Eels v Wests Tigers: Five key points
There were several pivotal turning points before a late Pat Richards blitzkrieg saw the Wests Tigers race away with a 22-6 win.
The first big turning point
With most of their backline missing and the side struggling badly for fluency, the Eels showed enough grit to be up 6-0 shortly before halftime.
When they were awarded a penalty in front of the Tigers' posts, the players discussed taking the free two points and going for the jugular in the hopes of putting a 12-point gap on the visitors.
It almost paid dividends when Will Hopoate charged over in that set, but he was held up and also lost the ball trying to ground it, handing the Tigers a seven-tackle set. They raced downfield before a penalty of their own put them in range to score on the stroke of halftime as a potential 8-0 halftime lead turned into a narrow 6-4 advantage.
Eels coach Brad Arthur however was happy with the decision, just not the errors that followed it.
"That was positive [ignoring the two] - our execution let us down today. They just did things a little bit quicker and harder than us," he said.
The second big turning point
As far as turning points go - bad things came in three for Parramatta. With the Eels still clinging desperately to that 6-4 advantage inside the final 15 minutes of the game and down to a three-man bench with a makeshift three quarter line, the main thing the Eels needed was not to give their opponents a free leg-up – but unfortunately for them that's exactly what they did.
In the space of three minutes and three successive possessions, first Anthony Watmough, then Joe Paulo, then Danny Wicks, each dropped the ball cold. It wasn't long after that the Tigers blew them away and it left coach Brad Arthur in no doubt as to where the game was lost.
"Making three errors, three sets in a row, we didn't complete coming out of our red zone. We got to our last tackle, we needed to be able to defend that last play," he said.
"At the end of the day it was 6-4 with 12 minutes to go. We complete our sets and kick the ball down the other end of the field we might have been able to claw our way to a win."
The third big turning point
The Eels didn't look like scoring the late try that would have overturned the 10-6 deficit they were staring at with five minutes to play, but they were still defending like terriers and in with a shot if they could just get out of their own end.
With the Tigers camped on the Eels line, Watmough grabbed Farah's arm, causing the dummy-half to drop the ball.
Watmough picked up the loose ball and ran with it but referee Jarrod Maxwell immediately called for a Tigers scrum feed despite protests from Watmough.
He renewed his protests as the replay showed he hadn't touched the ball but the video referee didn't intervene and the Tigers added two more late tries shortly after.
Arthur was of the same mind as his lock after the game as to what he thought the call should have been.
"[Watmough] grabbed Robbie's hand and he dropped the ball. I don't know how that constitutes a knock on [against Watmough]," Arthur said.
You can't win a scrum against the feed anymore
Tigers halfback Luke Brooks fed a scrum in the 57th minute, the ball bounced into one of his forward's legs and was astutely raked back by fast-thinking Eels skipper Tim Mannah before Will Hopoate – packing in at lock – picked it up and went to race down the short side.
But referee Gavin Morris called for it to be fed again.
Parramatta halfback Chris Sandow looked incredulous, but not as incredulous as commentator Andrew Voss who described it as "a beautiful piece of rugby league".
"The ball was raked back by Parramatta – the Tigers stuffed up!" he exclaimed.
"For the rugby league purist, to see the ball raked back in super slow mo in a scrum, it's a sexy play!"
We hear you Vossy. But Parramatta was adjudged to have broken before the ball was out of the scrum and it was ordered to pack again.
Pat Richards. Evergreen. Amazing. Match-winner.
The big moment from the game, the one for the highlight reels, came in the 70th minute.
With his side still down 6-4, 33-year-old winger Pat Richards received a quality cut-out pass from James Tedesco. Galloping down the touchline, he had to contend with Eels winger John Folau coming across and trying to force him into touch. Tiptoeing down the chalk - but not on it - and off-balance Richards was reefed backwards by his collar and at the last instant managed to get a left toe to the ball.
The ball popped up nicely for Tedesco to score and claim the lead – a lead which would shortly be extended by a try from Richards himself and another in short order as the lanky winger set up yet another with a great kick.
After the game a humble Richards credited Tedesco for the freakish four-pointer, admitting he had been slightly worried what the replay would have to say about his tiptoe down the touchline.
"I just thought if 'I get a bit of boot on it' and to Teddy's credit you get those tries if you work hard and he kept moving and he's a good player so it was nice to get the try," Richards said.
"I was [confident I stayed in] until it was really slow mo right at the end there but I was just glad it wasn't [out]."