Eels defeat Storm in cliffhanger
It was not pretty but the Parramatta Eels have escaped with a 26-22 win against an undermanned Storm side at AAMI Park on Monday night.
Tepai Moeroa was the hero, scoring a try with three minutes to play giving the Eels their first win on Victorian soil since 2005.
Melbourne very nearly snatched victory in the final minute only for winger Mahe Fonua to fall centimeters short of the line.
It was a brave Storm outfit who were without their Origin stars and several other key personnel but this was a win Parramatta simply had to get.
Chris Sandow was the everywhere man, filing in at fullback after Reece Robinson left the field early with a fractured jaw and then bobbing up at halfback with three try assists.
Semi Radradra again showed his worth with 185 metres and two first half tries.
With the star-studded names absent from the Storm side it was easy to overlook the quality that remained, but it took only five minutes for that reminder to kick in.
Blake Green played the ball outside to stand-in centre Tohu Harris and the Kiwi international waltzed through a half-hearted Eels defence to open the scores. He then stepped up to convert for an early 6-0 lead.
Ben Hampton, in his first game of 2015 soon doubled the lead, as he broke clean through the Eels line to score under the post to show there is some halfback talent ready to replace the injury Cooper Cronk.
Whether it was complacency or a hangover from last week's capitulation, the Eels started horribly. The opening 12 minutes saw them give up 366 metres, two errors two penalties and as many converted tries.
When Reece Robinson left the game and sent Sandow to fullback, there was a sense that was going to be that kind of night for the visitors.
However after 27 minutes the visitors finally awoke from their slumber.
A clever offload by 300-gamer Anthony Watmough kick started a move out wide with Sandow playing a looping left field pass to Semi Radradra to score his 10th try of the season.
The Eels had a case to think they had cut the deficit further eight minutes from the break when Radradra crossed again, only for it to be controversially overturned because of obstruction
A 40-20 kick by Sandow soon after had the Eels in prime position to level scores and they nearly did, only for Radradra to be denied his second from a dubious obstruction call.
However the scintillating Fijian had the Melbourne right edge on toast and would not be denied three minutes later when he caught a Sandow high ball virtually unopposed to cut the halftime deficit to two points.
The Eels carries their momentum into the second half and were rewarded with the lead just two minutes after the restart.
Sandow, who seemed to be alternating between fullback and halfback, placed a precision high ball on the line and Corey Norman obliged by snatching the ball out of Cameron Munster's hands in mid-air to put the visitors into a 16-12 lead.
For as good as Sandow was in patches he was found out several times at fullback, scuffing a high ball then knocking on a grubber kick by Green that founds its way back into the hands of the Storm five-eighth who leveled the scores.
Melbourne controlled the next 15 minutes but without the their big three of Cam Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, their lack of attacking prowess was on show as they failed to make their field position count.
They needed a bit of help and Norman was happy to lend a hand as he threw a wayward pass out left to no one but Fonua who pounced and offloaded to Storm debutant Hymel Hunt for a six-point lead with 13 minutes to play.
However true to their unpredictable form the Eels bounced back on 70 minutes as Sandow broke through the Storm line to find Ryan Morgan. The erratic playmaker would fail to convert though as the home side clung to a 22-20 lead.
But it was Tepai Moeroa who stepped up as the hero as the Eels hero, bulldozing his way over for the match-winner in the 77th minute.
Parramatta 26 (Semi Radradra 2, Corey Norman, Ryan Morgan, Tepai Moeroa tries; Chris Sandow 3 goals) defeated Melbourne Storm 22 (Tohu Harris, Ben Hampton, Blake Green, Hymel Hunt tries; Tohu Harris 3 goals) at AAMI Park. Crowd: 10,128.