A scrappy but entertaining afternoon at ANZ Stadium ended up with the Eels edging a 17-16 thriller on the back of a late Corey Norman field goal.
Fears for injured Gutherson
Star Eels fullback Clint Gutherson was brought down by a try-saving Michael Chee Kam tackle late in the game, with his right leg twisting awkwardly underneath him.
Five-eighth Corey Norman said immediately after the game that he feared a MCL injury for Gutherson, while coach Brad Arthur was also less than optimistic in the post-match press conference.
"He's going to have to get some scans tomorrow but we don't think it's great," Arthur said.
"I'm not sure exactly what the diagnosis is but it could be bad.
"He's been great, footy's a tough game, it's not always fair and he's one bloke that it's not fair if he has to be out for an extended period. He's helped us put in this position that we're in [close to the finals]."
The Eels will move Bevan French back to the fullback role in the interim with Kirisome Auva'a to return to the top grade on the wing, with halfback Mitch Moses to assume goal-kicking duties.
It was confirmed by the club on Monday morning that Gutherson had ruptured his ACL, ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Moses triumphs against former club
Mitch Moses walked away a winner in his first ever NRL game against the Wests Tigers. At one stage it looked like he would really add insult to injury with a match-winning field goal but the Tigers rushed him and he flung the ball back to Norman who iced the winner.
Moses still lives with current Tigers Luke Brooks and James Tedesco and close mate Brooks took the chance to line up Moses with a couple of stinging shots, one of which landed him on report for a trip. He may also be in trouble for a shot in the very first set of the game when his shoulder caught Moses high as he kicked the ball.
Arthur wouldn't weigh into any Moses-Tigers rivalry but was happy to see his new halfback steadily improving as the season progressed.
"I think he's getting better each week. I've said before he's had four coaches this year already," Arthur said.
"He's just got to try and fit in and play his role. I don't think we give him many opportunities tonight. His effort was good."
Eels' missed chances pile up
For a team that bossed the line-break count by 9-2, the Eels had trouble converting attacking chances into points but they went close on a number of occasions.
The fact they still managed to come away with the win will be the most pleasing part for Arthur's men but the fact they left so many points out on the field will be a concern.
Tepai Moeroa dropped it with a half-break begging and the try-line open in the 11th minute after a nice Moses short ball; in the 15th Norman failed to score after being brought down by Matt McIlwrick and losing possession following an Eels breakaway.
In the 45th minute an error in the play-the-ball from Moses potentially cost Cam King a dummy-half try; a wonderful finish from Bevan French off a Norman kick in the 65th minute was overturned for a Michael Jennings knock-on in the lead up. In the 76th minute, with the scores level, Brad Takairangi did well to mark a Norman bomb near the line and offloaded to Gutherson. The fullback arguably could have stretched out to score himself but popped a sharp offload to French who couldn't hang on with the line open.
The Eels will need to do better at taking those chances next week against Brisbane, who are more likely to punish any errors.
Converted try worth of penalty goals not quite enough
The slightly unusual scoreline of 12-10 to the Tigers midway through the second half was unusual only because the leading team had scored just a single try to go with three penalty goals, as against two tries with one converted for the Eels.
At the time it seemed like it might pay off but as the Eels eventually reclaimed the lead – and a missed conversion from Wests Tigers' hit-back try left the scores tied only for a Corey Norman field goal to seal the deal for Parramatta – you couldn't help but wonder what any of the three further full attacking sets at the Eels line may have meant for the Tigers.
Penalty goals haven’t been good luck charms for the Tigers this year; three penalties helped in an 18-12 win over Canterbury in Round 8 and were largely inconsequential in a 33-12 win over Newcastle in Round 17.
However the Tigers also kicked plenty in six losses this year: one in a 36-2 loss to Penrith in Round 2; two in a 22-14 loss to Melbourne in Round 4; three penalty goals in a tight 22-16 loss to Cronulla in Round 9; one in a 28-8 loss to Souths in Round 10; one in a 16-12 loss to the Dragons in Round 13; plus the three on Sunday against Parramatta.
Tigers and Eels Stay Kind for Kelly family
A huge crowd of 30,901 turned out for what was the inaugural Stay Kind Cup, in support of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation and the Kelly family.
The game was played in the right spirit and the initiative was well-supported by both clubs, the NRL, the host broadcasters and fans. Club sponsors gave up their real estate on the playing strips for the TKYF for the day as well with both teams playing in specially-designed jerseys.
Thanks for helping us celebrate a wonderful cause today. Cracking game too. All the best for the remainder of 2017. 👍 #StayKind— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) July 23, 2017