Much to the disappointment of their coach, the Melbourne Storm suffered defeat at the hands of the Parramatta Eels on Saturday night.
The Eels have revived their top four hopes and ended the Storm’s record-equalling winning streak in a stunning 22-10 upset that will have major ramifications for the premiership race.
Melbourne winger Josh Addo-Carr limped off in the second half with a hamstring strain and the Storm will also be sweating on the charge sheet with Harry Grant on report for a hip-drop tackle, Jesse Bromwich for a crusher tackle and Brandon Smith for a high tackle on Marate Niukore.
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The Storm were chasing a history making 20th win on the trot but it was the Eels that made their own history, becoming the first team to beat the Storm twice this year and sending a message to the rest of the competition in the process with some of the best defensive resolve, energy and game management you would ever see.
Eels firebrand Nathan Brown had a blinder but was put on report for a high shot that sent Tom Eisenhuth for an HIA assessment while Clint Gutherson limped off in the second half with a leg injury. Keegan Hipgrave was also put on report for a high shot on Cameron Munster in a brutal clash.
The Eels played their best half of football for months in the opening half with halves Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown at their best. Parramatta’s left side defence was wobbly but their resolve wasn’t.
The 10-all scoreline at halftime set up a cracking final 40 minutes and it was the electric Eels that put the foot down. When Blake Ferguson scored his second try of the night the Parramatta faithful could believe the upset of all upsets was on.
The desperation by Dylan Brown to save multiple tries was superb, with a scything effort on Ryan Papenhuyzen a cracker. A no-look pass by Brown led to a Joey Lussick runaway try to seal the deal.
What Parramatta did with this performance is prove their form at the start of the year was no mirage. They lost their way for a while but it was the Eels that beat the Storm in round two, and backed that up with a brutal, physical display by their pack at Suncorp Stadium. After a lengthy lull in form it may well be the Eels who have timed their run to perfection.
Eels coach Brad Arthur said the win was “good for confidence on the back of what we have done over the last month”
“It probably makes me a bit annoyed that we can do that. It is hard to do that every week but that is what it takes,” Arthur said.
“That is what the best teams do. We go into Penrith and the finals and we have to be able to repeat that.
“It is an attitude thing. You saw the level of energy we played with tonight. I don’t know why it wasn’t there, but it is now and we need to replicate it.”
Arthur said Gutherson’s injury was not serious but that he would rest him next week.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy said he had never been as deflated or disappointed in a performance in what was Felise Kaufusi’s 150th club game.
“You wouldn’t think it was too much pressure with (the record on the line) but we had plenty to play for. It was Felise’s 150th and there are about 14 guys in our club that have done that,” he said.
“That is a big milestone for him but we didn’t give a yelp tonight. That’s deflating. I can’t remember the last time I was as disappointed in a milestone game for one of our players. I am a bit embarrassed.”
Moses has his confidence back, which is a huge boost for the Eels’ title hopes. After returning from a fractured back, he was initially hesitant and down on belief but against the Storm he revived the Moses of old. A superb cut-out pass to Ferguson got the Eels on the front foot early and his kicking game was on point. When Moses fires it brings out the best in his halves partner Dylan Brown, who was heavily involved in the try to Haze Dunster on the cusp of halftime. The effort and energy of the Eels was a lot better in this clash and Moses and Brown got on the back of it.
“He was very good and it is good for his confidence. People target him over the big games, and he produced,” Arthur said.
“I was so proud of him and so happy for him.”
You’ve got to hand it to veteran winger Ferguson. The off-contract 2018 premiership winner has always loved the big moment and he showed he’s still got the big plays in him with two trademark tries. When Maika Sivo suffered a season-ending knee injury the Eels needed Feguson to fill the breach. He’s answered the call.
Star Storm five-eighth Cameron Munster said recently the Storm needed a loss before the finals to recalibrate their premiership tilt. This wasn’t what he had in mind, for the great cost that could result from it and for the tardy nature of their play. The record of 19 wins in a row they share with the 1975 Roosters remains an incredible performance.
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