Parramatta coach Brad Arthur says the last 15 minutes of his team's 28-24 victory over Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium has him convinced they've matured since their finals exit last season.
Replacement pivot Will Smith's match-winner in the 72nd minute gave the Eels a thrilling 28-24 victory on Saturday night after their double finals chance appeared to have evaporated when the Tigers snatched an eight-point lead.
Two tries in the final 15 minutes through Smith and Reed Mahoney turned the tide for the Eels after the Wests Tigers produced three tries in the second half to overturn an eight-point deficit of their own.
The result set the Eels up for a rematch with the Storm, who they were bundled out by in the finals last season through a 32-0 thrashing.
However, Arthur is adamant the Eels have learned their lesson ahead of the expected trip to Suncorp Stadium next week.
"It's going to be a tough game of footy, they're one of the better teams of the competition and have been for a long time," Arthur said.
"I reckon the last 15 minutes probably showed that [we are better], we wouldn't have been able to pull that back last year.
"It was a good test for us because they moved the ball side-to-side. We ran the ball strong, had plenty of support and played through the middle."
Smith's weaving effort close to the line with eight minutes left sealed the club's top-four finish after the 28-year-old was called in late to replace Jai Field, who failed to train all week with an injury.
Match: Wests Tigers v Eels
Round 20 -
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Sydney
Smith's four-pointer was followed by a try-saving effort from Clint Gutherson late on Luke Garner down the left edge nearing full-time.
"They're the big moments you’ve got to get right," Arthur said.
"He (Gutherson) got it right and Will got his right. We probably didn't need the first 20 minutes of the second half but I was really happy we remained calm and patient and knew we had plenty of time.
"Once we got the ball back I thought we executed alright with the footy."
The result spoiled the farewell games of Benji Marshall, who failed to finish the match with rib and knee injuries, and one-club veteran Chris Lawrence, who is retiring after 253 games for the club.
Marshall's night ended prematurely with knee and rib injuries in the 18th minute but the joint venture rallied with Adam Doueihi's move to five-eighth proving a masterstroke.
Ferguson can't stop scoring now
The Lebanon international brushed aside being placed on report for a shoulder charge to step into the playmaker role and work with Luke Brooks as the Wests Tigers got on top through second phase play.
Tries to Blake Ferguson, Maika Sivo and Brad Takairangi set up an eight-point half-time lead for the Eels but it was quickly undone by a double to Tommy Talau and long-range tries to Brooks and Asu Kepaoa.
Brooks' runaway effort looked to have been enough for the Wests Tigers until Eels hooker Mahoney burrowed his way under the posts in the 65th minute to set up the grandstand finish.
Parramatta rested Michael Jennings and Reagan Campbell-Gillard for the clash ahead of next week’s qualifying final with the Melbourne Storm.