Tigers heap more pain on winless Eels
The Parramatta Eels' season is now on life support after becoming the latest victim of a rapidly improving Wests Tigers team in 2018.
Dubbed genuine premiership heavyweights to the start the year, the Eels are now in danger of missing the finals altogether after a 30-20 loss to the high-flying Tigers at ANZ Stadium on Easter Monday.
It's the first time the Eels have slumped to four consecutive losses to open the competition since 2012, a season which also yielded the wooden spoon under former coach Stephen Kearney.
Unlike the Eels, not many expected the Tigers to be a threat this season. However they now find themselves with three wins from four to open the year and could well have had a perfect record if it wasn't for a costly refereeing error in last round's golden point loss to the Brisbane Broncos.
While the Tigers have completely overhauled the culture and commitment of the club in the off-season, perhaps there's no greater reflection of the boosted confidence at the club than halfback Luke Brooks, who along with Benji Marshall orchestrated an impressive Tigers win.
There was plenty of criticism of Ivan Cleary's recruitment over the off-season but you can't fault the effort of the newest Tigers, especially the unheralded Corey Thompson, who bagged a double in the win in front of a crowd of 30,420.
Match: Wests Tigers vs Eels
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
While Tigers coach Ivan Cleary will sleep easy this week heading into their clash with Melbourne in New Zealand, not so Brad Arthur.
This is arguably the toughest test of his short coaching career, tasked with the monumental challenge of resurrecting his side's season. Three tries in the final 17 minutes somewhat masked the array of problems Arthur needs to address.
In good news for Parramatta, Clint Gutherson is a chance of returning from a major knee injury against the Penrith Panthers on Sunday afternoon, however the club is reluctant to rush him back just to fix their problems.
The easy excuse for disgruntled Parramatta fans has been to blame it on Jarryd Hayne over the first three weeks because he's been the one key change over the off-season.
But that chain of thought is flawed, especially when you consider the ease in which opposition teams have made inroads through the middle of the field.
A victory against the Tigers on Easter Monday was always going to give the Hayne detractors even more reason to voice their concerns about his influence on the Eels, but the excuses are diminishing with every game.
With no Bevan French, Hayne or Gutherson at Parramatta's disposal, it was left to the Eels' fourth-string fullback Will Smith to open the account for Parramatta, leaping over his opposite number to score from a Mitchell Moses bomb.
However the Tigers hit straight back courtesy of the dazzling footwork of Benji Marshall, who created an overlap that paved the way for Robbie Rochow to score out wide and level the ledger at 6-6.
Marshall was heavily involved in the Tigers' next try, putting Kevin Naiqama into open space as the centre bounced his way off three Parramatta defenders to give his side a 12-6 buffer in what was the first time the Tigers had scored two tries in a game this season.
A penalty goal put the Tigers out beyond a converted try, but on the stroke of half-time they pushed out further in front when Corey Thompson flirted with the corner post to nab his side's third try of the opening half.
The Tigers exploited their old No.6, Mitchell Moses, when he rushed out of the line and allowed Matt Eisenhuth to stroll over the top of Smith for first points of the second half, before Thompson added another to the tally following some brilliant lead up work from Esan Marsters.
Some soft errors and poor discipline from the Tigers allowed George Jennings, Josh Hoffman and Kirisome Auva'a to score late for the Eels but they left it too late to have an impact on the result.