Parramatta have shrugged off the loss of Kieran Foran to score a gutsy 20-12 NRL win over Canterbury at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
With star playmaker and skipper Foran having left the country for an overseas rehabilitation clinic just hours earlier, makeshift halves Corey Norman and Brad Takairangi starred in front of a 31,815-strong crowd.
The Eels had all the excuses in the world not to turn up with Foran’s absence, the salary cap scandal hanging over their heads and playing the entire second half with just two men on the bench.
With skipper Tim Mannah succumbing to a recurrence of a left shoulder problem which has kept him out for the last month and after losing fullback Michael Gordon to a quad injury at halftime, the Eels gritted their teeth to hold on for a memorable and morale-boosting win.
Takairangi, after being shifted from the centres to five-eighth to cover Foran’s loss, was the surprise star, running onto a Beau Scott offload to level the scores in the 17th.
He then produced a sharp bat-on – despite the hint of a forward pass – to set up Clint Gutherson, who ran around Will Hopoate to score in the shadows of the break.
All eyes were on Norman to run the show for the Eels and he produced the decisive play when he spun through the line to give his side the lead for the first time in the 49th minute, while his kicking game was superb all night.
The Eels looked like they might run out of legs with Mannah and Gordon off but when Takairangi’s clever chip found Vai Toutai in the right corner, the Eels went eight points in front and held on.