It was a night that simply didn't go according to the script.
Having missed the finals for the 2020 season, Wests Tigers' final round clash against the Parramatta was supposed to be a night to celebrate two departing legends as Benji Marshall and Chris Lawrence played their final game for the club.
Instead, as is often the case in rugby league, the fairytale finish wasn't to be.
In his 257th and final game for the club, Marshall was forced off injured after just 18 minutes with an MCL injury and broken ribs, while Wests Tigers couldn't hold on to their comeback to deny the Eels a top four finish — going down 28-24 in the end.
Despite the result, young wingers Tommy Talau and Asu Kepaoa were superb — contributing for three tries and an assist between them — while Luke Brooks and Adam Doueihi showed a number of classy touches in a makeshift halves combination.
Blake Ferguson got the scoring underway for Parramatta after just five minutes when he capped off a clever right edge shift, but it didn't take long for the home side to hit back, with Tommy Talau finishing off an acrobatic effort in the corner.
Doueihi's sideline conversion would sail wide, before the night of celebration was turned on its head — Benji Marshall helped from the field in his final game for the club with what was later confirmed to be both knee and rib injuries.
With Doueihi moving to five-eighth and David Nofoaluma to fullback as Wests Tigers reeled from the loss of their captain, Parramatta took the ascendency with tries to Maika Sivo and Brad Takairangi giving the visitors an eight-point lead at the break.
Inspired by their half-time team talk, Wests Tigers roared out of the break and quickly levelled the match — Talau grabbing his second of the night after a clever right edge raid before Kepaoa cleaned up a Ferguson error off a towering Doueihi torpedo to score his fourth try in the past three games.
Maguire's men weren't done, however, and soon took the lead for the first time in the game as Chris Lawrence and Kepaoa combined to send Brooks over untouched.
A penalty goal to Doueihi would extend the lead to eight and put Wests Tigers in a winning position late in the game, but there was more twists and turns to come.
After coughing up the ball with a number of unforced errors, Wests Tigers found themselves under pressure and the Eels hit back as a result — keeping their top four dream alive as Reed Mahoney's burrowing effort cut the lead to two.
Wests Tigers' lead would soon disappear completely, with Smith — the man on report for the high shot on Marshall — spinning his way out of tackles to score his first try of the season and put the Eels back in front.
Luke Garner would go close late on to snatching victory, but a grassing tackle from Eels captain Clint Gutherson would seal the win and ensure Brad Arthur's men entered the finals series on a winning note.
Match: Wests Tigers v Eels
Round 20 -
Venue: Bankwest Stadium, Sydney