The Parramatta Eels have once again squeaked by for a tough win against the New Zealand Warriors to hang on to third place on the NRL ladder.
But former NRL greats have again questioned the side‘s premiership credentials after an at times sloppy, lucky and dramatic victory over the Warriors.
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The drama came early. The Eels scored first but despite looking the better of the two teams, Parramatta couldn‘t convert pressure to points.
That was until the sin bin of Jazz Tevaga in the 16th minute after pushing at the Eels‘ Nathan Brown in an act that happens many times every game.
Fox League commentator Andrew Voss said of the sin binning: “That is amazing … if that’s the benchmark for the sin bin, rugby league is changed forever.“
Parramatta took full advantage, scoring two tries during the man advantage with Jai Field finishing a nice break from Clint Gutherson, showing blinding speed to win the race to the ball.
Then Blake Ferguson scored his first of the season in the NRL‘s most bizarre try drought.
But post-match, Warriors coach Todd Payten took aim at the sin binning.
“I thought it was the wrong call,” Payten said. ”I was just speaking to Jazz, he had his jersey and he had his jersey and was trying to push him off.
“In the context of the game, it was huge and it was the wrong call in my opinion. If anything, the way Nathan Brown reacted, both should have been sent to the bin because Nathan‘s come back in and I’m sure he’s come back in, I’m sure he didn’t punch but he had a questionable knee and we’re trying to stamp out retaliation, so I just don’t see why one goes and the other doesn’t.”
Payten said it was a push to get the player off him and that it had a “big impact on the game”.
He added that he was also “pretty hard done by” with the rulings, and pointed out his side scored three tries against 13 men and the Eels scored two during the sin bin period.
Instead of shrinking from the contest, the Warriors then turned on a scintillating display.
The first was arguably one of the tries of the season, with Chanel Harris-Tevita finishing off a play that started off his own bomb that was knocked back, passed to the other side of the field and saw Harris-Tevita ground a grubber from Kodi Nikorima that saw New Zealand go back to the Warriors of old.
Straight after, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck broke the Eels line in a tremendous run, before keeping the ball alive, with the ball landing at Nikorima‘s feet and sitting up perfectly for Harris-Tevita to score.
Social media went nuts for the plays.
The second half saw a defensive battle with the Eels just hanging on with a try and penalty goal holding off the late charging Warriors 24-18.
While the Warriors are still alive in the race for the finals, the Eels‘ hopes of convincing the NRL they deserve to be in the top three with three rounds remaining still have a ways to go.
With a perfect opportunity to against the Penrith Panthers aiming for a 13th straight win next Friday night to remind the NRL of the side‘s credentials, several Fox League commentators believe Parramatta aren’t anywhere near the top teams in the competition.
Ben Ikin admitted he is “no more convinced of Parramatta‘s premiership credentials after the game than I was before it”.
“I still see some holes in what they do, to beat quality top four opposition, they‘re going to have to be so much better in so many areas,” he said. ”Taking nothing away from the fight and the spirit and some of the brilliance of what the Warriors players produced today, I think for Parramatta based on what they were capable of at the start of the season, it has surprised me about how they’ve come off in so many different areas.
“I‘ll say it again, based on the 38-0 drubbing they copped from South Sydney last week, there were areas of improvement, but other than that Brad Arthur won’t say a hell of a lot more.”
Cooper Cronk added: “The main questions from here on in about Parramatta are can they beat top four teams in this competition to win it. If you look at that game today, the Warriors played really well. Parramatta had it on their own terms in the first 30 minutes, and then the Warriors responded, the Parramatta kicked again. So they did have question marks asked during that 80 minutes but the big one is can they do that against Penrith?”
Michael Ennis agreed that the Warriors were great again but that the Eels and Panthers game next Friday night is the real test of where they are in the competition.
“If you look at the top teams, they‘re nowhere near the top three or four teams at the moment – Melbourne, Penrith, the Roosters and Canberra – I think they’re behind all them so they’ve got some work to do,” he said.
“They haven‘t been anywhere near their best for a long time now, but this is good for their psyche, get some belief back and they’ve got to get some momentum. If they can knock Penrith off next week it changes everything.”
Ikin said the biggest issue was that the side lose concentration and “drift in and out of games” and need to find the relentless intensity that truly marks the top teams in the NRL.