Parramatta Eels end NRL drought on the road
Parramatta have finally ended their two-year away drought with a gripping 25-18 NRL victory over Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
Chris Sandow and Jarryd Hayne led the resurgent Eels home in a quality second-half where the lead changed four times before Sandow sealed the result with a 40m field goal.
It had been 21 matches since Parramatta - wooden-spooners in the past two seasons - enjoyed their last success on the road, also against Brisbane way back in 2012.
But they showed the poise and professionalism that has been lacking by twice reigning in the Broncos.
It was hooker Nathan Peats who snuck past Ben Barba - in another indifferent display at fullback - from dummy-half with 11 minutes left to take control after a controversial cross-kick try to the home side.
Parramatta's win sees them draw level with joint leaders Brisbane on a congested table while the Broncos could be most pleased with the return of co-captain Justin Hodges from his achilles injury.
After more than seven months out of the game, Hodges immediately showed how important he is to Brisbane.
Benched for kick-off, he was forced to watch his side waste the lion's share of possession for the first 20 minutes.
The frustrations continued when he entered the fray as Barba ignored an unmarked Daniel Vidot on the left wing and instead kicked dead.
Minutes later Corey Norman, Kenny Edwards and Sandow combined for Will Hopoate to open the scoring.
Then big Semi Radrada handled twice and swatted away Barba in a scintillating 85m try for his eighth four-pointer of the season and a 10-0 lead.
But Hodges single-handedly gave the Broncos a much-needed injection 35 seconds before halftime with a signature dummy-half run.
He created something from nothing by fending off both markers - Radradra and Mitch Allgood and also evaded two more defenders before sending Dale Copley down the sideline to score.
A 10-6 deficit flattered the home side but the late try turned the momentum and Ben Hunt continued Brisbane's resurgence with a solo 40m try - dummying his way to the line.
The lead changed again when Hayne made Josh Hoffman pay for a bad defensive read off a scrum but the Eels failed to hold it for long as the video referee awarded the contentious try to Josh McGuire.
Unhappy Broncos coach Anthony Griffin labelled it his team's "worst performance" of the season.
"They started very well in the first half and we were very poor," Griffin said.
"We were 60 per cent with the ball and not much intent defensively.
"Defensively we weren't there at all. Tonight we let ourselves down.
"We were off where we needed to be, no disrespect to Parramatta, but it was our worst performance of the year.
"We just shot ourselves in the foot."
Parramatta counterpart Brad Arthur, who was also in control as Eels stand-in coach in their previous away win, played down his happy knack of overseeing upsets at Suncorp.
"I enjoy winning whether it's here or anywhere," Arthur said.
"It's a great win but we've got plenty to improve and we need to keep working hard and stay focussed on the job ahead."
He paid credit to the efforts of Hayne and Sandow, as well as former Bronco Norman in his return to Brisbane.
But Arthur was most buoyed by the improvement his side's defence, which leaked 56 points in round two against the Roosters.
"The effort and the belief, we're starting to build and the attitude to our defence is pleasing," he said.
Parramatta Eels 25 (J Hayne W Hopoate N Peats S Radradra tries C Sandow 4 goals C Sandow field goal) Brisbane Broncos 18 (D Copley B Hunt J McGuire tries C Parker 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Grant Atkins. Crowd: 32,009