Blake Ferguson will be haunted by Adam Doueihi’s bombs but the Parramatta winger had the last laugh with their 36-22 win over Wests Tigers on Monday.
The undefeated Eels held on against a fast-finishing Tigers side who scored two tries in six minutes to get within two points until a flurry of activity in the dying minutes.
Clint Gutherson’s try in the 78th minute put the result beyond doubt in the 11-try spectacle after a messy afternoon with the ball for the Eels.
Ferguson then plucked the ball out of the air after the siren to race down the sideline and score his second to ease the pain of a tough day at the office.
He had a wobbly afternoon in front of the biggest crowd of the NRL season at Stadium Australia, with the 29,056 fans holding their breath each time he was under the high ball.
The off-contract winger slipped and missed the opening kick-off which was then knocked on by prop Junior Paulo to start a comedy of errors for the Eels’ backs under Doueihi’s bombs.
The Tigers five-eighth revived the magic of the boot in the traditional Easter Monday clash with both Gutherson and Ferguson struggling to reign them in.
The persistence paid off for Doueihi just before halftime.
Ferguson dropped one of the thundering bombs and Moses Mbye was on the spot to clean it up, flicking it to Luke Brooks who passed to Stefano Utoikamanu who scored.
A chip kick from Gutherson in the final minute of the second half put the Eels ahead 20-10 at the break and gifted Tom Opacic his double for the day.
But after Ferguson scored his first for the afternoon just after halftime, the Tigers ran in two quick tries to Doueihi and Jacob Liddle to push the Eels all the way.
The Eels will be left ruing 11 errors for just a 76 per cent completion rate, but the win caps off an unbeaten start for the year for Brad Arthur’s men.
They will try to extend their unbeaten start to the season against St George Illawarra on Sunday.
The Tigers will be looking for their second win in 2021 when they host lowly North Queensland at Leichhardt.