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Eels dudded twice by ‘ridiculous’ no-try rulings but bounce back to slip away from tenacious Tigers

Parramatta survived a few anxious moments and a double dose of dud no-try decisions to avoid a second upset loss to the Wests Tigers this season and put their finals campaign back on track.

The Eels trailed 12-0 on Saturday night but responded to send the Leichhardt Oval faithful home with a heavy heart and also move into fifth spot after being overtaken the previous night by South Sydney when they beat Newcastle.

For the Tigers – who beat the Eels by a point in April in one of the biggest boilovers of 2022, the 28-20 loss means they slip to last spot behind the Titans, who leapfrogged them courtesy of the bye.

Parra became the only team this year to beat premiers Penrith in early May but leading into this match they had gone 3-3 to lose their claim to being legitimate title contenders, including last week’s 30-12 drubbing at the hands of Souths.

After retaining possession via a captain’s challenge on the first possession of the game, Parramatta should have scored first if not for an ultra pedantic interpretation on Shaun Lane defusing a bomb in the third minute. 

Fox League commentator Michael Ennis said Lane was hard done by and you could argue both ways whether it was a try.

It was Eels centre Will Penisini’s turn to have what looked like a fair try denied in the seventh minute when Reed Mahoney’s over-the-head fling was ruled to have travelled forward en route to the centre. 

“This was just ridiculous. At no point did that go forward,” was the much more blunt assessment from Ennis this time around.

The Tigers ended up being the first to rouse the Leichhardt Oval scoreboard attendants from their slumber in the 16th minute when hooker Nu Brown forced his way over via a dummy-half raid for a 6-0 lead. 

They doubled their advantage in the 27th minute when Daine Laurie collected a high kick that opposite number Clint Gutherson failed to hang onto.

Parramatta hit back when prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard cleaned up a messy bomb defusal which also resulted in Tigers debutant Justin Matamua being sin-binned for rough contact on Mitch Moses from the kick a mere five minutes after he first stepped onto an NRL field.

They made it a two-point deficit when Maika Sivo crashed over and then stole a 16-12 half-time lead after the winger streaked down the left sideline and kicked inside for Mahoney to win the race to the Steeden. 

Parra made it a 10-point cushion three minutes into the second period when Moses dummied over from close range to have interim Tigers coach Brett Kimmorley pulling his hair out. 

Mahoney should have stretched the margin out further in the 55th minute but knocked on over the line.

Sivo fluffed a potential four-pointer a few minutes later when he coughed up the pill and regained it but then stepped into touch as he dived over in the north-western corner of Leichhardt. 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 09: Mitchell Moses of the Eels/tb Zane Musgrove of the Tigers during the round 17 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Parramatta Eels at Leichhardt Oval on July 09, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Mitchell Moses. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

The Eels finally sealed the deal in the 68th minute when they forced a line drop-out. The Tigers took it within a matter of seconds in the hope of getting the ball back but when that failed, Moses kicked early himself and second-rower Isaiah Papali’i touched down for a 28-12 advantage.

Brown nearly struck back from close range a few minutes later but was held up before winger David Nofoaluma managed to cross the stripe out wide and, down by 12 with eight minutes to go, the home crowd started to think an improbably comeback victory was possible.

Nofoaluma cut the deficit further in the 75th minute when Brooks put him over in the same corner despite major doubts over the put-down as Moses converged. Adam Doueihi missed the sideline conversion which could have set up a grandstand finish at the grand old ground.

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