback Blake Ayshford knocked the ball free at the last second to deny the home captain a certain four-pointer.
That moment changed the game and on the back of some possession of their own the Tigers scored down the other end 10 minutes later and were never headed.
Who Was Hot… Once again it was Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah who provided the touch of class the Tigers needed to crack the Eels late in the game.
Marshall had a hand in all four Tigers tries while Farah was at his probing best from dummy-half and kicked the field-goal that sealed the win with 13 minutes remaining.
Forwards Chris Heighington and Daine Laurie also impressed, while Tuiaki was a menace out wide all night.
Eels fullback Luke Burt was easily his side’s best.
Who Was Not… Parramatta’s State of Origin winger Jarryd Hayne was well below his best after suffering from the flu all week, but it was their halves combination of Daniel Mortimer and Jeff Robson that struggled the most – offering little with the ball in hand despite a glut of possession.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… The fiery contest up front between Parramatta’s Fuifui Moimoi and the Tigers’ Daine Laurie was what the fans came to see.
The two big men squared off at one another throughout the second half with some monster hits – their feud only spoiled by some over-zealous officialdom that seemed determined to keep the pair apart.
Incredibly, Laurie actually argued with referee Ben Cummins after receiving a penalty – insisting that Moimoi didn’t hit him high!
Injuries… Robbie Farah (Tigers) – ribs, 0-1 weeks; Chris Heighington (Tigers) – groin, indefinite.
Refs Watch… Tigers coach Tim Sheens accused referees Ben Cummins and Jason Robinson of over-scrutinising his side in the ruck but it was the attention they paid to forwards Fuifui Moimoi and Daine Laurie that annoyed the crowd with the pair prevented from engaging in a tough but seemingly perfectly legal on-field battle.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers): Provided the spark the game needed, laying on all four Tigers tries with some pinpoint kicks and superb passes; 2 points – Chris Heighington (Wests Tigers): Made 33 crucial tackles for the Tigers and ran for an impressive 138 metres in a solid all-round performance; 1 point – Taniela Tuiaki (Wests Tigers): Ran for 208 metres and caused the Parramatta defence all sorts of problems out wide throughout the game.
Wests Tigers 23 (D Halatau, W Mataka, R Farah, T Tuiaki tries; Marshall 3 goals, R Farah field foal) def Parramatta 6 (L Burt try; L Burt goal) at Parramatta Stadium. Crowd: 12,003.