Parramatta 18 Wests Tigers 21
Wests Tigers have spoiled Parramatta's Easter Monday extravangaza before a bumper crowd at ANZ Stadium but not before the contentious obstruction rule again played a part in the finale.
Jubilation: Wests Tigers celebrate their thrilling win over Parramatta at ANZ Stadium. Photo: Getty Images
|View Match Statistics|
|Players||Hayne(2), Sio, Radradra||Tries||4||Tries||3||Players||Austin, Brooks, Richards|
|Players||Sandow 1/4 (25%)||Conversions||1||Conversions||3||Players||Richards 3/3 (100%)|
|Players||Penalty goals||0||Penalty goals||1||Players||Richards 1/1 (100%)|
|Players||Field goals||0||Field goals||1||Players||Brooks 1/1 (100%)|
A crowd of 50,668 were treated to a thriller between the two western Sydney teams, with 19-year-old halfback Luke Brooks following up a runaway try to slot a late field goal to edge the Tigers ahead before a penalty goal from the half-way line from winger Pat Richards clinched victory at the death.
Brooks' composure as the pressure mounted was another sign of the glittering future that lays ahead for him, and the fact the Tigers were able to pull off the upset without captain Robbie Farah spoke volumes. They now have five wins from seven matches - their best start to a season since the joint venture was formed.
The Eels let themselves down by gifting two second-half tries to the Tigers with loose balls - one scored by Brooks, the other by Richards - and via Chris Sandow's goalkicking. He landed only one from four and missed an opportunity in the final five minutes to put them ahead.
They were also controversially denied in the 72nd minute when Will Hopoate crossed only for the video officials to disallow the try due to an obstruction. Brooks, again, was involved, knocked over by Eels forward David Gower in the lead-up. It was enough for on-field referee Matt Cecchin's decision to be overturned but left Eels fans far from pleased.
After two straight wooden spoons the Eels faithful are lapping up an apparent renaissance under Brad Arthur this year, and they emerged properly from the woodwork in huge numbers at Sydney Olympic Park. Such was the demand among Parramatta fans to see the public holiday showdown that extra buses had to be sent at the last minute to the Hills District to ferry supporters to the ground.
The kick-off, as a result, was delayed by more than 10 minutes and if any spectators weren't in their seats by the time Hayne opening the scoring in the eighth minute they didn't have to wait long to see the Parramatta captain repeat the trick.
Hayne crossed in nearly the identical spot in the right corner at the northern end of ANZ only 15 minutes later, and the floodgates appeared destined to open against a Tigers side looking indecisive in the absence of Farah.
Mick Potter's team had ruled out another senior player, Liam Fulton, because of a shoulder injury shortly before play and despite their own promising start to the season in the face of another unfortunate run of injuries there were fears the loss of their hooker and captain would be one blow too many.
However, after restricting Parramatta to Hayne's double with tenacious defence they found themselves only 8-6 behind at half-time after Blake Austin - on for Farah's replacement Joel Luani - continued the strong start to his new career at the Tigers with an opportunistic try from dummy-half with a minute to go to the break.
The Tigers then took a shock lead only five minutes into the second half when Brooks showed he not only has boundless talent but a turn of speed to boot. In fairness, it was only veteran prop Fuifui Moimoi he ended up having to out-sprint for an 80 metre dash to the line after Hayne, hitertho the hero, had gifted the young halfback a chance with an offload to nobody.
Hayne was relieved of his villain status only six mates later, though, with the most clever of short kicks finding Ken Sio to edge the Eels back in front.
Both sides were playing out the second half with a man shor ton the bench after Mitch Allgood (concussion) and James Gavet (hamstring) were scratched.
Two plays in quick succession by Sandow left the Tigers under the pump as the clock ticked down; first, the halfback crunched second-game fullback Kurtis Rowe close to his line, prompting him to spill the ball, then a Sandow 40-20 put the Eels in prime position again.
But Potter's men withstood those setbacks and then, via Richards' runaway try, sensationally reclaimed the lead with 15 minutes remaining. Sandow this time was at fault, with the fringe NSW Origin wing candidate seizing on the halfback's slight hesitation to complete an intercept and bound 80 metres.
After a weekend marred by obstruction calls by referees it was fitting that another presented itself late in the game, with Will Hopoate denied a try when video referee Steve Clark ruled Eels forward David Gower to have impeded a defender Brooks.
In a see-sawing contest winger Semi Radradra's 10th try of the season with five minutes to go levelled the scores, but Sandow misfired with the conversion attempt.
The hearts of the Eels masses sunk when Brooks landed a field goal with two minutes left, and Richards potted a penalty goal from the half-way line to complete the thrilling win.