Melbourne have heaped more pain on Parramatta and Kieran Foran with an 18-6 defeat of the beleaguered Eels at Pirtek Stadium.
The Storm ran in four tries to one as Foran endured a rough return to the NRL after two weeks in a Queensland rehabilitation clinic dealing with mental health issues.
The Eels captain, who also faced weekend allegations he’d lost $75,000 in a gambling splurge, not only bravely battled through his mental demons but also suffered a shoulder injury 20 minutes into the contest.
He played on in obvious discomfort but, try as he might, the Kiwi superstar was unable to inspire the Eels to a desperately needed victory despite several nice touches, one clean break and a late try assist.
Set to be stripped of 12 premiership points for the club’s salary cap breaches, Parramatta’s finals hopes now look forlorn with Brad Arthur’s side now likely needing to win 12 of their last 13 games to make the eight.
While Foran heads back to Brisbane on Tuesday to continue treatment, his halves partner Corey Norman also faces some challenging times after being linked to a police investigation involving suspected drugs at The Star Casino last Friday night.
Compounding the Eels’ woes was a leg injury to defensive enforcer Beau Scott, who limped off early in the first half.
The Storm’s only concern as they head back to Melbourne in second spot following their fifth consecutive win is an elbow injury to classy young fullback Cameron Munster.
Tries to wingers Suliasi Vunivali and Marika Koroibete had earned Melbourne an 8-0 lead at the break before second-half strikes to Vunivali and centre Cheyse Blair sealed Parramatta’s fate in front of 8961 mostly dispirited fans.
The Eels’ only points came from a try with little more than a minute remaining off a Foran grubber kick – and Michael Gordon’s conversion.
Gordon denied the Eels’ off-field travails had finally take their toll.
“We were just outplayed by a clinical team,” he told ABC radio.
“We turned over way too much possession and were not patient enough and didn’t build enough pressure.
“We shot ourselves in the foot tonight.”
Melbourne captain Cameron Smith said he was delighted with the Storm’s lofty position on the ladder heading into the State of Origin series.