Each week NEIL CADIGAN will look back on some of the most eventful games and most famous names in the club’s 70-year history and bring them back to life. Today we look at the greatest comebacks in the club’s history – both from 22-0 down – in 1987 and 2010.
They stand in the Parramatta Eels’ annals as the greatest comebacks for victory in 70 years. But they are also signature moments for two of the club’s greatest talents in the post-premiership era of 1981-86 … from one, seen rarely, from the other seen another to make him a two-time Dally M medal winner.
The first happened just nine games into the Eels’ defence of the 1986 premiership, their fourth in six seasons, when the man who seemed destined to take over Ray Price’s mantle – Kangaroos lock Bob Lindner – put in perhaps his best performance in his two seasons at Parramatta.
It came in round nine of ’87 at Parramatta Stadium when the Eels, after being booed off at half-time, came back from 22-0 down at the break to beat a star-studded Canberra 28-22.
Lindner, who was outstanding during Australia’s unbeaten tour of England and France in the previous off-season, did not debut until round five in the grand final re-match against Canterbury and was outstanding in a 20-8 win – which followed the team’s three-match loss opening to the season (they had a bye in round four).
The Eels took on the Raiders, who would go on to play their first grand final in the last decider played at the Sydney Cricket Ground months later, in round nine at Parramatta Stadium before a healthy crowd of just over 14,000.
At half-time many of them booed off their side who were behind 22-0 against a rampaging Raiders ran in three tries (two converted) in the final eight minutes of the half. To them, all seemed lost.
The players thought otherwise.
Don Price, who had joined the Eels from Parramatta rugby union club like older siblings Ray and Mick before him, came off the bench and scored a try four minutes into the second session.
Lindner then crossed, followed by John Muggleton before Lindner scored a second. And when Neil Hunt, another who came from the reserves bench, crossed with eight minutes remaining, Parramatta had incredibly taken the lead.
Centre Ken Wolffe then touched down for the Eels’ fifth second half try, all converted by Muggleton, to condemn the broken Raiders side to an incredible 28-22 loss.
Lindner, who played in 27 of 46 games in the 1987-88 seasons as an Eel (scoring 10 tries) while not missing a Test match or Origin game for Queensland during that period, rarely recreated that form in his time at the club – although he certainly did put in some five-star performances.
“He was just I incredible that day,” said Eels skipper of ’87 a clear-cut Rothmans Medal and Dally M Medal winner Peter Sterling. (Watch the video for full interview).
“It was the biggest comeback by a Parramatta side and it was on the back of him; he would literally run through brick walls [that day].”
Parra missed the five-team finals by three competition points after finishing on 28 (12 wins, 12 losses, 2 byes) without Ray Price and Michael Cronin for the first time in 11 seasons, and with superstar backs Steve Ella (2 games), Eric Grothe (eight), Brett Kenny (14) and Cronin’s forecast replacement Brian Jackson (nine) making limited performances while Lindner missed nine matches. The other key signing, 1983 Rothmans Medal winner Mike Eden, starting in only five games (plus five from the bench).
Incidentally, winger that day was Louis Takairangi – father of current Eels centre Brad – in one of only three first grade appearances (and many in reserve grade) for the club.
Fast forward to 2010 – again a year after a grand final appearance by an Eels side and in a season of struggle, and Parramatta again came back from 22-0 to taste victory this time in the local derby against Penrith.
Going into the round 19 clash, the Eels – who the previous season went from being no-finals-chance to eight-spot to the grand final on the back of an amazing run of form by fullback Jarryd Hayne - were two-points out of the top eight and facing a Penrith side sitting in second position.
At Penrith’s CUA Stadium, the Panthers led 22-0 after just 20 minutes from four tries (three converted) – three coming from kicks and the other an 80-metre effort from Michael Jennings after he scooped on a loose Eels pass.
Yet, with Hayne on fire, the match was turned on its ear with his involvement in five Eels tries.
First, he put prop Fuifui Moimoi in to some space and the Tongan Torpedo brilliantly beat three defenders from 22 metres to score under the posts. Hayne did the same for centre Johnathon Wright, putting him on the outside of a defender around halfway with Wright doing the rest for the Eels to go to the break with some hope at 22-12.
Four minutes into the second half and Wright was in for his second, beating several defenders with a step and a dummy, after getting an offload from Hayne 10 metres out. Then Hayne threaded a kick through the right-hand corner of the in-goal for Kris Inu to casually ground the ball and Luke Burt’s sideline conversion had remarkably given the Eels the lead at 24-22 after 55 minutes.
Ten minutes later Hayne fielded a Luke Walsh-bomb 12 metres from the Eels line and brilliant carved a way though the defence, beating three, before racing away to score beneath the posts and spreading his wings. Burt’s conversion made it 30-22.
After 70 minutes, it was back to 30-28 when the Panthers again scored from a kick. As Penrith desperately threw the ball around after the hooter, Feleti Mateo ended up with a lofted pass and sent Justin Horo in for a try to seal and incredible 34-28 victory.
While Hayne was best remembered for his amazing feats off 2009, some of his performances of 2010 were comparable, and that was certainly one.
Said coach Daniel Anderson after the match:
“He’s [Hayne] been very good and he was good tonight. He is contributing and everyone else is contributing. There were a lot of players who played a lot better.
“He is extremely talented. I enjoy watching him; I enjoy watching those big, big plays. They are exciting to watch and I can see why the fans get pumped up.”
PARRAMATTA: Mick Delroy, Eric Grothe, Ken Wolffe, Michael Erickson, Louis Takairangi, Mike Eden, Peter Sterling, Peter Wynn, Michael Moseley, Terry Leabeater, Mark Laurie, John Muggleton, Bob Lindner. Replacements: Graeme Atkins, Neil Hunt, Don Price, Peter Ford.
CANBERRA: Gary Belcher, Matthew Corkery, Mal Meninga, Peter Jackson, Chris Kinna, Ivan Henjak, Brent Todd, Steve Walters, Sam Backo, Gary Coyne, Ashley Gilbert, Dean Lance. Replacements: Grant Ellis, Craig Bellamy.
Parramatta 30 (Lindner 2, Hunt, Wolffe, Price; Muggleton 5 goals) beat Canberra 22 (Meninga, Jackson, Corkery, Henjak tries; Meninga 3 goals) at Parramatta Stadium. Crowd: 14,020. Referee: Bill Harrigan.
PARRAMATTA: Jarryd Hayne, Luke Burt, Joel Reddy, Johnathon Wright, Krisnan Inu, Jeff Robson, Daniel Mortimer, Nathan Cayless (capt), Kris Keating, Justin Poore, Nathan Hindmarsh (capt), Ben Smith, Feleti Mateo. Interchange: Fuifui Moimoi, Tim Mannah, Justin Horo, Lee Te Mari.
PENRITH: Lachlan Coote, Michael Gordon, Michael Jennings, Adrian Purtell, Brad Tighe, Wade Graham, Luke Walsh, Frank Puletua, Kevin Kingston, Petero Civoniceva (capt), Trent Waterhouse, Frank Pritchard, Nathan Smith. Interchange: Sam McKendry, Gavin Cooper, Matthew Bell, Travis Burns.
Parramatta 34 (Wright 2, Moimoi, Inu, Hayne, Horo tries; Burt 5 goals) beat Penrith 28 (Tighe, Gordon, Coote, Jennings, Graham tries; Jennings 4 goals) at CUA Stadium. Crowd: 22,582. Referees: Ben Cummins and Brett Suttor.