The third placed Eels were overrun by battlers fighting to stay in touch with the eight for just their third loss of the season, but even that couldn’t steal the headline.
He was a player, captain, staff member and coach for the Illawarra Steelers and St George Illawarra Dragons, and it was announced during the week that Paul McGregor’s tenure at the club would be coming to an end after 25 years.
One final win for Mary was a more than attractive prospect for the Red V, but against the Eels? It was the stuff dreams are made of.
At half time, Parramatta had been forced to lay just three tackles in their defensive 20, and it was the Dragons long range game turning their dreams into reality with a delicate 10-6 lead.
That lead came courtesy of a decisive Mikaele Ravalawa double. It’s usually Maika Sivo in the limelight, but Ravalawa got the wood over his fellow Fijian flyer in the undesirable conditions.
As well as scoring tries, Ravalawa made a habit of saving them, bursting off his line multiple times to clean up inside man Michael Jennings. The pick of the bunch however was a certain try saver on Sivo, driving him into touch before he could plant the ball down in the left corner.
Minutes later at the other end, Ravalawa completed his double. A lethal Corey Norman cut out ball left Sivo stranded in no-mans land, and Ravalawa cashed in. From a standstill start, he shrugged off Dylan Brown and Clint Gutherson, while using every inch of allocated turf to plant the ball in the right corner.
Ravalawa had a night to remember
Ravalawa’s first came courtesy of a trademark Zac Lomax kick chase. The dynamic centre flew over Gutherson and plucked the ball from his lap, Eels swarmed Lomax and all Ravalawa had to do was pick up the dribbling product of his chest pass.
That try defied the flow of the game, which along with field position had been controlled by Parramatta. Ben Hunt’s kicking game was St George’s saving grace, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Eels spine from combining to open the scoring.
Mitchell Moses put Brown through a gaping hole, and Matt Dufty could do little as Brown found inside runner Gutherson.
Parramatta are a renowned second half team, and a four point half time deficit meant alarm bells weren’t exactly ringing.
Kane Evans muscled the lead back and his way over the stripe two minutes into the second half, before St George had touched the footy. It was enough to put blue and gold concerns to bed for the time being, albeit with the slenderest of margins.
The Dragons were fueled by the desire to send out one of the club’s great servants on a fitting note, and you can never discredit the power of emotions.
What ensued was a classic slog with neither side breaking the try scoring deadlock. The St George defence was inspired, over the course of the game they would lay 37 tackles in their defensive 20, whilst the Eels would have to lay just 10.
Zac Lomax converted a penalty goal to tie the game up at 12-12 with less than a quarter to go, and it teetered on a knife's edge.
Seven minutes later, Lomax struck again to swing the scoreboard in the Dragons favour. It was a bitter-sweet two points considering it could’ve been six had Kaide Ellis’ maiden try not been disallowed for a marginal knock on.
Reed Mahoney – who laid a whopping 63 tackles – nearly pulled off the unthinkable for Parramatta, hunting a ball that was certain to go dead and pulling it back to the in-goal, only for it catch millimetres of the dead-ball line.
No try. This decision had the rugby league world divided
The Eels hounded the Dragons defence late and Ravalawa capped off his stellar display in style, coming up with a crucial play that was fraught with danger in the final minutes.
Ravalawa juggled the ball deep in his own in-goal, then burnt Jennings but couldn’t get past Blake Ferguson. In the Ferguson tackle, he kept his arms free and threw a 10 metre pass to Jordan Pereira, who made it to safety and kept going up field, sealing the result.
Although his empire was stormed, King Gutho claimed the run metres crown, running an astounding 369 metres. Gutherson now holds the record for most run metres in a game, dethroning previous record holder Roger Tuivasa-Sheck by one metre.
Although they’re almost a guaranteed top four side, the loss could have significant ramifications for Parramatta who have lost touch with the top two for now, potentially jeopardising their home final chances.
Jordan Pereira was a standout for St George, running 263 metres, breaking 12 tackles and two lines. Front rower Blake Lawrie also impressed with 214 run metres himself.
When the siren sounded Dragons captain Cam McInnes made his way straight to the bench where Paul McGregor had been coaching and embraced him. It was so much more than a win; it was a thank you, making sure Mary could leave on a high.
When one door closes, another opens. A new beginning is on the horizon at Kogarah, and with it comes the hope of realising the potential of a list that promises so much on paper.