Whatever the result at ANZ Stadium after a game in the graveyard Thursday night timeslot, the Eels were always going to leave the western Sydney cavern in last spot on the NRL ladder. But they’re not dead last anymore, scuffling past Canterbury 14-8 in a dour struggle.
Bulldogs coach Dean Pay was tearing his hair out as the Bulldogs went 73 minutes tryless after leading early. The only people angrier at the ground sat in the Channel Nine commentary box. Angry at the occasion. Angry at the clubs’ fall from grace. Angry at the officials. Angry for being rostered on.
Mitchell Moses’ match-winning try in the second half summed it all up.
He picked up an ill-judged deflected kick from Bulldogs No.6 Lachlan Lewis with Canterbury deep on the attack. Moses sprinted 90 metres. The referees wanted to check if he was onside from the ricochet, which took a while. The crowd became restless. The callers even more so. The try was eventually given.
And the Bulldogs barely raised a yelp thereafter.
So, the Eels joined the Bulldogs and Cowboys, who host the Dragons on Saturday night, on 10 points at the bottom of the ladder. Who finishes with the wooden spoon? Who knows.
At first, it looked like it might be the Eels.
If not for a try here and a try there, the Bulldogs might be well adrift of the dreaded spoon territory by now. And Pay’s first year in charge of the family club would be looking very different.
They started sharply, Kerrod Holland jinking over for the first try on an adventurous last-play option where the ball was flung from one pair of hands to the next. It was the least they deserved.
Eventually, the Eels clicked into gear. It took Brett Morris’ sin-binning for hauling back Bevan French chasing a short kick to reignite the blue and golds.
They didn’t score from the next set as Kaysa Pritchard maddeningly threw a forward pass close to the line, but the little No.9 slid over the next time they had the ball after a long-range Tepai Moeroa break.
Cameras flashed back to Morris in the changing room looking at a handheld device while he pedalled a stationary bike. He wouldn’t have been getting a reminder of what the ladder would have looked like if his team couldn’t lift in the second half.
When he returned, they didn’t lift. And for their troubles, they might be lifting a spoon soon.
Parramatta 14 (Kaysa Pritchard, Mitchell Moses tries; Moses 2, Clint Gutherson goals) defeated Canterbury 8 (Kerrod Holland try; Rhyse Martin 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Referees: Henry Perenara, Phil Henderson. Crowd: 8437.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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