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Fans of both clubs rode a rollercoaster of emotions as the Wests Tigers escaped with a dramatic 31-30 victory over the Eels at Parramatta Stadium in Round 8.
In one of the craziest games of rugby league in recent memory the visitors seemed in control when they led 19-nil at halftime and they had many Parramatta supporters heading for the turnstiles when vaulting to a 31-nil advantage with just 18 minutes remaining.
But incredibly the Wests Tigers put their cues in the rack and allowed the Jarryd Hayne-inspired Eels to cross for five unanswered tries from the 67-minute mark – including three in the final three minutes – to fall short of a stunning comeback win by the narrowest of margins.
Chris Lawrence opened the afternoon’s scoring in the 11th minute after receiving an inside ball from skipper Robbie Farah 10 metres from the try-line; Farah had mesmerised the Eels’ defence when drifting to the left out of dummy-half.
Beau Ryan scored an inventive try in the 20th minute, grubber-kicking into the in-goal from five metres out then regathering for a 10-nil scoreline. Five minutes later Liam Fulton got in on the act, brushing aside Eels five-eighth Ben Roberts like he was a department store mannequin for a 16-nil lead that became 19-nil through a Tim Moltzen penalty goal (31st minute) and Benji Marshall field goal on the stroke of halftime (which would prove the difference on the afternoon).
Two tries to Ben Murdoch-Masila off Benji Marshall kicks in the 57th and 62nd minutes looked to bury the Eels before Matt Ryan opened their account in the 67th minute, spinning over from close range. Thereafter in rapid succession tries were posted by Willie Tonga (off a Hayne assist in the 71st minute), Ken Sio (off a Casey McGuire assist in the 72nd minute), Hayne (from a solo burst in the 78th minute) and finally Cheyse Blair (from long range in the dying seconds).
Offloads were pivotal to the Tigers’ win – they managed 17 throughout the afternoon. However, the Eels won bragging rights with their attack, which broke open the Tigers’ defence on nine occasions.
Hayne was dynamite in a beaten side, scoring a try, running 152 metres and breaking 13 tackles.