Electric Eels crack half ton as new stadium stuns
WELCOME home, Parra, and welcome to history. This was the ultimate house warming party.
Proud Parramatta opened the $360m Bankwest Stadium on Monday with a stunning and famous 51-6 win over hapless Wests Tigers - a performance which would have done Eels legends from the 1980s proud.
And fittingly, the ex-champions who claimed premierships in 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1986 - including Ray Price, Steve Edge, Mick Cronin, Peter Wynn, Brett Kenny and Peter Sterling - were there to watch the celebrated and landmark victory.
Tries started in the 13th minute and never stopped. Parramatta ran, passed and scored. It was that simple. And they did it time and again.
And with each try, Parramatta players would return to their positions to tumultuous applause. It was an afternoon to remember. The old Parra theme song blared as fans stood, cheered and waved flags at full-time.
Monday's result reminded long-time fans of the Eels' first game at the old Parramatta Stadium - a 36-6 win over St George back in 1986.
Sterling watched on as halfback Mitchell Moses scored a try and played a role in four others. He added a last-minute field goal. It was a majestic individual performance which should seal a new contract.
After a two-and-a-half year absence, the Eels were back in Parramatta. The fans were back, so were the goose bumps.
Tries came in 13th, 18th, 23rd, 26th, 30th , 48th, 52nd, 62nd and 66th minutes.
At exactly 3.57pm, Wests Tigers skipper Moses Mbye became the first NRL player onto Bankwest Stadium, rugby league's new field of dreams. Moments later, Clint Gutherson and Tim Mannah led out the Eels. The noise resembled a jet airliner.
And then at 4.04pm, Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks kicked off under a blaze of lights from phone cameras. Everyone wanted to capture their own piece of history.
And the drama started from the get-on. On tackle one, Wests Tigers forward Ryan Matterson clocked Parramatta's Daniel Alvaro high. The Eels prop was forced from the field with concussion and did not return.
They were out in force on Monday.
Price was there checking out his statue, Edge, Cronin, Wynn, Sterling, Kenny along with 1986 coach John Monie, Ken Thornett's wife, Willeke, Nathan Hindmarsh, Geoff Gerard and Denis Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald was that excited he arrived at the ground at 11.30am. Cronin raised the blue and gold army flag pre-game to thunderous applause.
The legends stood in the middle of Bankwest Stadium to welcome the current team onto the field, in front of a giant flag which read Blue and Gold Army.
International actors Paul Hogan and Simon Baker were invited but had to decline. They promised to attend matches later in the season. The four grandstands were officially named after Sterling, Kenny, Thornett and Cronin.
And what a beauty it was. In the 13th minute, and at 4.20pm, Gutherson took a quick tap re-start and sent Moses on a 73 metre charge to the tryline.
Moses' legs could not possibly have rolled along any quicker, urged on by 29,047 roaring fans, the star player slammed the ball down in the south-western corner.
It was another moment of history. Weary but overjoyed, Moses bounced to his feet, arms aloft, and screamed with delight. He then composed himself to land a sideline conversion.
Centre Michael Jennings scored in the 22nd minute to give Parramatta an 18-0 lead. It was game over. Usually that would be anti-climactic. Not on Monday though. Parramatta fans wanted blood.
Jennings then scored another try just four minutes later to rub it in. This was a dominant and emphatic win even without injured star Blake Ferguson.
Parramatta were hyped and pumped. They weren't going to freeze in this game.
It was 30-0 after 30 minutes, Wests Tigers left battered, embarrassed and humiliated. Parramatta ran riot in front a delirious home crowd. There were as many holes in the Tigers defence as there were fans in the stands.
Wests Tigers were simply blown away. They were sloppy throughout, their defence truly embarrassing.
They were weak out wide and soft through the middle. Wests Tigers were steamrolled.
Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah was forced off early with concussion. That didn't help their rhythm. He did not return. Farah was the third player concussed in the opening ten minutes.
This was history; a moment for the ages when the rugby league family came together.
Monday was the first time rugby league was played at Bankwest Stadium. It was an afternoon of fun and celebration.
It was 33 years since the old Parramatta Stadium was opened and 38 years since Cumberland Oval was famously burnt down after Parramatta won the 1981 grand final.
It was fitting Parramatta wore replica jumpers from 1986, the club's last premiership.
Seating on the eastern side is just five metres from the perimeter fence. That stretches to seven metres on the western side to allow television and print cameras additional room to work.
The facilities are truly world class. There were even TV's showing the footy in toilets. There were empty seats at both ends, surprising given the event was sold out six weeks ago.