Eels shut out Tigers in arm wrestle
It wasn't always pretty but in the face of a steep injury toll and a mountain of errors from both sides the Eels have done enough to edge their Easter Monday clash with Wests Tigers 8-0 at ANZ Stadium.
Parramatta lost Tim Mannah for the mach in the early exchanges and had concerns over Danny Wicks (cheek), Junior Paulo (concussion) and Semi Radradra (finger) while their opponents also lost a prop early when Tim Grant failed a concussion check, but the Eels showed plenty of resilience to keep their opponents scoreless across 80 minutes.
A pair of stunning try-savers from in-form Tigers fullback James Tedesco kept his team in the contest but some poor execution in terms of kicking and last play options stymied their ability to build pressure.
The first half started in scintillating fashion but quickly turned into a war of attrition with a steeply mounting error rate.
Tedesco's first try-saver on a try-bound Radradra in the fourth minute was the play of the half and the closest either side got to scoring in the opening 40 minutes.
A Michael Gordon penalty goal in the ninth minute was the only scoring play of the first stanza, though Parramatta turned down a chance to make it 4-0 later in the half.
From that point they started dropping like flies; Mannah went off with a shoulder complaint in the 10th minute and didn't return, then Grant and Paulo both went off for concussion checks in the 19th. Paulo later returned but Grant did not pass the concussion check.
In the 25th minute Wicks copped a stray elbow to the cheek from teammate Beau Scott as they went in for a tackle, with the former leaving the field with his left eye virtually closed over amid fears he had fractured his cheekbone, though he came back on to start the second half. Radradra dislocated a finger later in the half but played on after it was put back in.
In between the mounting injury toll there was the odd attacking raid and while both sides defended their line well, both were lacklustre in attack. An enterprising broken-play kick out wide from Luke Brooks was slightly too deep for Jordan Rankin in his team's best chance of the first 40.
Both coaches would have been happy to get their charges in the sheds at half-time after seven errors apiece but any inspirational speeches clearly fell on deaf ears as each team added another error in the first two minutes of play after the resumption.
Michael Jennings finally speared into the Tigers in-goal after some good lead-up work from Norman and looked to have broken the deadlock but another amazing try-saver from Tedesco wrapped the ball up and kept the game try-less.
The mercurial fullback looked to have saved his third try of the match shortly after when a rampaging Paulo burst through the line, but the fullback's ankle tap didn't quite stop the Canberra-bound prop grounding the ball for an 8-0 lead after 55 minutes.
The game stayed scrappy as the Tigers got more desperate, with the Eels for the most part camped in their own end. A combination of desperate defence and some poor execution and last-tackle options from their opponents helped them keep their line intact through several near-misses.
Kyle Lovett (high tackle) and Manu Ma'u (crusher tackle and high tackle) finished the game on report as tempers frayed towards the end of the contest but the Eels held out for a frantic few final minutes to join the top of the NRL ladder on three wins from four games.
Parramatta Eels 8 (Paulo try; Gordon 2 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 0. Half time: Parramatta 2-0. Crowd: 36,112. On report: Kyle Lovett (high tackle), Manu Ma'u (crusher, high tackle).