Storm strike late to sink Eels

Round 21 of the Telstra Premiership wrapped up at Parramatta Stadium tonight with the Melbourne Storm coming back from 18 points down to run out 22-18 victors over a gallant Parramatta Eels in front of 10,098 fans.

From the kick-off, the Eels looked hungrier than the Storm, dominating field position and possession. The Storm, though, looked to get on the board first through winger Sisa Waqa who replaced Matt Duffie in the run-on side. The winger couldn't quite ground the ball in the 8th minute as the Storm moved the ball to their left hand side. Desperate Eels defence kept their scoreline intact. Luke Burt opened the scoring in the 15th minute with a successful penalty goal attempt after Cameron Smith was penalised for slowing the play-the-ball down. Several minutes later, Eels five-eighth Jarryd Hayne looked to have extended the home side's lead when he picked the ball out of the arms of Billy Slater as the Storm looked dangerous attacking the Parramatta line.

Unfortunately for the Eels, Hayne couldn't ground the ball inside the field of play with Maurice Blair's chase forcing him to make the error. After having the most of the possession in the first half and field position, the Eels finally extended their lead through lock forward Reni Maitua. Again it was Hayne in the thick of the action. He fired a cut-out pass which found centre Justin Horo on the chest. He poked his head through the Storm defence, before finding winger Chris Hicks. Hicks drew Slater, before sending Maitua on a 30m sprint to the corner. Burt added the extras from the sideline to give the Eels a comfortable eight-point lead heading into the halftime break.

The Storm's best chance of scoring points came in the shadows of halftime. Halfback Cronk kicked in behind the Eels defence and found winger Justin O'Neill on the fly. Desperate Parramatta defence tackled him from behind. His speculative pass saw Slater lose possession of the ball and the Eels dived on the loose ball to secure their eight-point lead at the halftime break.

Just two minutes into the second half, the Eels extended their lead to 14-0 when Taniela Lasalo took advantage of Sisa Waqa's inability to take a high ball. Lasalo won the race to the ball in front of Billy Slater, and the Eels looked to be inflicting the Storm's first loss in nine weeks. Further penalty goals to Luke Burt took the Eels to an 18-point lead and it appeared as though the Eels were going to win comfortably. After having an unhappy night with his hands, Waqa scored the Storm's first try of the night when he crossed in the corner to give the visitors an outside chance of a remarkable comeback victory.

The comeback was well underway when the Storm scored another two tries in the space of six minutes; the first scored by Billy Slater who latched onto a perfectly timed Cameron Smith grubber kick to score under the posts. Arguably the best try of the night came from well inside Melbourne's half in the 66th minute. Feeding a scrum 20m out from their own line, Cooper Cronk threw the pass on the blind side which saw Slater get on the outside of Horo. The fullback then drew Hicks and sent winger Justin O'Neill on an 80m sprint to the tryline. Remarkably, the Storm put their noses in front in the 76th minute when again Smith was the orchestrator.

With the Eels defence short on the right hand side, Smith jumped out of dummy half and drew the defence, before passing to Blair who delivered a perfectly timed pass to Nielsen. Smith's conversion attempt put the Storm up by four points, despite some nervous moments in the closing stages after the Eels retrieved the ball off a short kick-off, but the Storm's goal-line defence held firm and they tightened their grip on the Minor Premiership.

Next week, the Eels travel to ANZ Stadium next Monday night, while the Storm host the Panthers next Saturday at AAMI Park.

Match Details
Parramatta Eels 18 were defeated by Melbourne Storm 22
National Rugby League - Round 21 - Monday August 1, 2011 7:00pm
Venue: Parramatta Stadium
Referee: Steve Lyons and Tony De La Heras
Video Referee: Chris Ward
Touch Judges: Adam Reid and Steve Chiddy
Crowd: 10,098
Halftime: Parramatta Eels 8 Melbourne Storm 0 players of the match:
3 Points - Cameron Smith (3 Conversions)
2 Points - Cooper Cronk
1 Point - Nathan Hindmarsh

Parramatta Eels (18)
Tries: Reni Maitua, Taniela Lasalo
Conversions: Luke Burt (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Luke Burt (3/3)

Melbourne Storm (22)
Tries: Billy Slater, Sisa Waqa, Dane Nielsen, Justin O'Neill
Conversions: Cameron Smith (3/4) Live Commentary And a very good evening and welcome to Parramatta Stadium for tonight's Round 21 encounter between the Parramatta Eels and Melbourne Storm. In team news, for the home side, they have just the one change with Jordan Atkins being replaced by Chris Hicks on the wing in jumper #19. The visitors have several changes; winger Matt Duffie, five-eighth Gareth Widdop, second rower Sika Manu and interchange player Rory Kostjasyn are all out. Coming into the side on the wing in jumper #23 is Sisa Waqa. Maurice Blair moves from the centres to five-eighth with Beau Champion in jumper #18 taking the vacant centre position. Ryan Hinchcliffe comes off the bench into the run-on side for Manu, while Atelea Vea and Robbie Rochow are added to Craig Bellamy's bench.
In the Toyota Cup curtain-raiser, the 10th-placed Parramatta side have upset the fourth-placed Melbourne side 23-22.
Parramatta get us underway tonight and will defend the northern end of Parramatta Stadium in the first half.
2 min: Both sides complete their first set of six, with Parramatta's Luke Burt kicking to the corner. The ball clean bowls Waqa, but he retrieves the ball and the Storm now have the ball over their own 40m line.
4 min: Hayne takes the ball down the blind side, but Beau Champion slides Hayne over the sideline.
5 min: Cronk's kick on the last tackle is allowed to bounce by the Eels, with Storm winger Sisa Waqa trying to get to the ball, but knocks the ball on. Waqa's arm collects Robson on the jaw as he attempted to pick up the ball, with the halfback being taken straight from the field.
6 min: PENALTY Storm. Eels laying on the tackled player too long for the referees liking.
7 min: The Storm go on the attack and Hayne strips the ball out of Blair's hand. Six again.
8 min: VIDEO REFEREE: Possible Storm try.
8 min: No Try. Waqa can't force the ball in the corner under desperate scrambling Parramatta defence.
10 min: News from the Parramatta dressing room is a depressed cheekbone fracture for Jeff Robson.
11 min: PENALTY Eels. Storm caught offside after the Parramatta faithful were vocal.
13 min: Hayne chips to the corner, but O'Neill gets up above the chasing Eels defence and drops the ball behind himself before Cronk bats the ball dead. Goal-line dropout Storm.
14 min: PENALTY Eels. Smith makes no effort to roll out of the ruck.
PENALTY GOAL Parramatta Eels
Penalty goal attempt by Luke Burt successful.
Burt makes no mistake 30m out directly in front to open the scoring.
Parramatta Eels 2-0
16 min: Slater and Waqa have a mix up at the back, with Waqa juggling the ball, but the referees have ruled a knock-on although replays suggest it may have been a tough call.
18 min: The Eels run a second-man play to their right hand edge, but Smith can't handle Burt's short pass and the Storm have the ball.
19 min: PENALTY Storm. Hindmarsh taking too long on the tackled player.
20 min: VIDEO REFEREE: Possible Eels try.
20 min: No Try. Jarryd Hayne has taken an intercept out of the arms of Billy Slater, racing 90m, before running himself into touch and dropping the ball over the line.
21 min: Cronk's bomb skews off the side of his boot and Slater is caught on tackle five. Changeover.
23 min: VIDEO REFEREE: Possible Eels try.
23 min: TRY
TRY Parramatta Eels
Scored by Reni Maitua. Conversion attempt by Luke Burt successful.
The Eels finally take advantage of their field position and possession and Maitua does what Hayne couldn't and scores in the corner. Hayne's pass put Horo into space, before the centre found Hicks who drew Slater before sending Maitua over. Burt adds the extras from the sideline.
Parramatta Eels 8-0
28 min: Smith's kick is inch perfect, with Burt slipping over before diving back into the field of play.
29 min: PENALTY Storm. Lasalo collects Woolnough across the jaw.
31 min: Blair tries to grubber into the in-goal, but Burt comes up with a sensational pick-up on his own line.
33 min: Cronk's bomb is well taken by O'Neill, but the winger throws the pass between his legs looking for Champion, but the ball goes into touch.
34 min: Burt gets the ball on the fifth tackle, but his kick into the in-goal is too heavy and goes over the deadball line.
37 min: PENALTY Eels. Lowe with a hand on the ball, despite replays showing the call was blatantly incorrect as the Eels drop the ball cold.
39 min: Cronk kicks perfectly for O'Neill, who picks up the ball before passing to Slater in the one motion. The ball is thrown around desperately by the Storm, but the Eels come up with possession.
39 min: PENALTY Eels. Storm offside.
40 min: Halftime here at Parramatta Stadium with the Eels doing it comfortably over the Storm 8-0.
40 min: The Storm get the second half underway.
41 min: PENALTY Eels. Cronk slows the play-the-ball down.
42 min: VIDEO REFEREE: Possible Eels try.
42 min: TRY
TRY Parramatta Eels
Scored by Taniela Lasalo. Conversion attempt by Luke Burt successful.
Lasalo extends the Eels lead! Hayne hoisted a high bomb and Waqa had an airswing. Lasalo then won the race to the ball, beating Slater and forcing the ball. Burt again adds the extras.
Parramatta Eels 14-0
45 min: The Storm force the ball loose, but the Eels dive on the loose ball and get their tackle count restarted.
45 min: PENALTY Eels. Play-the-ball too slow and Woolnough is penalised.
46 min: The Eels run their own second-man play to their left hand edge, but Slater comes up with a trysaver along with help from Cronk and Proctor.
48 min: PENALTY Eels. Slater is penalised for a high tackle on Horo, but replays show it was a soft penalty in favour of the Eels.
PENALTY GOAL Parramatta Eels
Penalty goal attempt by Luke Burt successful.
Burt continues his perfect kicking record tonight and puts the Eels 16 clear.
Parramatta Eels 16-0
50 min: PENALTY Eels. Storm offside.
PENALTY GOAL Parramatta Eels
Penalty goal attempt by Luke Burt successful.
Burt puts the Eels three converted tries clear.
Parramatta Eels 18-0
54 min: TRY
TRY Melbourne Storm
Scored by Sisa Waqa. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
The Storm are finally on the board tonight. Cronk's kick back towards the posts is batted back by Slater into the arms of Waqa who dives over in the corner. Smith converts from the sideline.
Parramatta Eels 18-6
57 min: Smith puts up a towering spiral bomb which is taken well by Burt who races back for a quick 20m restart.
58 min: Hayne returns serve by putting up a towering bomb. Waqa again puts the ball down, but knocks it back.
60 min: TRY
TRY Melbourne Storm
Scored by Billy Slater. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
The Storm are in again! Running the ball on the fourth tackle, Cronk found himself in space. The halfback got a quick play-the-ball in, before Smith's kick is inch perfect for Slater who scores under the posts. Smith closes the gap to a converted try.
Parramatta Eels 18-12
63 min: Smith again puts up a towering spiral bomb, but Hayne drops back with the flight of the ball and comes up with a miraculous catch.
64 min: PENALTY Eels. The Storm had plenty of momentum, but Bromwich runs behind Norrie and throws the ball away.
65 min: Allgood puts a simple inside pass down off McGuire. Scrum Storm.
66 min: TRY
TRY Melbourne Storm
Scored by Justin O?Neill. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith unsuccessful.
O'Neill scores in the corner! From the scrum, Cronk finds Slater who puts in a perfect in and away on Justin Horo and draws Hicks, before sending O'Neill sprinting down the western touchline, outpacing Hayne. Smith misses from the sideline to the right hand side.
Parramatta Eels 18-16
69 min: Uaisele allows the ball to bounce, but Waqa nearly picks the ball up, before being hit in a solid collision.
70 min: PENALTY Eels. The home side again get the benefit of a call from the officials, with the Storm being penalised for hitting Hayne late.
71 min: The Storm show why they're top of the table with some outstanding goal-line defence.
72 min: Smith kicks in between Burt and Hicks and the Eels work the ball off their own line.
75 min: PENALTY Storm. Smith lying on the tackled player too long.
76 min: TRY
TRY Melbourne Storm
Scored by Dane Nielsen. Conversion attempt by Cameron Smith successful.
The Storm are in front! Smith took the play to the left hand side, throwing the pass to Blair, who drew the defence and send Nielsen on a saloon passage to the tryline. Smith adds the extras from beside the posts.
Melbourne Storm 22-18
78 min: PENALTY Eels. The Eels go for the short kick-off but the Storm get the ball back in an offside position.
79 min: The Storm have come up with a knock-on, although replays suggest it may have been another tough call.
80 min: Hayne kicks to Waqa who bats the ball over the deadball line and the Storm hang on 22-18!

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