Ray Stone was the unlikely hero as the Eels snatched a 28-24 golden point victory over the Storm in an epic clash at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
Stone scored his second try of the match when he chased after a long range Mitchell Moses field goal attempt that bounced off the right upright and picked up the ball before diving over for the winning try.
The scores had been level at 12-12 at halftime and 24-24 at fulltime as both teams refused to let the other get on top in a contest worthy of a finals match rather than a round three clash.
Stone was only called on in the 58th minute after winger Bailey Simonsson suffered a head knock and he scored two tries playing at right centre to twice put the Eels ahead.
The match winner was reminiscent of Greg Dowling's 1984 State of Origin try for Queensland after fielding a Wally Lewis kick that rebounded off the cross-bar and Stone appeared to injure his knee in the process of scoring.
Stone wins it with a golden try
Brandon Smith was arguably Melbourne's best after making a surprise return from a broken hand that clearly troubled him at times, while Dylan Brown turned in one of his top performances for Parramatta.
It was a match that had everything, including some spectacular tries and a fierce running battle between Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Cook Islands international Makahesi Makatoa.
Match: Storm v Eels
Round 3 -
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
- Brandon Smith was a late inclusion for the Storm after fellow hookers Harry Grant and Tyran Wishart were ruled out due to COVID protocols and he showed his value to the team almost immediately when he scampered over for a 13th minute try.
- Dylan Brown indicated he was set for one of his best performances in an Eels jersey when he shrugged off an attempted Jahrome Hughes tackle and raced into the clear before finding captain Clint Gutherson backing up on the inside to score five minutes later.
Electric Eels hit back
- Waqa Blake put the visitors ahead for the first time in the 33rd minute when he raced onto a cut-out pass from Brown and charged at Ryan Papenhuyzen and the tryline to score.
- After being denied early in the match, Nick Meaney was awarded a try that levelled the scores at 12-12 just before halftime after Jahrome Hughes and Cameron Munster combined before Kenny Bromwich sent his winger racing for the tryline.
Meaney draws them level in the corner
- Meaney got his second try five minutes into the second half and it was one that will feature in highlights reels all season after centre Justin Olam burst through the defence at his own end of the field and linked with Reimis Smith, who off-loaded to Papenhuyzen. The play ended when Dean Ieremia was tackled but Brandon Smith fired a long pass to Cameron Munster, who spotted Meaney unmarked near the sideline and kicked into the in-goal for the Storm winger to race through and collect a favourable bounce and score.
Munster the magician
- Ray Stone had been forced to play centre when Bailey Simonsson left the field for a HIA and the Dolphins-bound utility regained the lead for the Eels when he outleapt the defence for a Mitchell Moses bomb in the 70th minute.
- The Storm big three of Brandon Smith, Cameron Munster and Ryan Papenhuyzen combined to enable the home team to draw level just three minutes before fulltime with a spectacular try. Smith started the movement when he burst through the attempted tackle of Shaun Lane and Reagan Campbell-Gillard and linked with Munster, who sent Papenhuyzen racing away to score.
The Storm's stars combine
Play of the game
Waqa Blake doesn't usually play on the wing but when the Eels needed a try the Fiji international called on his inner Maika Sivo to steamroll Ryan Papenhuyzen just before halftime. Receiving a perfectly timed cut-out pass from Dylan Brown about 15 metres from the tryline, Blake sized up Papenhuyzen and ran as hard as he could at the Storm fullback to score.
Blake launches himself to grab the lead
What they said
“I thought we done some real good things and did some things that weren’t so good. They scored three tries from kicks so we need to be better with that area, we knew it was coming and practiced for it. It was a disrupted week and I supposed the icing on the cake today with Xavier dropping out but it happens in sport and it happens in life so we have to deal with it": Storm coach Craig Bellamy.
“We knew it was going to go down to the wire and it is very hard to come down to Melbourne and take two points off them, especially when they drag you into golden point. To the boy's credit it's character building performances like this and we have got to build from it. The attitude that we came with today we need to find that every single week regardless of what colour jersey we are playing against.": Eels coach Brad Arthur.
The Storm will catch up with former team-mates Josh Addo-Carr and Max King when they host their third consecutive home match at AAMI Park against the Bulldogs next Sunday.
Melbourne hooker Harry Grant (COVID protocols) is expected to return after missing the clash with Parramatta but PNG international Xavier Coates is in doubt following his late withdrawal due to a hamstring issue.
However, halfback Jahrome Hughes appeared to be affected late in the match by a rib injury, while Brandon Smith's hand was causing him discomfort in the first half.
The Eels meet the Dragons at CommBank Stadium next Sunday night and coach Brad Arthur will be hoping Ryan Matterson is available after battling a hamstring injury.
Winger Bailey Simonsson will need to pass the NRL's HIA protocols after being forced out of the match against the Storm in the 58th minute, further depleting Parramatta's outside backs stocks.
Stone appeared to injure his knee as he stepped on his way to the line for the match-winning try.