Parramatta left to rue crucial decision in loss to Canterbury
Parramatta's season is all but over but they will be left to rue a controversial refereeing decision that led to the match-winning try to Canterbury Bulldogs forward Adam Elliott at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
Eels players were sitting in the sheds crying after the game with the realisation their season was almost gone.
"We've got grown men after a football game being brought to tears," Eels coach Brad Arthur said. "That's how important it is to them."
While the Eels only have themselves to blame for failing to close out the match, they will argue Clint Gutherson should have never been put in a position that led to a match-defining mistake in the final seven minutes.
They will argue they should have been on the attack down the other end of the field with a seven-tackle set because it appeared George Jennings had caught a Matt Frawley kick in the in-goal area.
Gutherson pleaded with referee Ashley Klein, who said the tight call would be reviewed. However, the referees' original decision wasn't overturned despite replays indicating Jennings may have got a foot down on the line before taking possession.
From the ensuing set, the Bulldogs scored a try through Adam Elliott, who dived on a loose ball after Gutherson's attempt to kick the ball dead was an embarrassing air swing.
The Eels will now have to do what only one team before them has done.
Come back from a 2-8 start to the year. At least history is on the club's side because that team was the 2006 Eels.
"We're not giving up. We're here for the long haul. We're in for the fight. We can see that in them, but we have to stop with the talking and start putting it on the field. But we're not giving up. We're not rolling over," Arthur said.
Gutherson didn't deserve to be the man whose mistake would virtually end Parramatta's season.
Because it was his return from a major knee injury a month ago that breathed life into a dismal start to the season.
While there will be plenty of frustration aimed at the officials, there should be a realisation that the Eels were their own worst enemy at times.
"The effort was good, but we were just dumb," coach Brad Arthur said.
"We're killing ourselves. We're our own worst enemy. It's very, very frustrating."
They were the better team. Created the better chances. But their inability to land the killer blow paved the way for the Bulldogs to snatch the two points.
The loser of the Dogs-Eels clash was always going to effectively kiss their season goodbye, and the winner would hang on to a glimmer of hope.
As underwhelming as the Eels have been over the first 10 rounds of the season, one got the impression there was still plenty of improvement left in them.
That they may have been capable, albeit requiring a huge improvement, of winning at least 10 of their remaining 14 games to finish inside the top eight.
Not many would say the same for the Bulldogs, who were far from clinical but resilient nonetheless.
Despite the win, it's hard to see a lot of upside in what Canterbury are producing. What they have dished out over the first 10 weeks looks like it is good as it will get. That was good enough against a disappointing Parramatta.
And it's not like the Bulldogs are down on troops. Only Aiden Tolman is in the club's casualty ward.
Compare that to Parramatta, who had Jarryd Hayne, Nathan Brown, Kane Evans, Kaysa Pritchard and Tony Williams all sitting on the sideline nursing injuries.
What Dean Pay would give to have the strike power their opposition possessed on Friday night.
Clint Gutherson, Bevan French, Corey Norman, Mitchell Moses, Michael Jennings.
Parramatta should be better than they have been. And they can be. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it's going to matter for much even if they do.