A magical try assist and 18-point haul from veteran Wests Tigers winger Pat Richards in his 100th NRL game has helped his side come from behind to down the Eels 22-6 at ANZ Stadium.
Wests Tigers praise match-winner Richards
Arthur blasts Eels for not playing to win
Eels v Wests Tigers: Five key points
In a match punctuated by errors from both sides, the Tigers exploded late to overcome an Eels side that led at half time despite missing its entire first-choice three quarter line, and lost another centre during the match.
The highlight of the match was a stunning try assist from Richards, showing incredible strength to stay in the field as he tiptoed down the left touch line under attention from Eels winger John Folau, before toeing the ball off-balance for fullback James Tedesco to ground it and claim the lead for the first time in the match after 70 minutes.
Richards followed that by scoring a try of his own – a swinging arm from Eels fullback Will Hopoate allowing him a shot at an eight-point try – extending the Tigers lead to 18-6 after trailing 6-4 for the entire second half, then setting up another with yet another pinpoint toe-ahead at the death to blow the score out to 22-6.
That three-try burst came after arguably the most contentious call of the match; with the Eels defending their own line desperately, Anthony Watmough grabbed Robbie Farah's arm at dummy half causing him to drop the ball.
The knock-on call against the Eels was not overturned after the video referee desite evidence Watmough hadn't touched the ball.
"[Watmough] grabbed Robbie's hand and he dropped the ball. I don't know how that constitutes a knock on [against Watmough] but at the end of the day we had enough chances. We were in front 6-4 and didn't complete three sets coming out of our red zone," Arthur said after the game.
The Eels started with a completely new three quarter line to the one that kicked off the season in fine style against Manly, with Winger Reece Robinson missing the game due to a quad strain, joining Semi Radradra, Brad Takairangi and Beau Champion on the sidelines. It meant Manu Ma’u moved one spot further out on the Eels’ left edge but when centre Ryan Morgan failed to re-emerge from the sheds at halftime due to a concussion, it meant David Gower also moved to the centres.
Neither coach would have been particularly happy at half-time but at only 6-4 ahead Arthur would have been particularly cranky with his troops for failing to be up by more than two points.
Despite making six errors – twice as many as the Tigers – the Eels edged the possession on the back of a 7-3 penalty count which also helped them dominate field position.
A scoreless opening half hour could have seen several tries but the Eels’ attack broke down every time they threatened, through a combination of forced passes and offloads and inaccurate attacking kicks – something that had been their strength over the opening four rounds.
Hooker Nathan Peats finally put them ahead 6-0 on the half-hour mark when he decided to go through, rather than around, diving over from dummy half.
When Parramatta’s seventh penalty of the half was awarded in front of the Tigers’ sticks three minutes from the halftime break they had a free shot at an eight-point buffer. But they decided to go for a try.
It nearly paid off handsomely when Will Hopoate barged over but he was held up and crucially lost the ball in the process.
When Peni Terepo gave away a ruck penalty in the ensuing seven-tackle set it gave the Tigers a chance to launch a final charge and when winger Kevin Naiqama grounded the ball just inside the right-hand corner post the Eels went to the break up by two rather than eight.
The second half was a dour affair as the match finished with 12 errors against the Eels and eight against the Tigers. It was Parramatta's 40 missed tackles and 44 per cent possession for the match that proved the telling statistics.
At one point right before the Tigers exploded, the Eels failed to complete three successive sets – sandwiching two errors from the Tigers – which is the point Arthur said cost his side the game.
"I just think we didn't play to win, we were trying to protect the lead, or play to not get beaten," he said.
"Making three errors three sets in a row we didn't complete coming out of our red zone. But still, we got to our last tackle, we needed to be able to defend that last play.
It handed the away team the chance to move into the attacking position from which Richards exploded to carry his side home.
Wests Tigers 22 (Kevin Naiqama, James Tedesco, Pat Richards, Luke Brooks tries; Pat Richards 3 goals) defeated Parramatta Eels 6 (Nathan Peats try; Chris Sandow goal). Crowd 35,510.