VIDEO: Electric Eels show their mettle against Broncos
IF you thought Parramatta would simply make up the numbers come finals time, think again.
Brad Arthur's men form a serious NRL contender. They proved as much during Friday night's intense round 21 clash with top-four outfit Brisbane.
The Broncos were as strong as they have been all year. They finally got their ideal spine on the field and, on paper, they looked formidable heading into the ANZ Stadium battle.
The Eels, meantime, had to make do with the cattle they had after in-form fullback Clint Gutherson busted his anterior cruciate ligament last week, adding to the headache Arthur already had over a lack of hooker options.
But the Eels proved their mettle.
Backs to the wall, Parramatta's grit got them over the line in what may have been the most exciting game of the season to date.
And they had to counterpunch their way off the ropes when they found themselves 12-0 down in the opening 10 minutes of the clash.
Mitchell Moses was magic. Bevan French was electric replacing Gutherson at fullback. Corey Norman was solid and the forwards were tough.
Barring an ugly grub shot from Kenny Edwards, there wasn't much about Parramatta's performance not to like.
The Eels had been hovering inside the top eight but the jury was out on what impact they could actually have come finals time.
Now we know.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett will be sweating on the fitness of hooker Andrew McCullough.
McCullough limped off the field late in the game and early reports suggested a medial ligament injury.
One of the most reliable rakes in the game, McCullough's loss will be a major blow to the club's campaign heading into finals.
Luckily, Bennett's stocks run a littler deeper than other clubs.
He has young talent Kodi Nikorima waiting in the wings, while veteran playmaker Benji Marshall is crying out for a greater role in the side.
But fingers crossed McCullough's injury isn't as bad as it seems.
It took the Broncos four minutes to hit the scoreboard, and it didn't come without its own bit of comedy.
A James Roberts break down the sideline set up what should have been an easy four-pointer, but the Broncos almost stuffed it up by throwing it around too much.
Matt Gillett eventually finished it off to hand the visitors an earl 6-0 lead.
The got their second just a couple of minutes later when Jonus Pearson broke away down the other sideline, and this time it was Roberts who finished off with a meat pie of his own.
In the blink of an eye the Eels were 12-0 down and facing a knockout punch.
But the Eels responded in the 14th minute when halfback Mitchell Moses ran to the defensive line and put a kick through - getting smashed in the process - for Tepai Moeroa to score.
Then it was Moses again who threw a superb two-man cutout ball to hit winger Kirisome Avau'a.
Moses then nailed the sideline conversion to square it up at 12-all.
It was a thrilling half of football, but ruined towards the end by a couple of Eels forwards.
Nathan Brown's swinging arm whacked young Pearson around the face, knocking him to the ground in pain.
Then, inexplicably, Kenny Edwards opted for the grubby option of driving his shoulder into the head of defenceless Pearson.
It created a scuffle and after much deliberation Brown was placed on report, but Edwards' dog shot went completely unpunished.
The incident came not even one week after Tony Archer said Sia Soliola should have been sent off for his high shot that knocked Billy Slater out.
A Broncos penalty goal before half time handed the visitors a 14-12 lead.
The opening 15 minutes after the break went much the same way as the first 40 - an intense scrap between two class sides.
The Eels finally hit back and levelled the scoreboard again with a penalty kick in the 55th minute.
Parramatta had the momentum and a thrilling finish loomed.
It wasn't until the 69th minute that the deadlock was broken.
It was another Eels penalty converted by Moses that put Parramatta in front by two points.
Then in the 75th minute Auva'a skirted down his right touchline and got around the Broncos defenders to score.
Some Bevan French magic to score a great solo try from fummy half in the 80th minute put the result on ice.