Roosters survive Eels scare
Despite not leading at any point until the final 10 minutes of the match, a below-par Roosters side was able to come from behind to break the hearts of a determined Eels outfit that fell apart in the second half to go down 28-18 to the premiership favourites.
The Eels refused to play to the script in running up an 18-4 lead against an out-of-sorts Roosters team in the first half but conceded four unanswered tries in the second to add yet another game to their list of ones that got away in a disappointing season.
The win moved the Roosters past the Cowboys to second on the ladder and formally ends any faint hope the Eels had of a late run to the 2015 finals series.
Parramatta looked full of energy right from the start and completed their first 15 sets straight, while the Roosters looked a touch off their game right from the kick off, coming up with errors to ruin their few early attacking chances.
First points came from Eels skipper Tim Mannah, who barged over for his second of the year under the sticks after hitting a flat ball from Nathan Peats out of dummy half.
It didn't take the Roosters long to hit back when speedy centre Michael Jennings stood up stand-in Eels three quarter Vai Toutai, creating space for Daniel Tupou to lope downfield and find James Maloney in support, although the pivot hit the stick with his conversion to leave his side two adrift in the 15th minute.
The Eels pulled away through try-scoring ace Semi Radradra in the 23rd minute, the Fijian winger extending his lead atop the season try-scoring tally with his 19th four-pointer after fullback Reece Robinson used his pace to create room for Radradra out wide to the left.
The 11,255-strong crowd were truly scratching their heads when classy playmaker Corey Norman sent rampaging left-edge forward Manu Ma'u through a yawning gap then pushed up in support to stretch his side's lead to 18-4.
The Roosters weren't without their chances; Jennings again beat Toutai from close range but had the ball knocked from his grasp over the try line, while stand-in winger Bureta Faraimo did what few have been able to in recent years by matching Tupou in the air, costing the lanky Roosters flanker what looked a certain try from a Pearce bomb in the 33rd minute.
A couple of late errors – cold drops from bench forward Peni Terepo – handed the Roosters more good-ball chances but the premiership heavyweights continued to fluff their lines. Maloney passed into touch when Mitchell Aubusson – playing well out of position on the wing with Ferguson at centre – was late to a cutout ball – while Radradra ran up to smash Ferguson when the Roosters looked to create an overlap against the Eels' left edge, knocking the ball free.
Unfortunately for Eels coach Brad Arthur, only one side seemed to emerge from the sheds after half-time as the Roosters came surging back into the game in the second term, scoring four unanswered tries and eventually hitting the lead – perhaps inevitably – in the 71st minute.
The Eels' execution took a nosedive while the Roosters hit form. A 46th-minute error from Vai Toutai in the play the ball set the tone; a Pearce kick was batted back by the Roosters with prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves firing a long ball out to an unmarked Aubusson.
Fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck showed off his stunning footwork to wrong-foot Corey Norman at the line in the 55th minute to close the gap to two points.
From there the Eels began to unravel, giving away unnecessary penalties and coming up with errors.
A gritty 15-minute arm wrestle ensued as the Eels clung to their lead but with skipper Tim Mannah never making it back from the sheds after going off in the 25th minute with a leg injury they were always up against it.
A dubious penalty against the Eels in the 70th minute gave the Roosters a leg up, from where the in-form prop Waerea-Hargreaves – fresh off becoming a first-time father earlier in the week – produced a stunning run against a set defensive line over the top of Isaac De Gois and Nathan Peats to steamroll Robinson and score next to the posts to claim the lead.
Trailing for the first time in the match, the Eels never looked like mounting a comeback and when Tuivasa-Sheck collected a bomb two minutes from time and popped an offload to Roosters hooker Jake Friend, the latter enjoyed an unobstructed 10-metre run to the line to blow the final score out to 28-18.
Sydney Roosters 28 (Maloney, Aubusson, Tuivasa-Sheck, Waerea-Hargreaves, Friend tries; Maloney 4 goals) defeated Parramatta Eels 18 (Mannah, Radradra, Norman tries, Kelly 3 goals) at Allianz Stadium. Half time: Eels 18-4. Crowd: 11,255.