Parramatta produced their most complete performance of the season and provided a glimpse of a not-so-dull future in upsetting Brisbane 21-14 at Parramatta Stadium.
The enigmatic Eels had gone down to lowly Wests Tigers in their last outing in a woeful attacking performance but turned it all around in dramatic fashion with some spectacular tries to keep their semi-finals hopes alive.
Their much-maligned forward pack dominated the more fancied Broncos while only some wayward last passes prevented their class backline from conjuring memories of the 68-22 thrashing they handed Brisbane at the same ground just two years ago.
Still, two tries midway through the first half to Eric Grothe and Joel Reddy reminded the blue-and-gold faithful just what their side is capable of on its day.
The first followed a sweeping backline move from left to right that saw Jarryd Hayne put Reddy into space before the powerful centre threw a miracle pass for Grothe to score.
The second was a role reversal as Grothe shrugged off four defenders to send Reddy on a 40-metre dash to the tryline.
Steve Michaels made it 8-4 at the break when he scored out wide following a simple second-man play but Krisnan Inu – enjoying his best game of the season on the left side – snatched a crucial intercept early in the second to race 90 metres and give the Eels a 14-4 lead.
The home fans had plenty of nervous moments with Andrew McCullough and Michaels crossing to level the scores – a remarkable scoreline given Parramatta’ dominance – and a series of close calls had Eels fans wondering if this was going to be the one that got away.
First Inu produced a remarkable last ditch tackle in-goal to hold up Brisbane’s Josh McGuire when he looked certain to score; second Fuifui Moimoi broke clear only to ignore an unmarked Daniel Mortimer and run straight into Karmichael Hunt; and finally Inu grassed the ball inches above the turf as he reached out to score from close range.
But Eels winger Luke Burt quickly made amends with a stunning 35-metre field-goal with two minutes remaining before Mortimer darted over in the final minute.
The Game Swung When… Parramatta ran onto the field. Despite the fact that scores were locked at 14-all with just two minutes remaining – a credit to Brisbane’s scrambling defence and never-say-die attitude – the Eels dominated almost every facet of this game and never really looked capable of losing.
Who Was Hot… The Eels were on fire at times, with Jarryd Hayne producing another blistering performance at fullback and Nathan Hindmarsh involved in everything including an early bell-ringer on Karmichael Hunt. Joel Reddy, Eric Grothe, Krisnan Inu and Fuifui Moimoi were also standouts for the home side while Sam Thaiday and Darren Lockyer were exceptional for the Broncos.
Who Was Not… It was a surprisingly quiet day out for Brisbane forwards Corey Parker and Dave Taylor who produced just 61 metres and 59 metres respectively. Taylor was also on the wrong end of a huge Inu shoulder-charge that sent the bigger man sprawling.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Inu’s remarkable tackle on Josh McGuire with Brisbane trailing 14-10 late in the game was probably the play of the day given that the visitors would have taken the lead had the ball hit the turf.
A Lockyer bomb evaded the converging Eels defenders and bounced fortuitously for McGuire who looked certain to score as he ploughed over alongside the posts but Inu somehow managed to grab his body and pull himself under the football to deny a certain six points.
Injuries… Nic Kenny (Broncos) – medial ligament, 6 weeks.
Refs Watch… There were a number of missed forward passes and some dubious penalties awarded for both sides by referees Tony Archer and Matt Cecchin but Archer correctly ruled McGuire held up by Inu when video referee Bill Harrigan somehow ruled ‘Ref’s call’ despite clear evidence that the ball never touched the turf.
NRL.com Best & Fairest:
3 points – Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels): The tackling machine made his usual 47 tackles but also ran for 166 metres and was never far from the action; 2 points – Jarryd Hayne (Eels): Sparked the Eels in the second half when they needed him most, making two crucial line breaks and running for a game-high 267 metres; 1 point – Joel Reddy (Eels): Caused all sorts of problems in the first half, scoring one try and setting up another with a brilliant one-handed pass to Eric Grothe.
Eels 21 (E Grothe, J Reddy, K Inu, D Mortimer tries; L Burt 2 goals, L Burt field-foal) def Broncos 14 (S Michaels 2, A McCullough tries; C Parker goal) at Parramatta Stadium. Crowd: 10,030.