The Parramatta Eels were able to book a ticket into the top four in their final game of the home and away season, out muscling the wounded Melbourne Storm to record a 22-14 victory in a finals calibre contest.
Though the business end of the 2022 season is quickly approaching, Thursday night’s contest between Parramatta and Melbourne was expected to be a finals preview as the two sides prepared to battle for a top four finish.
Following a thrashing over the struggling Brisbane Broncos, Parramatta marched into CommBank stadium looking to run through the experienced and professional Melbourne side coached by a poised Craig Bellamy.
Melbourne made the trip to Sydney in a must win game to hang on for top four rights with plenty of pressure placed on the young Cooper Johns who got the starting call up following Jahrome Hughes’ absence from the blockbuster.
Both sides came out to play early, putting together strong sets and moved the ball into favourable field position, but it was the hosts who were able to score first through some sheer will and grit from Dylan Brown to stay off the ground in a tackle and burrow over the line.
Mitchell Moses added the extras to give his side the early lead of a converted try.
Despite another dominant season, Cameron Munster made a rare error kicking on the full off the kick off immediately following Parramatta’s try, however, to his luck, team mate Nelson Asofa-Solomona provided a try saving tackle to avoid an early two try deficit not long after the mistake.
Parramatta were able to further their lead to eight points with under 10 minutes to play in the opening half after Xavier Coates caught the ball off a line drop out prior to the ball travelling the required 10 metres.
Despite possibly deserving to be further in front at the break, the Eels held the eight point margin after a tough, finals like half of football.
Parramatta were the first out of the blocks in the second half, as Will Penisini twisted his way over to give his side some clear breathing space at 14-0 with a top four finish well and truly in their sights.
Clint Gutherson arguably scored the next try by throwing a brilliant, extensive ball to the flying Fijian Maika Sivo who steamed over the try line. Moses nailed the conversion and CommBank stadium was brought to life, belting out Sivo’s name in a deafening chant.
Harry Grant finally got the Storm on the board with just under 15 minutes to play and gave the Victorians a slight glimpse of hope, however Nick Meaney was unable to convert, leaving the scoreline at 20-4.
Meaney secured another try for the visitors, sent strolling over by Munster.
Meaney also added the extras.
Not long after, David Nofoaluma scored his first of the night to give Melbourne some late hope, however, Munster missed a fairly simple conversion and buried any chances of a miracle comeback, and the Eels saluted for a 22-14 victory.
Parramatta couldn’t be feeling much better heading into week 1 of the finals, as they will brave the tough task of playing the heavy premiership favourites, the Penrith Panthers at their home ground next week in a blockbuster, which may provide a highly potential grand final preview.
Melbourne’s premiership hopes will be significantly reliant on the health of their squad. They will be hopeful for a return from Hughes, as well as Kenny Bromwich who unfortunately finished the game early due to a failed HIA.
Their opponent will be either the Canberra Raiders or the Brisbane Broncos, depending on this week’s results, however a home game against the Raiders is a task that the Storm have struggled to overcome in recent times.
Parramatta Eels 22
D.Brown, W.Penisini, M.Sivo
Melbourne Storm 14
H. Grant, N.Meaney, D.Nofoaluma