Resolve. Control. Those are the buzzwords the Parramatta Eels are focusing on and it showed in their 36-22 win over the Wests Tigers.
Those buzzwords were the catalyst to the Eels holding off a valiant Wests Tigers at Stadium Australia.
In a tense rivalry that has formed over the last few seasons, the two sides had their good patches and their bad patches.
Errors and bad decisions threatened to derail the Eels’ unbeaten start to the season but they dug deep, held the Tigers off, and secured the win.
After weathering some early pressure from the Tigers, it was an adlib style of play that resulted in the first try for the Eels.
Mitch Moses, looking for a gap in the line, swiveled and spun several times before grubbering ahead for Marata Niukore.
It was not long before the Eels scored again, as Isaiah Papali’i avoided the dreaded nudie run.
Shifting to the left, it was a pass from Nathan Brown that found a barnstorming Papali’i who shrugged some defenders off to score.
Tom Opacic would also score his opening try of the year, as he hit the line hard on the back of a pinpoint pass from Reed Mahoney out wide.
Not one to rest on their laurels, the Tigers showed some resolve of their own and they were rewarded.
Luke Brooks kicked crossfield and the Daine Laurie came down the ball to score and continue his good form.
A quickfire double then ensued when the Tigers capitalised on an error and Stefano Utoikamanu scored under the posts.
Under some pressure before the half, the Eels had one more roll of the dice, and a back and forth play saw Gutherson kick ahead for Opacic to score his second.
The Eels errors would cost them in more ways than one in the second half, as the Tigers fought back to reduce the deficit to just two points.
Adam Doueihi would spot a gap in the line and barge his way over to score.
Jacob Liddle then got on the scoresheet when Joey Leilua and Luke Brooks combined down the right edge to make things interesting.
Call it lucky, call it a fluke, but it ended up as a try. The Eels shifted left and Blake Ferguson soccered the ball ahead with Gutherson fastest to react to score.
The Tigers would try a trickshot despite the scoreline late on with Moses Mbye’s crossfield kick finding David Nofoaluma.
As Nofoaluma batted the ball back in, his Tigers teammate overran it and Ferguson was there to grab the bouncing ball and score his second.
That would be all she wrote as the Eels maintained their undefeated streak in 2021.
Not one to beat around the bush, Eels coach Brad Arthur praised Ferguson despite his early drops, particularly his temerity and fortitude to put the mistakes behind him.
“They were some tremendous kicks but he responded well and just had to move on from it, there’s nothing he could do about it,” Arthur said of Ferguson’s errors early.
“It was a try and he had to move on. He handled himself well in the second half.”
The Tigers coming back into the game was down to one simple area, something Arthur has highlighted before.
A lack of respect for the footy.
“Too many fundamental errors in the second half and a lack of respect for the footy,” Arthur continued.
Although his side lost, Tigers coach Michael Maguire was pleased with the effort and the comeback his side were able to produce.
“The effort you saw is definitely what the team is about,” Maguire said.
“We made it hard for ourselves in the first 20 minutes and that’s the most disappointing part.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Reed Mahoney (PAR)
2. Adam Doueihi (WST)
1. Isaiah Papali’i (PAR)