Harold Matthews Grand Final Qualifier
Forty20: Alrighty! Talk about business end of the season. Since I started covering the District Representatives in depth way back in 2015 the Parramatta Eels have been the benchmark of the competition. Grand Finalists in 2015, Premiers in 2016 and a Top 4 finisher last year after getting pipped by Manly in a brutal Grand Final Qualifier. 2018 is no exception to this outstanding record with the Eels set to lock horns with the Newcastle Knights at 4:30PM today with a berth in the big dance on the line.
It has been a season built on effort and execution for the young Eels as their polished brand of football carried them to a second placed finish at the end of the regulation season and the best defensive record over the same period.
Lead by their field-general Jakob Arthur, who absolutely epitomises that ethos of effort and execution, the Eels have shown they are a formidable presence in the red zone. Whether it is by kicking across field to the high-flying Matthew Komolafe or turning one of their athletic bookends in Peter Taateo and Trey Mooney back inside, Parramatta have shown they can have all the tricks in the scoring book.
What has set them apart however is their defensive application and willingness to roll up their sleeves and earn the right to play more adventurous football. While the classes of 2015 and 2016 arguably had more individual talent across their respective line-ups, the team lining up today has shown grit and integrity beyond their years and there-in may lie the key to victory today.
That isn’t to say there aren’t stars in this team! The aforementioned four players have shown plenty of class throughout 2018 while Viliami Penisini and Joshua Tuipulotu are monsters in the own right at left centre and fullback respectively. Sean Russell has great short area quickness for a young centre and is something of a sharpshooter from the kicking tee.
Just like the Cronulla Sharks, the Newcastle Knights have become something of a fated rival for the Eels in the post-season. While the Sharks knocked the Eels over in a fiery 2015 Grand Final, Parramatta toppled the Knights the following year in an intense decider that played out to the final minutes. The Eels prevailed back in Round 9 quite comprehensively with a 42-8 victory but look for Newcastle to come out fired up and ready to play.
As for the game blog today, we are deviating somewhat from the usual course! Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the match today due to work commitments but Sixties and Mitch are stepping up to the plate. I don’t know whether to bill it as a buddy-cop romp or not but I am expecting great things from these two TCT stalwarts in their live-blogging debut!
Feel free to join in the conversation all the way up to the 4:30PM kickoff and don’t forget you can always hit us up on twitter @EelsTCT !
Hopefully I get the chance to deliver one last live blog for the Harold Matthews next week but thanks to everyone to putting up with a highly disrupted live-blogging season this year. I sincerely apologise for not being able to deliver the sort of consistent weekly blogs that have come in years prior but hopefully it is limited to this year.
Go the Eels!
Harold Matthews Team List
1. Joshua TUIPULOTU
2. Matthew KOMOLAFE
3. Sean RUSSELL
4. Viliami PENISINI
5. Simon TITO
6. Jabriel KALACHE
7. Jakob ARTHUR
8. Peter TAATEO
9. Kyle LEONARD
10. Trey MOONEY (c)
11. Desmond RAUKETE
12. Oscar MEZZOMO
13. Caleb TOHI
14. Drew LLOYD
15. Mika TONU
16. Samuel LOIZOU
17. Taylor MAUALA
18. Lachlan MARIC
19. Alfred CURUENAVULI
20. Ngarimu HARTE
21. Rick SIOFELE
22. Jordan TAPUSOA
23. Sunia SIASAU
24. Larry MUAGUTUTIA
25. James MALAUULU
Mitch: Pre game thoughts; there are a lot of difficult surnames to spell in that line up. Currently preparing with some finger stretches and squinting exercises.
Before the game begins, quick shout out to my mate Natalina Suaalii who captained the Tigers in the Tarsh Gale Cup game before the Matts, scoring a 60 metre solo try early in the second half.
Nonetheless onto the Matts and the kick off with the Eels running from the scoreboard end. The Eels kickoff pressured the Knights into a poor first set, resulting in a kick out on the full from the Knights. Eels attack early, but Knights turn them away (just).
Some slick passing puts Desmond Raukete through a small hole but credit to the Knights scrambling defence. This is a high paced game and the ref blows a penalty the Eels way (even though the Knights were in possession) for the Knights player walking off the mark.
Try scored by Simon Tito. Conversion successful by Sean Russell.
Eels lead 6-0
22 minutes left in the first half.
Eels attack the line after the aforementioned penalty before Arthur puts in a kick for Russell to grab on the left hand wing before handing it off to an unmarked winger (Tito) in the corner.
Eels make a very clean break after the kick off, with slick passing from Penisini opening a passage again down that left edge. However, it ultimately ended in a knock on.
OOMPH. Monster hit from Caleb Tohi on an unsuspecting Knight, however the Eels give away a penalty for holding down and the Knights are now on the attack. And just like that a single missed tackle from the Eels leads to a Knights try in the left corner.
Try scored by Montell Kuru. Conversion unsuccessful by Logan Radzievic.
Eels lead 6-4
15 minutes left in the first half.
Ref is really blowing the pea out of the whistle early, leading to another Knights penalty, however a big hit from Caleb Tohi (again) leads to a Knights mistake, so the Eels will feed the scrum on halfway.
A streaking, aggressive and massive run from Matthew Komolafe is negated as Arthur throws an intercept for the Knights centre to streak away. The Eels momentarily shut it down, but the Knights are in the red zone, getting as close as held up on the fourth. Eels repel the Knights attack and recieve a relieving penatly for an over enthusaiastic Knights defence,
Yuck – the Eels fail to find touch on the penalty. Huge error, Knights make them pay on the right.
Try scored by Hayden Reagan. Conversion unsuccessful by Logan Radzievic.
Knights lead 8-6
11 minutes left in the first half.
I’ve just realised Forty doesn’t write the try scorers of the opposition. Consider that a luxury I can no longer afford. Knights first set after the try results in a 7 tackle set, before Arthur puts a loose pass to ground, returning it to the Knights on their own 30. Ref having a big input with yet another penalty to the Knights, who are now once again on the attack.
Some terrific defence from the Eels, however the Knights go very close to scoring their third through a cleverly placed chip kick. Eels ruck it out, and Jakob Arthur gets smashed trying to put the kick in, leading to another set of six for the Eels 40 out. Ham is not happy with the standard of referreeing, and as I type this the Eels give away a penalty in possession which otherwise would have led to an Eels try. The Blue & Gold faithful cannot believe it, but the Eels’ boys aren’t doing themselves any favours either.
Side note, there are a lot of Knights fans here. Some concern for Matthew Komolafe who is down with a shoulder injury after a terrific tackle, hopefully just a burner.
It’s on again for the Knights down the right after a repeat set and a pretty standard backline move. Eels look more talented, Knights look more composed.
Try scored by the Knights. Conversion unsuccessful.
Knights lead 12-6
1 minute left in the first half.
That’s the half time score. Eels obviously need a much better second 30 minutes.
Sixties: After a powerful opening to the match the Eels have hit the self-destruct button. The lack of composure has seen the boys deliver a swag of errors – from poor kicks, intercepts, incorrect play the balls to gifted back to back penalties. The Eels look more than capable of tearing the Knights apart, but failure to execute has been the dominant feature of the match, with the Knights sweating on the errors.
The second half will need to be a reversal of form for the Eels to get this one. Fortunately the scoreboard only shows a 6 point deficit.
Mitch: Back underway for the 2nd half. Eels have an encouraging first set and a great kick from Jake Arthur to finish it. Caleb Tohi is down temporarily, but makes his way back into the defensive line.
Great run from Komolafe sets up Kalache on the next set to pierce the Knights’ defence and put Penisini over for a great Eels try. Much better.
Try scored by Viliami Penisini. Conversion successful from Sean Russell.
Game tied at 12 all.
26 minutes left in the second half.
Eels get an early set penalty after the kick and are now on the attack again, however give away a piggy back penalty to the Knights for once again creeping up too quickly. Eels repel but now have the ball in their own 20.
A Newcastle mistake gives the Eels good field position, but the Eels are ruled to have knocked the ball on in an attacking kick. Eels set a strong tone early in defence.
Some brilliant work from Drew Lloyd sets up plenty of momentum, seized upon by Loizou who scampered over for a terrific try.
Try scored by Sam Loizou. Conversion successful.
Eels lead 18-12
17 minutes left in the second half.
This just in – Trey Mooney is a deadset monster and the Eels are on top now. Drew Lloyd scampers over himself and gets a well deserved try. He’s had incredible impact in the 5 or so minutes he’s been on.
Try scored by Drew Lloyd. Conversion successful.
Eels lead 24-12
14 minutes left in the second half.
Huge hit up from Oscar Mezzomo to restart after a strip penalty from the kick off. Knights get a 7 tackle restart as the Eels knock on a well placed attacking kick. Two sets later Eels give up an attacking opportunity from a ever so slightly forward pass; Newcastle now 30 out 4 tackles in but grant the Eels a 7 tackle set as an attacking kick runs dead.
OH MY. Some clever attacking passing allows Peter Taateo to absolutely destroy the Knights defence and then COMPLETELY RUN OVER THE TOP of the Knights fullback. Huge try and the Eels now firmly in control. Try time baby.
Try scored by Peter Taateo. Conversion successful.
Eels lead 30-12
6 minutes left in the second half.
Eels are absolutely running through Newcastle at will, but are unable to convert their last couple of attacking raids. Now just 2 minutes left, and Eels will be in the big dance next week.
Eels finish it off with a try, just to finish it off as Taateo crashes over for his second, and then wildly takes (and nails) the conversion.
Parramatta Eels 36 defeat Newcastle Knights 12
TCT Best On Field
3. Caleb Tohi
2. Matthew Komolafe
1. Trey Mooney
but special mention to Peter Taateo for a killer finish.
Sixties: That half time talk obviously worked a treat as the Eels took complete control in a powerful second half performance. In a virtually error free half, the forwards monstered their opponents and set the platform that was missing in the first stanza. Hunting as a pack in defence, the big blokes bruised with every defensive set, and left the Knights looking gun shy through the middle. This i the exact performance that will be needed against the big and aggressive Manly team.
Mitch: I won’t try add anymore, credit to Forty for getting this live blog to such a high standard every other week. Anyways, that’s all from us at St Mary’s, we’re off. A worthwhile trip, we got the result we wanted and just one more win needed.
Go you Eels,
Mitch and Sixties.