The defending premiers ventured out to Parramatta to take on the potential heirs to their throne in what was comfortably billed as the clash of the season so far. The Eels were keen to emphasise their title credentials against the competition's benchmark team. As many others will, they came up short, with the Roosters handing them their first defeat of the season in a highly entertaining 24-10 clash at Bankwest Stadium.
A frenetic start saw the Roosters with an early possession and territorial advantage, but the Eels were able to withstand several attacking raids led by some scintillating play by the Morris twins. Josh Morris made a break down the left-hand side before passing infield to James Tedesco. Tedesco was swamped by a Nathan Brown tackle before he could even start to think about his next move. Brett Morris made a dash down the short side from dummy-half, before returning to the right wing where he was again involved in the play a tackle later. The scrambling Eels defence was able to withstand the Roosters' best efforts.
Eleven minutes in the Eels had their best chance after Clint Gutherson picked up a Roosters kick, made a break and travelled deep into Roosters territory. He was run down by the cover defenders, before the ball was spread to the right for Ryan Matterson who would have scored if not for Josh Morris tearing the ball from his grasp. In the background Daniel Tupou limped from the field as the Eels went on the attack again. The Roosters were able to repel the Eels and Tupou decided he could continue. It was that kind of game - plenty happening.
Five minutes later the Roosters were peppering the Eels line when an offload led to a quick pass out to Josh Morris. He caught and passed without looking to where a wide open Tupou should have been. Tupou, still struggling with his bung leg, was several steps short of where he needed to be and the ball rolled harmlessly into touch.
With their next possession, a bouncing pass found Brett Morris with plenty of work to do to reach the line. He beat Dylan Brown and Gutherson to cross for the first points of the game after 20 minutes. Kyle Flanagan missed the conversion from the sideline, his first miss from his past 17 attempts.
With sixteen minutes remaining in the first half, Dylan Brown tackled a Roosters' player without the ball as they contested a high kick. The resulting penalty was converted to two points by Flanagan taking the Roosters to a 6-0 lead.
The fast-moving Roosters defensive line was all over the Eels, and they struggled to make any impact with the ball in hand. Eleven minutes from halftime, on the back of an offside penalty against Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, the Eels had another shot at the Roosters line. A six again call saw them apply even more pressure, but the Roosters resisted, with Tupou and Josh Morris carrying Ferguson over the touch-in-goal line to end the threat.
The next time they had the ball the Eels progressed to the other end of the field where a probing Michael Jennings run finished centimetres short of the line. From the last tackle kick Ferguson came close to scoring in the corner, but the desperate Roosters defence was able to keep the Eels off the scoreboard for the first 40 minutes.
With 30 seconds remaining, Maika Sivo had the ball stripped from his grasp and in the ensuing play Tedesco was hit high. The penalty allowed the Roosters to extend their lead to 8-0 at the break.
The Eels have built a reputation of finishing strongly in the second half of games this year, so eight points was by no means insurmountable. They started the second half with the ball from the kick-off and continued to hold possession for the next three and half minutes before the Roosters finally cracked.
The ball passed from Moses to Dylan Brown and onto Jennings, who dummied and crossed through the attempted tackles of Joseph Manu and Brett Morris. Moses missed the conversion, but the Eels were back within four points and six minutes into the second half the Roosters still hadn't touched the ball.
From the kick-off the Eels continued to play possession football, with another six again call seeing them advance into the Roosters 20 metre zone. Jennings was tackled on the last and the Roosters were handed the ball for the first time in the half, after seven long minutes of desperate defence.
A Reed Mahoney grubber kick, with 25 minutes remaining, was almost grounded by Shaun Lane, before being mopped up by Brett Morris. The drop out saw the blue and gold waves pounding the Roosters line again. This time the ball swept to the right and Waqa Blake was bundled into touch by Tupou and Josh Morris.
With 21 minutes remaining the Eels scored one of the most brutal tries seen in recent memory. Firstly Jennings left two Roosters bodies in his wake, before passing to Sivo who tucked the ball under his arm and charged into Tedesco, who bounced off and hit the ground heavily. Sivo crossed for the try, while Tedesco was helped from the field after laying prone for several alarming minutes. Moses converted from the sideline to give the Eels a 10-8 lead.
The Roosters were far from finished and regained the lead just minutes later. Keary jinked and dummied and cut through the line between Mahony and Moses before drawing Gutherson to send Boyd Cordner over for a four-point reply. Flanagan kicked the conversion to take the score to 14-10 in the Roosters' favour.
A high shot from Eels forward Nathan Brown saw Flanagan add another two points to the Roosters' total. Tedesco was ruled out for the remainder of the game, as the clock crept into the final fourteen minutes.
Josh Morris made a break on halfway, passed inside to Keary who was cut down in a perfect cover tackle from Dylan Brown. From the quick play-the-ball the Roosters caught Jennings deliberately loitering offside. He was sent to the sin bin for ten minutes as Flanagan kicked the score to 18-10.
Into the final five minutes the Roosters put the result beyond doubt, with Josh Morris flicking a pass to an unmarked Tupou. Tupou, still favouring that leg, came around to make Flanagan's kick easier.
The Roosters attacked through to the very last seconds of the game, the siren sounding on their 24-10 victory. The score unfairly making the result look almost comfortable. These two teams will be around at the end of the season and a repeat performance would make for a fitting grand final.