Wests Tigers have gone down 26-22 to the Parramatta Eels in an enthralling Easter Monday contest at ANZ Stadium in front of a 28,247-strong crowd.
Leading 16-10 at half-time after an end-to-end opening stanza, Wests Tigers kicked away to lead by 12 midway through the second half, before three tries from the visitors saw them claw their way back in to the contest and hold on for a gutsy four-point win.
Parramatta got the match off to the perfect start, crossing in their opening set of the game through Michael Jennings after he collected an inside ball from Semi Radradra.
Clint Gutherson converted to give the hosts a 6-0 lead after just three minutes.
Wests Tigers looked to have hit back shortly after when Jack Littlejohn put Kevin Naiqama over in the corner, but the pass was denied with the pass ruled forward.
However, it didn’t take long for the visitors to post their first points of the day when James Tedesco found Mitchell Moses on a short ball close to the line, before the five-eighth showed tremendous acceleration to found the fullback and score under the posts.
Moses converted his own try to level the scores at 6-6 after 15 minutes of play.
Parramatta continued to look threatening close to the visitors’ line, and restored their lead in the 23rd minute when a right edge move saw Kirisome Auva’a touch down.
Gutherson was unable to convert from out wide, leaving the score at 10-6.
Wests Tigers would grab their first lead of the match after 28 minutes when Sauaso Sue crashed over through defenders, spinning his way over the line from close range, with Moses’ conversion from close to the posts giving the visitors a 12-10 advantage.
After having a try disallowed earlier in the contest, the combination of Littlejohn and Naiqama would again cause problems for the Eels, with the Fijian international collecting an inch-perfect kick from the halfback to plant the ball down in the corner.
Moses was unable to convert from out wide, giving Wests Tigers a 16-10 lead that they would take into the half-time sheds despite some late pressure from the home side.
Having scored his first try in Wests Tigers colours last weekend, Matt McIlwrick made it two tries in as many weeks when he caught the markers napping close to the line shortly after the break, with Moses converting to give Wests Tigers a 22-10 lead.
Parramatta’s right edge would pull the home side back into the contest with tries in quick succession to Auva’a and Josh Hoffman narrowing Wests Tigers’ lead to 22-20.
And after Tedesco went the better part of 70m up field before Jennings broke free the other way, it was Radradra who sensationally put the home side back in front as he took advantage of space on the left— giving the Eels a 26-22 lead with 10 minutes to play.
Wests Tigers would do their best to re-take the lead, but with Jennings cleaning up the kick from Moses in the final minute, Parramatta would hold on for a 26-22 win.
Parramatta Eels 26 (Auva’a 2, Jennings, Hoffman, Radradra tries; Gutherson 3/5 goals) def. Wests Tigers 22 (Moses, Sue, Naiqama, McIlwrick tries; Moses 3/4 goals)