Blake Ferguson scored a double, set up another, ran for nearly 200m and somehow survived an amazing Adam Doueihi bombing masterclass to help Parramatta maintain their perfect start to the season.
The Eels made it four straight wins as they held off the Wests Tigers 36-22 in front of a season-high 29,056 fans at Stadium Australia.
Eels winger Blake Ferguson (left) celebrates scoring a try.Credit:Getty
The blue and golds raced to a 16-0 lead, but their western Sydney rivals refused to give in.
When Doueihi scored a try and then Jacob Liddle finished a long-range effort with seven minutes remaining, the Tigers trailed by only two and looked ready to cause an Easter Monday boilover.
But when Gutherson crashed over late, the match was as good as over. Boos rang out around the ground when replays hinted Gutherson may have collected the ball in an off-side position when Ferguson toed the ball through.
But the officials were more than happy to award the four-pointer.
The Parramatta party went into overdrive when Ferguson raced away for his second as the full-time siren sounded. His five tries in four games has already overtaken last season’s tally.
Despite having a case of the dropsies early, Ferguson quipped after the game: “Anyone who knows me knows I have the memory of a goldfish. I forgot all about it.
“I stayed in the moment. I didn’t want to dwell on it. It’s bad if you think about things that happened 10 minutes ago.”
Ferguson said the full pre-season always meant he was going to be a much more potent attacking threat this year. “The fitter I am the better I play,” he said. “I’m forgetting about all the little shit, I mean the little stuff … it’s working for me.”
Arthur praised his winger. “There were some tremendous kicks, but he responded well and had to move on from it,” he said. “We knew once he dropped the ball they’d keep coming that way. He knows how to catch the footy. He’s a very good winger. He’s been strong out of the back field, and that’s his value for us.”
Parramatta and Penrith remain the only teams yet to taste defeat in 2021. They face a reborn St George Illawarra next Sunday afternoon.
Dragons coach Anthony Griffin would have no doubt noticed the Tigers’ fantastic success targeting Ferguson with the high ball. Doueihi’s monster floating bombs would have haunted Ferguson when his head finally hit the pillow late Monday.
One ball Ferguson did knock on led to a try for former Eel Stefano Stefano Utoikamanu, who made it known to everybody inside the ground – and the Parramatta dugout – how much he enjoyed the four-pointer.
Utoikamanau was the young prop who signed with the Tigers at the start of last year, only for the Eels to refuse to grant him an immediate release.
Gutherson also knocked on a Doueihi bomb, with the Tigers making him pay with a try to Daine Laurie.
Gutherson even quipped at half-time as the Eels led by 10 points: “If me and ‘Fergo’ [Blake Ferguson] hold the ball we’ll be sweet.”
While Ferguson and Gutherson did hold on to the ball, plenty of their teammates did not as the poor completion rate kept the Tigers right in the contest.
The Tigers always seem to lift when they meet the Eels, and this was no different.
Arthur, however, knew his side would keep their cool when the Tigers edged closer. The coach said his side may not have handled the situation as well last season.
Doueihi’s right boot was the star. Luciano Leilua was all class again, with his barnstorming run sending Luke Brooks on his way before finding Liddle for the late try.
If they play with the same intensity, they should have no problems against former Tiger Todd Payten and his bumbling North Queensland Cowboys next Sunday.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire said his side produced plenty of spirit, but the opening 20 minutes let them down.
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