They promised to be a thorn in the side of their opponents for the remainder of the season and Parramatta lived up their word with an impressive 18-16 win over heavyweights Melbourne.
The Eels survived a late flurry by the visitors after leading 10-0 at the break to keep their slim finals hopes alive in Nathan Hindmarsh’s 250th NRL game.
Melbourne dominated the early exchanges but the tide turned with a brilliant try to Parramatta halfback Jeff Robson against the run of play in the 13th minute.
A Cooper Cronk chip fell fortuitously into the hands of Eric Grothe, who gave Jarryd Hayne room to move down the right sideline before Robson loomed up on the inside to finish a 90-metre movement.
That try seemed to spur the Eels on and Fuifui Moimoi gave them a 10-0 lead seven minutes later when he barged through four defenders to plant the ball over the line.
Melbourne fought back with a try to Ryan Hoffman shortly after half-time following a superb pass from rookie Luke Kelly’s first ever touch in the top grade, but the Eels responded immediately with a penalty to Luke Burt to lead 12-6, then crossed again through Todd Lowrie after a remarkable inside ball from Krisnan Inu.
Parramatta never looked like being headed but the Storm did provide a tense finish with two late tries to Dane Nielson and Joseph Tomane – their last-minute bid to steal a dramatic win scuppered when Hayne comfortably defused a bomb near his own tryline.
Melbourne hold onto fourth spot despite the loss while Parramatta remain an outside chance of stealing a top-eight spot after moving above Canberra into 13th.
The Game Swung When… Robson finished off a length-of-the-field movement to give the Eels a 4-0 lead.
Until that moment Melbourne had looked the most likely to open the scoring and even had a try to Tomane disallowed when the last pass from Greg Inglis was ruled forward, but Robson’s try changed the momentum and Parramatta was never headed.
Who Was Hot… It was another master class from Hayne, who caused Melbourne all sorts of headaches from the back and played a key role in two of the Eels’ three tries.
Hindmarsh was also impressive in his 250th game while Eric Grothe (11 hit-ups), Tim Mannah (106 metres) and Fuifui Moimoi (a line break and 11 hit-ups) all contributed.
Billy Slater was easily the Storm’s best (115 metres and a line break) and nearly helped his side out of jail late in the game after injecting himself heavily into the contest.
Who Was Not… It was a quiet night out for Queensland star Greg Inglis, who was well contained by Eels centre Joel Reddy less than a week after tormenting NSW in State of Origin III.
Inglis came close to scoring a remarkable try after Hoffman flicked the ball back in-field while travelling over the dead ball line but was otherwise little more than a passenger.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Two of the Eels’ three tries followed stunning pieces of skill that suggest they won’t be warmly welcomed by opposition sides for the remainder of the season.
The first saw Hayne tiptoe his way down the sideline before throwing a one-handed pass inside that somehow landed on Jeff Robson’s chest with open pasture ahead.
The second saw Hayne fire a bullet pass to Krisnan Inu, who then threw his own miracle ball back inside for Lowrie to crash over and all but seal the win.
Injuries… Dallas Johnson (Storm) – neck, 1-2 weeks; Ryan Hoffman (Storm) – hamstring, 0-1 weeks.
Refs Watch… Some rushed decisions by referees Ashley Klein and Bernard Sutton had both sides baffled at times – even the usually restrained Nathan Hindmarsh lashing out and copping a warning – but there were no howlers with the Eels deserving their narrow win.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Jarryd Hayne (Eels): Ran for 187 metres and set up two of Parramatta’s three tries with brilliant pieces of skill; 2 points – Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels): Was at his typically robust best, notching up another 48 tackles and running for 146 metres; 1 point – Billy Slater (Storm): Melbourne’s best player, he looked the most likely to crack Parramatta’s defence throughout a tense second half.
Eels 18 (J Robson, F Moimoi, T Lowrie tries; L Burt 3 goals) def Storm 16 (R Hoffman, D Nielson, J Tomane tries; J Tomane 2 goals) at Parramatta Stadium. Crowd: 10,804.