The Parramatta Eels win Thursday night’s big fourth-place shootout after the finals arrive a week early at CommBank Stadium.
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
The Parramatta Eels have beaten the Melbourne Storm to finish the regular season in fourth and win a double chance in the finals series. They were the dominant side for most of the game.
After a predictably tough and tense finals-like start to the game, point-scoring got underway with a brilliant solo try from Dylan Brown. The Parramatta five eighth took a chance on the last tackle by running the ball from 10 metres out, and after breaking through the line initially he hit the ground, but without a tackler on him he simply got back up and dived over to score: 15 minutes in and Parramatta were 6-0 to the good.
Parramatta almost doubled their lead with the next set, but Marata Niukore was just held up over the line. The set did feature an old-fashioned crunching tackle from Justin Olam on Mitchell Moses, and the halfback continued to get the same treatment.
Most of the first half was dominated by the Eels, but they were unable to make it count with a larger share of the ball and territory. In fairness to Melbourne they gave plenty in defence too and looked quite dangerous in their rare attacks in Parramatta’s half, but also the Eels pulled off some great last-ditch tackles too to deny them.
The Eels eventually extended their lead in the 30th minute courtesy of a penalty goal after a failed short dropout from the Storm. That left the score at 8-0 which ended up as the half-time score, and Melbourne would probably be content given the Eels’ upper hand in the first 40 minutes.
Parramatta scored the first points of the second half and it was started by Mitchell Moses, who shaped to kick but then decided to run the ball to the right; Clint Gutherson was on hand to send Will Penisini through, and the centre sliced through three Storm defenders to score. The conversion gave Parramatta a 14-0 lead just five minutes into the second half. Five minutes later Moses was involved in another key play as he smashed a charging Kenny Bromwich to defuse a Storm attack close to the line. Bromwich didn’t return after failing his HIA.
The Eels continued to dominate the game, and once again had the best of the ball and territory but couldn’t break through for points until the 60th minute. The try was set up by Gutherson roaming sideways on the halfway line, and he then threw an amazing looping pass, bypassing several Eels player to hit Maika Sivo on the chest, and the Fijian winger powered 40 metres down the sideline for the try. Moses made the sideline conversion for a 20-0 lead, and the top four was in sight.
The Melbourne Storm eventually got on the scoreboard with 14 minutes to go, and it was Harry Grant who scooted over from dummy half close to the line. It was no less than the hooker deserved as he had made 46 tackles with one miss to that point. Nick Meaney missed the comfortable conversion and the score remained 20-4.
Parramatta extended their lead to 18 points with just under 10 minutes to go, courtesy of another penalty goal, again for a short drop-out gone wrong.
Melbourne added a second try with three minutes to go, and Cameron Munster set it up after breaking through the Eels’ defence and finding Nick Meaney in support, who scored under the posts.
The Storm added another try to potentially set up a grandstand finish; this time David Nofoaluma scored after cutting inside following a beautiful pass from Nick Meaney. However, the easy conversion was missed by Cameron Munster, and so the score remained 22-14 and the eight-point gap meant the Storm were done for the night. A shame for Munster as he was the Storm’s standout player.
For Parramatta their reward is a second chance and they may need it, as they will face a rested Penrith side. But then again, the Eels have beaten Penrith on both occasions this season so it sets up a fantastic clash in week one of the finals. They should be full of confidence as they were fantastic on Thursday night with a great all-round team performance, and the scoreline flattered Melbourne a little.
For Melbourne they face knockout finals football next weekend, with either Canberra or Brisbane the opposition. The Storm would rather play Brisbane with their tremendous H2H record, and Canberra’s record of four straight wins in Melbourne against the Storm. They tried hard against the Eels, and Munster was at his best, but they missed Jahrome Hughes, and gave away too many errors and penalties.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Dylan Brown (Eels), 2 pts – Clint Gutherson (Eels), 1 pt – Cameron Munster (Storm)
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