A very unexpected and one-sided affair at ANZ this evening saw the bottom of the ladder Parramatta Eels defeat the St George Illawarra Dragons 40 points to 4.
The Dragons have now fallen to their third straight loss and fifth in six weeks, leaving fans with a knot in their stomach heading into the finals.
The affair seemed to go Parramatta’s way from the very beginning with Jarryd Hayne scoring his first of three tries in only the third minute.
It was Mitchell Moses with a beautiful cut out pass for his first of four try assists.
After copping an accidental boot to the face, Hayne was left with bandages across the face in his best The Mummy impersonation but that didn’t stop him from scoring the second try for the evening.
A Kane Evans offload followed by a Michael Jennings flick pass to Hayne saw Moses grab another try assist for Jarryd Hayne to crash over the try line.
It was only the second try of the evening but was a perfect representation of the dominance Parramatta were looking to display.
A trickle of errors and stream of penalties saw the Dragons seriously back pedalling and matters only got worse when Cameron McInnes was sent to the sin bin with just under 15 minutes remaining in the half.
Parramatta immediately went on the attack which ended up seeing Gareth Widdop up the tunnel with a dislocated shoulder and possible long stint on the sideline.
With a man down and Widdop out, Parramatta struck through George Jennings who steam rolled a weakened Dragons defense.
Parramatta kept the pressure strong, forcing errors and keeping their near 65% possession alive.
With just three minutes until the half time siren, Jaeman Salmon – the rookie in only his second NRL game – put a bomb in the air which flustered the defenders to allow for Jarryd Hayne’s first hattrick since Round 1, 2013.
Mitchell Moses proving to be sweet with his conversions again, saw the Parramatta Eels lead the Dragons 22-0 at half time.
The second half seemed to be much more positive as a Red V fan with Luciano Leilua out-hustling Michael Jennings for a kick return to score the Dragons’ first points of the game.
Unfortunately, for the Dragons, their goal kicker in Widdop was on the sideline so Ben Hunt’s attempt was waved away giving Parramatta a still comfortable 18 point lead.
Uncharacteristically, the Eels hit back almost immediately with a flying Clint Gutherson jumping off a Mitchell Moses grubber kick.
An injury scare almost soured the effort, however, the Parramatta captain shook off any concerns and continued to put together one of his best performances this season.
Mitchell Moses wasn’t happy with a 24 point lead and in the 51st minute, he put together one of his best individual tries almost as if the assists weren’t enough for him.
The 23 year old looked reborn as he faked Matt Dufty – the try scorer in the last minute victory for the Dragons against Parramatta just 6 weeks prior.
The night only seemed to get worse for the young fullback with two knock-ons to keep Parramatta’s possession percentage in the higher figures.
Siosaia Vave crashed over a tired and deflated Dragons defense with 3 minutes to go to sum up the night perfectly. T
he man of the hour, Mitchell Moses, slotting his 6th conversion for the night to bring Parramatta’s grand total to 40.
It was a forgettable evening for the Dragons as the Eels kept their hopes of avoiding the wooden spoon well and truly alive.
The Eels are off the bottom of the ladder for the first time since round 1.
Despite the Eels win, Widdop’s injury was a big talking point but Dragons coach Paul McGregor did not say much.
“We will know a lot more tomorrow afternoon,” was all the coach could muster when asked about it.
Although they need to look at themselves and regroup, Cam McInnes says the players still believe in their abilities.
“Individually, we need to have at ourselves,” he said.
“But we’ve got a great team here. People might want to write us off, but we’re not fazed at all.
We’ve got three games left and if people want to say ‘it’s scary not to be in the (top) four’, well, we will be back. We have all the confidence in the world.”
Each Eels player did their part but coach Brad Arthur admits that the make-up of the side is not necessarily set in stone.
“Who knows? We’ve got plenty of options,” Arthur said.
“Jarryd is floating around there, Guth’s going there, it gives us a bit of flexibility and a bit of unpredictability with our backline.
“Normy was blowing a touch there at the end but he just likes to get his hands on the footy and [fullback] takes him away from having to worry about too much organisational stuff and just play a bit of footy.
“He did well.”
Arthur also praised rookie half Salmon in just his second NRL game.
“I thought young Jaeman warmed into the game well,” Arthur continued.
He was good physically, which was always going to be the test for him. I thought they did okay.”
Player of the Game:
3. Mitchell Moses
2. Jarryd Hayne
1. Nathan Brown