Determined Tigers grind out Eels
It was rarely pretty but Wests Tigers have done enough to dispose of a badly undermanned Eels outfit 23-8 at ANZ Stadium on Saturday evening.
A knee injury to halfback Luke Brooks – which ended his game at half time – is the only worry for winning coach Jason Taylor, who would have been delighted with the defensive resolve his troops showed, as well as the blinding form of man-of-the-match Mitch Moses.
With a massive proportion of their 2016 salary cap either sidelined or having left the club, the Eels battled on bravely to stay in the game and keep the margin down to a converted try up until the final 15 minutes.
The first points of the afternoon came via a sixth-minute Michael Gordon penalty goal but it didn't take long for the Tigers to flex their attacking muscle.
A quick double strike against the Eels left-edge defence – both resulting from a combination between Moses and former Eels back-rower Josh Aloiai – sent the score from 0-2 to 12-2 in the space of three minutes.
First Moses burst onto a great late Aloiai offload and pushed his head through the line to fling a pass to a supporting David Nofoaluma.
The favour was returned shortly after when Aloiai ran onto a Moses ball and burst through the line and this time it was James Tedesco on hand to support the play and streak away under the posts in the 14th minute.
To their credit the undermanned Eels hung in. They probably should have had a try in the 20th minute but returning winger Vai Toutai found himself out of position when he should have scored from a Clint Gutherson pass.
A pair of questionable decisions from the Tigers to attempt penalty goals – only one of which was successful – kept the Eels in the game at 14-2 after half an hour.
Parramatta clawed one back shortly after, this time Toutai making no mistake to cash in on a regulation overlap three minutes before half-time to make it 14-8 at the break.
The attack for both teams hit a snag in the second half with Tigers halfback Luke Brooks succumbing to a knee injury and not returning for the second stanza while his opposite number Jeff Robson copped a shoulder injury 10 minutes after the break but battled on.
Each team defended better than they attacked and produced some big efforts at their own line in the 20 minutes after the break. The next points finally came in the 64th minute when the frustrated Tigers opted for a penalty goal to push the lead out beyond a converted try.
While the eight-point buffer would have been a welcome security blanket, a decision barely five minutes later, with a full set at the Eels line in the offing, to take another two following an accidental offside was more confusing.
However it mattered little as the Tigers commanded the bounce of the ball in the final 10 minutes; prop Sauaso Sue was on hand to clean up when Toutai knocked back a Moses grubber in goal to put the match beyond doubt at 22-8 with five to play.
Moses slotted a field goal seemingly for practice two minutes later to wrap up the 23-8 win.
Wests Tigers 23 (Nofoaluma, Tedesco, Sue tries; Moses 5 goals; Moses field goal) defeated Parramatta Eels 8 (Toutai try; Gordon 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half time: Wests Tigers 14-8. Crowd: 14,428.