The Cumberland Throw

Whisky Musings – Round 21: A victory, a turning point perhaps

Round 21 Drink Of Choice – Yamazaki Single Malt

 

What a refreshing result! Although the second half threatened to follow the dreaded script that has anchored the Eels to the bottom of the ladder this season, pure, unadulterated, desperate efforts in defence carried Parramatta to an important 28-12 victory. By securing the two competition points the Eels kept the Cowboys, Sea Eagles, Bulldogs and Titans still in the thick of the race for the wooden spoon.

Perhaps even more importantly though, it was a performance that kindled the first sparks of hope that 2019 may represent a more fruitful campaign. A turning point potentially, if you will.

It was an effort not without flaws but by the same token it was the starkest reminder of the collective capabilities of this team in some time. Causes for celebration have been few and far between this season so let’s take the time to savour Parramatta’s 5th win of 2018.

 

Return of the King

 

While never short on courage or effort, 2018 has been an exercise in frustration for Parramatta’s talismanic fullback Clinton Gutherson. Ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments are always one of the most difficult injuries to rehabilitate in elite sports and given that is was Gutherson’s second such injury on the same ligament the path was always going to be challenging. To see just how demanding the timeline to a full recovery can be you need only look at the mercurial Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who was a shell of himself in 2017 as he returned from an ACL injury sustained in 2016. Fast forward to the current season and ‘RTS’ is back to his electric best.

Gutherson will recapture the best of his inspirational abilities in 2019 but his effort on Saturday night was a hell of a reminder as to just what exactly he brings to this team. 254m from just 20 runs (12.7m per run!) a linebreak assist and a handful of try-saving defensive efforts on his goal line outlined a frenetic night for the young captain.

Furthermore, the positional interchanges between Gutherson and Jarryd Hayne are quickly becoming more fluid and dynamic – a sign that bodes well for next year pending the retention of Hayne. In a first half try-scoring blitz, Gutherson first laid on the money ball to put Hayne over down the left edge before Hayne took over the custodian duties to gift Bevan French a saloon passage to the try line down the right.

 

French earns his shot at fullback

 

 Bevan French and his manager have been quite vocal about his desire to play fullback – be it at Parramatta or otherwise. After his outstanding run of form on the flank for the Eels in recent weeks French should deservedly get his shot in the #1…just in the black & white jersey of the Wentworthville Magpies.

Diabolical is probably too kind a word to describe the young flier’s form of late but most vexing is his complete lack of enthusiasm to get involved beyond finishing off the most basic of backline movements to score.

In a potential flashpoint moment in the second half, French quite obviously gave up chasing Anthony Don on an intercept, despite the vigorous and vocal gesticulations of Clinton Gutherson in his peripheral vision to cut off Don’s approach to the in-goals in an attempt to minimise the damage on the scoreboard. The fact that Michael Gordon proceeded to miss a throw-over conversion attempt should not mask the fact that French completely gave up on the play.

In a game where sixteen other blokes stood up and delivered, French’s disinterest could not have contrasted more heavily. Throw in his weak play-the-ball error and subsequent missed tackle on Phillip Sami to gift the Titans their second try of the night along with an error on a bomb defusal in the second half and you would have to think his position in the team is nigh untenable.

 

Kane Enabled

 

It has been a long time coming for weary fans but Kane Evans finally arrived for the Parramatta Eels. Genuinely producing for the first time in 2018, Evans was long, long, loooooooong overdue for both his coach Brad Arthur and the legion of Blue & Gold faithful. It is imperative that Saturday’s effort should not prove to be a one-off but Evan’s 135m from 13 carries, 1 quality offload and a crucial bear hug in defence were hugely encouraging.

Beyond another significant addition to the engine room, there is little doubt that Junior Paulo will feature as the premier bookend for the Eels in 2019 but the complimentary pieces around him will equally need to push and support the returning man-mountain. Daniel Alvaro and Peni Terepo have staked strong claims to do just that this year while Evans is still battling to show he deserves a place in the prop rotation.

He will get every chance to prove he warrants a place there moving forwards with the Eels facing the fearsome packs of the Dragons, Storm, Cowboys and Roosters to round out the remainder of 2018.

 

Brown & ‘Barry’, Esquires

 

The law, ahem, enforcement firm of Nathan Brown and Peni ‘Baz’ Terepo has been open for business for some time now and finally business is starting to boom. Quite literally. From Brown’s kamikaze drop-out return in the first half to Terepo’s soul-reaping shot on Jake Stockwell, the two undersized middle forwards put a dominant stamp on the game in Round 21.

Brown, in his usual manner, was a monster as he clicked off 20 carries for 191m and 35 tackles (3 missed) while Terepo made a scintillating burst down the left-edge to ultimately set-up the Bevan French try. Both men possess sneaky good athleticism and an uncanny ability to split defenders (Brown with his late footwork and Terepo with his weaving running style) and they will both profit heavily from a hopefully beefier and more powerful prop rotation in 2019.

 

Putting his Mahoney where his mouth is

 

Sub-title phrasing issues asides, Brad Arthur mentioned in the Round 20 post match press conference that the injury to Kaysa Pritchard offered an opportunity for outstanding rookie prospect Reed Mahoney to play 80min against the Gold Coast Titans. True to his word, Arthur threw Mahoney into the fray for the entirety for the affair and asides from two errant passes (by my count), ‘Cash’ Mahoney delivered big time.

From setting up Tim Mannah for the opening score with some deft work from dummy half to smashing out 49 tackles (2 missed) and 4 runs for 41m, Mahoney was heavily involved throughout the win. It wasn’t all perfect mind you, beyond the two aforementioned errant passes he struck one kick nicely into the corner but received a slice of luck on his second when it took a friendly deflection off a Titan for a tackle count reset.

In a way it is important for Reed to make these mistakes because of his ability to be a play-making threat that ‘BA’ can leverage. He needs to understand his limits and know when to push the run, pass or kick.

If he can learn to fully harness his talents and more importantly, if he can truly prove to be an 80min impact player at dummy half – the Eels will be onto a huge winner here.

Oh, and as for him jawing off and getting under the skin of serial pest Nathan Peats, I love it.

 

The Final Word

 

There were certainly moments that caused palpitations in the second half as Michael Gordon and Konrad Hurrell were denied crucial tries by desperate last-ditch defence but I am not whinging at all. That single-minded desperation galvanised the team in 2017 and has been largely absent as we careened to the bottom of the ladder in 2018. More of this please.

Although his time was limited it was also an important game on Saturday because it marked the debut of Jaeman Salmon. There was little he could do in his 15min stint from the bench given the Eels were under defensive pressure due to the sin-binning of Tim Mannah but should Bevan French be dropped as I hope, there is a very good chance that Salmon can feature prominently in the back line for the remainder of the season.

Fellow 2018 rookie Marata Niukore also impressed in an understated but pleasing manner. His savvy line running in the red zone nearly brought the Titans undone twice in the first half and while he hasn’t produced an explosive play yet, he is shouldering his share of the workload.

The Eels have a grueling run to the end of the season as they face three Top 4 rosters in the Dragons, Storm and Roosters as well as the Cowboys in the farewell home game for Jonathan Thurston. None the less they have plenty to play for, and none of this cliche pride nonsense please, they are in the pre-pre-season for 2019 and have plenty of work to do!

 

 

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Photos courtesy of the Parramatta Eels. Stats courtesy of Champion Data.

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Anonymous
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Anonymous

Mannah didn’t deserve a mention for his try? Moeroa for his hard running and line-break threatening efforts? Takairangi and his sneaky offloading flick pass for the Jennings incorrectly adjudicated no-try try?

Valve should be dropped. French has not in any way shown the heart he needs to to go with his unquestionable ability. I’m very disappointed in him.

I was also impressed with Marata, he’s a lot bigger than his weight statistics suggest.

sixties
Admin

Of course your observations are valid, but Forty’s Whiskey Musings are his selected takes from the match rather than an analysis of every player. I think you’ll find that he’s a big wrap for Mannah’s efforts and is a long term admirer of Tep.
Marata has certainly proven his status as an NRL player.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a distinct lack of enthusiasm by Bevan French in the singing of the team song after the Bulldogs win. Same again after the Titans win.

Shelley
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Shelley

If Bevan is genuinely trying ( it does not look this way to me) but is out of form or injured , then for his benefit long term drop him. If he is sulking about not being fullback he is either dillusional or getting and listening to so really bad advice as I would suggest that Gutho/ Hayne and most probably Norman are better fullbacks. If it is his way of getting sacked or let out of his contract it may work short term but it will also create a reputation that will follow him and open him up for… Read more »

John Eel
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John Eel

Forty like you I believe Bevan needs to be dropped. How often do you see a winger dragged. Question for me is who replaces him?

Great to see them win again and love the new victory song.

Rowdy
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Rowdy

Great drop I’m sure 40 and a fine assessment of those singled out for mention.
Your positional switch to fullback in the Wenty colours for Bevan French might be a disappointment for Nathan Milone as they are leading the competition in Ron Massey.

It’s going to be interesting to see whether big Kane is retained at the expense of Vave if the Polar Bear is available? But it is also nice to have the option of another big body going into the last 4 rounds against big forward packs.

Trouser Eel
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Trouser Eel

There’s only two explanations for Bev’s behaviour.
1. He’s broken his heartlidge and having a sook. In which case he needs to be hooked. I’d rather have the Hoff.
2. He’s carrying a genuine injury, in which case I’d rather have the Hoff.

John Eel
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John Eel

I think that you may get your preference TE

The Captain
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The Captain

Bev doesn’t appear to be carrying an injury, and given we have some replacements on the sideline and this lack of effort has been standard Bev for over a month now surely he would’ve been rested if it were injury related. This honestly looks like lack of effort and if it is it’s a terrible show for a professional athlete and will be lowering his market value by the game. Bev had more than a fair shot at claiming the FB spot and each time he’s been found wanting, now with his seeming inability to successfully perform on the wing… Read more »

mitch
Admin

I agree Captain, well said.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Bev it would seem is his own worst enemy, if he wants to play fullback then he has to earn the position, and show how he can both attack and defend, they were assets that were both missing when BA handed him the #1 jersey. The sorrow really is that he played very well on the wing last year, and showed that he was a vital part of the team. The other aspect is that he has been a bit of a pin up boy for the club, doing great work outside of playing and shows up his heritage in… Read more »

Longfin Eel
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Longfin Eel

When you consider that Gutherson has been our best fullback this year, and his season has been average at best due to recovering from injury, this does not look good for Bev. If I were in his position, I would be showing the coach that he has option but to pick me at fullback. I suspect however there is something else as French just has not got into this season.

Rowdy
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Rowdy

We should probably go with the Hoff. I hope he fit to return this week?

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Further to the Bevan comments I’ve made above. I still think he is a great prospect. We need him at full effort/enthusiasm and some off loading players in our roster. The loss of Kenny is just one player who immediately comes to mind where Bevan is now disadvantaged, playing fullback could have added plenty of points for our team. Alas, that’s how the footy rolls. If we took a leaf out of some other team’s books and kicked early, I think we could capitalise on Bevan’s speed, but that’s hard to do when you’re sitting where we are on the… Read more »

Pete
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Pete

Great read 40. IMHO, the win whilst very much appreciated is masking issues at the club. The forwards have been soldiering on despite many injured. I think Kidwell has helped improve the forwards. However, the backs have been very disappointing this year and if it wasn’t for a lucky bounce we wouldn’t have scored in the second half. Now I like the Bev, but he has been very poor. He needs time in Wenty to get some confidence back. He has not provided anything in attack and is a liability in defence. He was gifted that try by Hayne. Hayne,… Read more »

BDon
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BDon

The Dragons coming off a loss will be hitting us with everything. I reckon our forwards will aim up, they only looked vulnerable v Titans when we didn’t respect possession in that first 25 mins of 2nd half, up until Mannah binning. Will be a good test for Evans, he should take a long look at Brown and Niukore, he’s awkward to handle and I reckon he’s got scope to increase his running aggression. Other than Vave who has bulk but no gears, all the forwards are running with real punch. Hold the ball, run hard – 2 basics ticked.… Read more »

Milo
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Milo

Not sure what to make about B French; plenty of talent there but not sure about the application.
As long as Parra plays for 80 mins with a good effort i think they can snag another win or two.
Evans was v impressive; and Peni has been v good imo in the last few wks along with Mahoney and Brown.
If the halves both lead again we will be ok.