Not even the most dedicated Parramatta fan would have thought victory was possible after 60 minutes of this match against the Raiders, the Eels somehow escaping certain defeat to get home 18-16 over the Raiders at Parramatta Stadium.
The Raiders led for virtually the whole match and certainly looked the better side, until a late burst from the Eels with 15 minutes to go brought the crowd of just under 12,000 to their feet.
It took a Jarryd Hayne 80m intercept try to fire up the locals, who for the most part looked disorganised and disinterested as they were touched up by an enthusiastic but unlucky Canberra side.
The Raiders were in control for most of this match, their young speedy outside backs proving a handful whenever they got into space.
The ruck was a major frustration for both sides tonight, with the referees maintaining a skinny 10m and allowing both sides too much time in tackles. With the game frustrating even the most traditional of Rugby League fans.
Canberra played with much greater depth in their attacking line, and their kicking game was forcing the Eels back for the most part.
While the Eels kicking game wasn’t at it’s best – they did manage to apply pressure several times to rookie fullback David Milne who began having nightmares as spiral bombs rained down, the plucky fullback spilling several from Burt and Finch.
After Hayne nabbed the intercept try late in the piece, the Eels lifted a gear and were over again soon after through Eric Grothe Jnr – the veteran flanker getting his 30th Eels try and a double for the night.
Both teams would agree this game may have featured in the Grand Finals for the worst ever. Slow, full of errors and lacking spark at times – it just wasn’t pretty.
Eels’ prop Nathan Cayless confirming afterwards that it was a “pretty scratchy effort”.
“It was very ugly, but our defence kept us in the game,” confirmed the Eels and Kiwi captain.
“In the first half we repelled them for a number of sets on our line and at the end we paid them back.
“The guys showed good desperation”
The positive Cayless said, was the fact his team didn’t put the cue in the rack when trailing by 2 tries for most of the match.
“Thankfully Jarryd Hayne took that intercept, it was probably going to be a try the other way if he didn’t.
“We knew the Raiders were desperate, they were probably the better team for most of the game but we were able to snatch the win.”
Parramatta no. 7 Brett Finch probably didn’t have the best game, his passing was off tonight and he lacked any cohesion with his halves partner through various periods. At one stage, Finch, Hayne and Keating were having a committee meeting during a set – with no one knowing what the other was doing.
Finch confirming the side just wants consistency for now.
“We know the coach won’t be happy with it, but we still won,” he said.
Finch preferring to forget the first 65 minutes of this match, where his side were extremely poor.
“We’re not looking good but it’s a win, we got to continue to build.
For the Raiders, their control of this match for the most part was only interrupted by some dropping bombs from fullback Milne.
It wasn’t the best night for Milne, the livewire custodian lying on the tackled player as the Eels were on a major bust – the penalty against Milne costing him 10 minutes in the sin bin.
Terry Campese again performed well, he has time in attack as players stand off him and his kicking game is close to the best in NRL at present. He has distance off the foot, reeling in a nice 40/20 and his short attacking kicks were impressive too.
Joel Monaghan was dangerous in attack, looming under the high ball – although the Raiders probably needed to send more air attacks his way.
Eels: 18 (K Inu, E Grothe 2, J Hayne tries; L Burt conversion)
Raiders: 16 (J Croker, J Monaghan, J Picker tries; T Campese 2 conversions)