Bulldogs rediscover their bark against Eels
The Hayne Plane broke out even when the Eels superstar didn't score, but the Bulldogs managed to get their stalled season off the runway with a form-reversing win on Friday night.
Despite Jarryd Hayne treating ANZ Stadium members to a special encore of rugby league's best fullbacks - a night after Greg Inglis dazzled for the Rabbitohs - the Bulldogs staggered to their first win in more than a month to revive their finals hopes.
Faced with the threat of expulsion from the top eight at the hands of their fiercest rivals, the one-time table-toppers clung to a first-half lead to scramble to a 18-16 win.
Des Hasler's side hadn't won since a bruising two-point win over Melbourne in mid-July. And the same nerve-jangling margin won't matter one iota to the premiership-winning coach, whose side temporarily leaps from eighth to fifth.
Despite Hayne's heroics in blue and gold, his NSW teammate Tony Williams produced his own inspired performance for the Bulldogs to breathe life into their flagging season.
He terrorised Parramatta's right-hand edge defence in arguably his best performance of the season, no doubt reminding all and sundry of his untapped ability on the eve of the finals.
Williams looked every bit the Bulldogs' barometer in the first half, running and offloading with purpose as the visitors burst to a 12-point lead in the dying embers of the half.
But Hayne produced another highlight reel moment, audaciously batting a ball on for Semi Radradra while in full flight to ensure the match was still a contest heading into the second half.
The Hayne Plane? It even made an appearance for the assist, not that anyone would argue against its merits considering the play.
Radradra bagged his double early in the second half, but the remaining 36 minutes failed to produce a point as a nervy Bulldogs squeaked home.
And it wasn't without controversy either. The enigmatic Chris Sandow booted a seemingly match-turning 40-20 with only two minutes left, but was denied the ensuing quick tap and saloon passage to the line by the on-field referees as ballboys handed the ball Eels winger Vai Toutai rather than place it on the sideline.
The Bulldogs looked anything but a side in freefall during the first half - and would have led by more than eight if not for a couple of superhuman plays from Hayne.
He first emerged from a swarm of Bulldogs to snaffle a Sandow bomb to score on the Eels' first excursion into blue and white territory, but even that seemed an act of a mere mortal compared to what he would produce in the dying seconds of the half.
With Brad Arthur preparing to rally his side in the sheds staring at a 12-point deficit, Hayne's audacious tap-on for Semi Radradra to score had jaws dropping even by his standards.
Running full tilt onto a Kenny Edwards pass with two defenders converging, Hayne somehow batted the ball on perfectly to Radradra - and ensured it went backwards at the same time - to breathe life into the contest.
Yet the two pieces of individual brilliance did little to detract from a much improved Bulldogs, still smarting from a horror month which has leaked points and players at an alarming rate.
Tim Lafai morphed from usual try scorer to provider for their first two-pointers, setting up Greg Eastwood and Mitch Brown inside the opening 25 minutes.
Aiden Tolman bagged only his second try for the year from a short Michael Ennis offering as the visitors vaulted to an early 18-6 lead.
Radradra burst onto a pinpoint Corey Norman pass to haul the Eels to within two, but it was as close as they would get.
Sydney Morning Herald