The extreme heat forecast for later today resulted in changes to this weekend’s Junior Rep trials at St Patrick’s, Blacktown. The Tarsha Gale Cup and SG Ball matches were moved to Friday evening, with today’s Harold Matts and 15s Development trials kicking off at 8:30am.
The Eels brain trust, including Brad Arthur, Joey Grima, Peter Sharp, Anthony Field and Bernie Gurr were all in attendance, indicating the importance that the club places on the elite junior program.
With Forty20 unable to attend these matches, I’ve done my best to provide some notes on the only matches I watched, the Harold Matthews trials. I am no Forty20 (nobody is) and am working from recall, so please bear with me.
I don’t have any background information as to whether the Panthers were missing significant players. Assuming that the majority of their first choice players were on display, the impression is that a yawning chasm exists between the Eels and the Panthers.
The result of Trial 1 (50 minutes) was a 9 tries to 1 victory to the Eels.
The first forty minutes of this clash was remarkably cohesive and polished. The young Eels executed plays that could nearly be equated with NRL teams. It was obvious that, even at this stage of the year, they are a well coached unit. The Eels NRL staff have been involved in the coaching this elite group and ultimately there will be both immediate and long term benefits from a whole club philosophy.
The Blue & Golds laid the foundation with a power game from the pack – and there was little respite for Penrith when the interchange players took the field. The Eels forwards are big, mobile and disciplined. The spine provided the controlled guidance.
The middle forwards in particular were a handful, and continually bent or broke the defensive line. In the early part of the game, this came from structured plays around Jake Arthur. The drop off to a rampaging forward hitting a hole caused the greatest damage inside the quarter and created first half tries.
As the game progressed, the Eels ball control and power running took its toll on the Penrith defenders and the game opened up with offloads and second phase play. After the score hit 9 tries to one, the Eels attack became a little scrappy – understandable given the heat and the replacement of Arthur.
As impressive as the Eels attack was, the biggest accolades must be handed out to the defence. To my eye, the technique of the forwards was near perfect. The pack dominated their opponents in impact and on the ground and the synchronicity of the defenders peeling off the tackled player was reminiscent of a first grade contest. It was a stark contrast to their Panthers counterparts.
The second trial match featured players who had limited opportunities to train together prior to the match. For the Eels, there were a group of young footballers who have been brought here from as far afield as Darwin, Christchurch and Dalby.
The Panthers took the early ascendancy, breaking out to a three tries to nil lead. The introduction of a few players for the Eels saw a more controlled performance and a complete shift in the momentum. Ultimately the Eels took the match by 5 tries to 4.
It’s difficult, if not unfair, to single out performances in a junior trial, especially when I’m not relying on notes to comment. My apologies to players deserving of a mention that I might have missed.
I really want to praise the pack as a unit. If I was to single out players, I thought that the starting middle forwards Trey Mooney, Peter Taateo and Caleb Tohi set the platform in the early part of the match.
Jake Arthur and Sam Loizou provided good direction in the halves, with Arthur notching up a few try assists as he showcased his passing game.
When introduced, the bench forwards – Raukete, Tonu and Betham-Misa, maintained the power game through the middle.
The second game was not quite at the same standard, but halves Logan Jones and Josh Chappell made a good impression when introduced and Matti Moyle (from Darwin) was busy and aggressive off the bench.
I understand that the SG Ball lost their trial by five tries to two on Friday night. Although there were a significant number of eligible players unavailable for this match, the coaching staff would have been looking for a better performance.
My thanks to Big Derek and Parrathruandthru for their assistance and observations today
It’s all on again next Saturday at Terry Lamb Reserve.