The Parramatta Eels outmuscled the Storm 22-14 at CommBank Stadium on Thursday night to climb into the top four and set up a mouth-watering qualifying final clash with premiers Penrith.
Coming into the game equal with the Storm on 32 competition points but well down on for-and-against, Brad Arthur’s produced their most important victory of the season to earn themselves a double chance in the finals.
The blue and golds will now get the chance to avenge a controversial 8-6 loss to the Panthers that ended their season in week two of last year’s play-offs.
After a tense opening 12 minutes on Thursday night a forward pass by Jesse Bromwich gifted the Eels field position and five-eighth Dylan Brown capitalised with a sweet-stepping try from close range.
Cameron Munster then put the kick-off out on the full and the Eels marched downfield again and looked to have grabbed their second only for Marata Niukore to be held up over the line.
Come the 23rd minute and the Storm created a chance for Xavier Coates on their right edge but the winger was bundled into touch by Maika Sivo in cover.
The Eels extended their lead to 8-0 in the 31st minute when a short dropout by Munster failed to go 10 metres and Moses converted the easy penatly goal from right in front.
Four minutes into the second half the home side went up 14-0 when Will Penisini finished off a slick right side raid and Moses added the extras to send the raucous CommBank Stadium crowd into a frenzy.
The Storm went down a man when Kenny Bromwich failed a HIA and try as they might they were unable to crack the resolute Eels defence.
Eels skipper Clint Gutherson put his stamp on the match in the 61st minute when he put tryscoring machine Sivo away down the left wing with a brilliant long pass. Moses’ sideline conversion made it 20-0.
With 13 minutes to play the Storm opened their account when Harry Grant exploded out of dummy half and planted the ball down for his seventh try of the season.
Another mistake by Munster on a short dropout gave Moses another easy penalty shot and the party was in full swing at 22-4.
Munster exploded through a hole with three minutes to play to put Nick Meaney over for a try before David Nofoaluma grabbed another one but Munster missed a simple conversion to leave the final score at 22-14.
Among of host of stars for the Eels, big men Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo ran for 401 metres between them from 41 powerful carries.
“When they start really well and they play physical and they play tough, the team plays that way, and that’s the responsibilty they carry,” Arthur said post-match of his two bookends.
“I think they’re world class front-rowers and I love them as a pairing and we’re so glad they’re here at our club.”