Parramatta still own a heartbeat for their 2016 NRL season after knocking off in-form Gold Coast 22-12 in Darwin.
Faced with the prospect of needing to win 11 of their final 12 matches heading into this week to make this year’s finals, star Corey Norman and Kaysa Pritchard led the Eels to a strong win on Saturday.
Just a day after the club responded to show-cause notices for alleged salary cap rorting, Parramatta now move into fifth spot but are expected to lose 12 points when the NRL makes a final decision on their punishment in two weeks.
The four points they have earned since alleged cap cheating is already more than last-placed Newcastle, who have just three points and lost to the Eels two weeks ago.
Down 8-0 after just 13 minutes, Parramatta responded with 22 successive points, ending the Titans’ four-game winning streak and leaving them hanging on to eighth spot.
It was also the Eels’ third straight win in Darwin in three years.
“We might have to come up here a bit more,” Eels coach Brad Arthur said.
“It’s good for the boys to get away and spend some time together, especially off the back of some tough weeks. But I’m very proud of them tonight.”
In front of a crowd of 7,722 at TIO Stadium, the Eels led 20-8 in the 64th minute, when former teammate Nathan Peats – who was sensationally pushed out of the club for it to be cap-compliant – was penalised for dissent.
The indiscretion gifted Parramatta two points, and came moments after Norman sliced through a tiring Titans defence in the 60th minute and handed off to Kaysa Pritchard to finish a 55-metre movement.
Earlier, Parramatta shrugged off a slow start to take a 12-8 lead into halftime.
In-form Titans halfback Ashley Taylor laid on two tries for his side in the opening 20 minutes, including a no-look cutout pass for Anthony Don in the sixth minute.
Taylor again linked up with his right winger five minutes later – this time through the boot – with Don tapping back for Agnatius Paasi to pounce.
The game turned when the former Brisbane talent almost set up a third try in the 27th minute.
A pass intended for Josh Hoffman was picked off by opposite centre Clinton Gutherson, who then offloaded for Bevan French to race 80 metres to score against the run of play.
Norman orchestrated his team superbly, while Pritchard’s injection in the second half was also key, although the hooker was put on report for a second-half high shot on Will Zillman.
For the Titans, Taylor and prop Luke Douglas tried hard in a losing team, while mid-season recruit Konrad Hurrell, in his first game for the club, struggled in the warm conditions and failed to see out the match.
Titans coach Neil Henry said his team threw away a good start due to poor handling.
“It’s pretty simple. They held the ball and we didn’t in the conditions,” he said.
“We ended up three-tries-all but, really, you’re right, disappointing after an eight-point start.”