Eels deliver massive blow to Dragons' top-four hopes
Jarryd Hayne looked like Hannibal Lecter as he bagged a first half hat-trick and the Dragons premiership credentials were butchered before their eyes in a 40-4 Eels thrashing at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
Strapped up like St George Illawarra's worst nightmare Hayne proved nothing short of lethal, while Mitchell Moses parted the 'Red V' like his biblical namesake, finishing with 16 points and four try-assists in his most commanding performance of a forgettable season.
Doubling down on the bloodbath for a Dragons outfit in freefall, skipper Gareth Widdop dislocated his shoulder and faces an anxious wait on scans, though club officials were hopeful the English star will be back again in 2018.
Match: Eels v Dragons
Round 22 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- Fox League
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
"We'll get scans tomorrow and go from there," Widdop told Fox Sports after fulltime.
"It's disappointing but (the doctors) were able to get it back in so we'll wait for tomorrow and see what comes of it."
In any case the one-time competition leaders have now slumped to their fifth loss in six starts – as has become an uncomfortable tradition in recent winters for the joint-venture – and coughed up a signed and sealed top-four spot in the process.
Moses took just three minutes to make his first statement. With a 20-metre spiral pass directly onto Hayne's chest the pair opened the Eels account and flagged the left-edge raids that would keep coming all night.
Another three minutes on Hayne's head was strapped like a hot cross bun thanks to a stray boot from opposite number Jordan Pereira. But his next involvement proved a sight for sore Parramatta eyes once more.
Hayne handled twice in a 50-metre movement that saw Moses pulling the trigger for the enigmatic Eels winger to crash over again.
Whacked 6-0 in the penalty count by 20 minutes, only Parramatta errors and desperate defence on their own line kept the Dragons in the contest.
A seventh infringement landed hooker Cameron McInnes in the sin-bin in the 26th minute, and the Dragons were well and truly pushing the proverbial uphill when Widdop landed awkwardly and surfaced in agony as he cleaned up a grubber in his in-goal.
Soon enough George Jennings was bustling through from a simple scrum hit-up, while Hayne leapt high for a Jaeman Salmon bomb and his treble just before the break. The Eels were slithering along nicely at 22-0.
After half-time Luciano Leilua matched Hayne's effort in the air to claim Ben Hunt's kick and claw the Dragons back to 22-4.
But a diving Clint Gutherson extended the lead in the 46th minute when Hunt and Matt Dufty failed defuse another Moses grubber, while the Eels No.7 did it all himself five minutes later.
Swerving and shaping to kick one way to beat the first line of defence, Moses then did the same the other way once into the backfield for a scintillating 50-metre solo try.
Almost half an hour later big man Siosaia Vave bustled over for a rare four-pointer, the final 36-point margin lifting the Eels above North Queensland into 15th spot on for-and-against in their wooden spoon dogfight.
The Dragons meanwhile have spiralled out of the top four and into their late-season recurring nightmare.
News & Notes: Eels prop Kane Evans had an HIA test in the 13th minute after head clash with Dragons forward James Graham but returned to the action … Tariq Sims Tis an unhappy milestone man – this was his 150th NRL game, with the same result as his debut, 50th and 100th outings….the Eels have one seven of their past eight games against the Dragons…Jarryd Hayne has now scored 28 tries from 35 appearances on the wing at club level....Wests Tigers are the next to face the Dragons at Leichhardt Oval, while the Eels take on Storm at AAMI Park. Crowd: 10,541