HIGHLIGHTS | Eels v Roosters
The Dyldam Parramatta Eels have come back from a 12-point deficit and two key injuries to post a 22-18 win over the Sydney Roosters and take home the Jack Gibson Cup.
The Blue and Gold side was reshuffled from the outset, with centre Brad Takairangi a late withdrawal due to an ongoing hamstring injury. Collisions with the defensive line during the encounter then saw winger Semi Radradra forced from the field with a knee injury and Isaac De Gois sidelined with concussion, and at times just one man on the Eels interchange bench.
The slippery conditions saw both sides look to kick early in attack, and handling errors proved costly at key moments, and while Eels winger Bevan French came crossed the tryline in the 4th minute, it was the Roosters who found first points.
French's effort was pulled back for a ball travelling forward, and in the ninth minute the visitors found the tryline as centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall sent a beautiful offload to fullback Latrell Mitchell to find space and score.
Radradra was forced from the field after a heavy hit from Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, moving second-rower Kenny Edwards into the centres, but the loss of Isaac De Gois midway through first half forced recent signing Jeff Robson to cover dummy-half and Edwards to reclaim a spot in the halves.
20 minutes in, the Eels took advantage of a well-timed penalty and found touch 40 metres out, allowing Corey Norman to send through a grubber kick for Michael Gordon to pounce and score.
The four-pointer gave Gordon a conversion opportunity that saw him level the scores, and kick the 500th goal of his career, only the 33rd man in history to reach the milestone.
Mitchell remained involved for the Roosters but handling errors and kick weight stopped the visitors from adding to the scoreboard through the remainder of the half, while Eels prop Danny Wicks barged over in the 34th minute but was held up by the desperate Roosters defence.
The Blue and Gold wall withstood pressure in the dying minutes to return to the sheds tied 6-6.
Despite having only two players on the interchange bench for the final 60 minutes of play - Tim Mannah briefly left the field and returned after a head injury assessment - the Blue and Gold forward pack rolled on.
The Roosters began bombing high to their left edge to take advantage of Daniel Tupou's height and reach, and foudn two quick tries as a result. Tupou batted the ball back to Boyd Cordner to score in the 47th minute, and to Mitchell in the 50th minute to take a two-try lead.
With Jackson Hastings taking over kicking duties, the Roosters stretched to an 18-6 lead with 30 minutes of play remaining.
Winger Bevan French came perilously close to scoring from an intercept before being bundled into touch by fellow rookie Joseph Manu, but the home side fought their way back into the game.
Second-rower-turned-centre Manu Ma'u chased down a Corey Norman grubber to score in the 60th minute, and ran a searing line onto a short ball to score again in the 67th. Gordon's conversions sailed across, and the two sides were again neck and neck, this time at 18 all.
Centre-turned-winger Clint Gutherson broke the deadlock from another deft Norman grubber, scoring in the corner to put the Eels 22-18 up. And in the dying seconds, a try-saving tackle from Norman proved the match-winner, sealing a gutsy 22-18 victory.
Sydney Roosters - 18 (Mitchell 2, Cordner. Taukeiaho: 1/1. Hastings: 2/2)
Dyldam Parramatta Eels - 22 (Gordon, Ma'u 2, Gutherson. Gordon: 3/4)