Round 3 Drink Of Choice – Dimple 12YO Blended
Wowza, there is an absolute smorgasbord of content to dissect this week as the Eels fell short of the reigning premiers 32-18. The Eels were in it up to their eyeballs for over 60-minutes of play tonight before a sequence of errors and a defensive lapse or two opened the door for the Roosters to put the game beyond reach in the final exchanges. I’m not going to lie to you all, the end results hurts knowing that we genuinely had them on the ropes following Maika Sivo’s second try of the night. We really were that close to chalking up our third win of the year.
There is huge cause for optimism mind you. Although we certainly have several important areas and indicators to clean up and even though the record books will be marked down with a loss – this game was the first real confirmation that the Eels are back, baby.
Errors & Incompletions This Week’s Teaching Point
While the final 15 or 20-minutes will probably stand our strongest in everyone’s memories, and for good reason, the fact of the matter is that the Eels invited the Roosters into the contest throughout the game on the back of soft errors. Starting with Daniel Alvaro and culminating with Blake Ferguson, both of whom committed the cardinal sin of losing the ball in the set after points, the Eels gifted territory and possession to a foe that were capable of punishing them for such reckless disregard for the ball.
Alvaro and Ferguson were far from Robinson Crusoe in this matter. Maika Sivo, Brad Takairangi and Shaun Lane all turned the ball over at inopportune times while a lesser criticism could be leveled at Mitchell Moses and Dylan Brown for slightly misfiring kicking games.
When they held onto the ball the Eels absolutely had the measure of the reigning champs but as a wise and timeless nature boy once said – to be the man you got to beat the man. There are still a ways to go for this young but exciting team.
He Ain’t Semi But He Ain’t Half Bad Either
It wasn’t a flawless individual performance by any means with an error following a kick reception bringing Maika Sivo’s season error total to 6 while an errant kick ahead in the first half gifted the Roosters the ball. There was however a hell of a silver lining tonight with the Fijian flyer crashing over for two hard-fought tries to kick start his try-scoring journey in the NRL. 154m from just 13 carries, including a sensational kick return in the second half were just as important as Sivo begins to step out of Semi Radradra’s immense shadow in the eyes of fans.
Sivo is far from a finished product, so expect more troughs to go with the peaks, but his individual journey is a microcosm of the Eels in a manner of speaking. The talent in there, most of the production is there but the polish needs to be applied to cement himself into the final product.
Rough Night At The Office For Alvaro & Takairangi
Daniel Alvaro is usually one of the stalwart performers for the Eels while Brad Takairangi has enjoyed a terrific start to the season. Both were off the boil tonight though as handling errors, defensive lapses and in the case of ‘Taka’ some very questionable play-making calls blunted their effectiveness. Alvaro is a dead-certainty to bounce back swiftly but Takairangi might face a legitimate challenge from Jaeman Salmon for his spot at right centre.
We hardly need to enforce sweeping changes following a tight loss to one of the best teams in the competition but Salmon’s upside certainly puts him in the conversation here.
The Devil’s Favourite Demon
It is safe to say that Kane Evans has been a polarising figure in his young tenure at the Eels. A meager handful of solid games to close out 2018 hardly made up for a decidedly mediocre campaign. The towering prop forward has definitely been trending upwards over the first three rounds though.
Evans’ rattled off 126m from 13 carries tonight, running with vim and vigour but most importantly – he has stopped trying to force low percentage offloads. Alongside Tim Mannah, he is providing the Eels with a strong second wave of momentum through the middle. Hell, young Oregon Kaufusi deserves a shout-out here tonight for some bone-rattling defence and a quality offload that nearly resulted in a try.
Constant injuries have threatened to cripple Parramatta’s bench rotations for all three rounds but to their credit, the rotational forwards have absolutely stood up in this testing period.
Consolidation Now The Key
The Eels were plucky, the Eels were gallant and the Eels were competitive as hell but they need to consolidate on tonight’s performance and grow as individuals and a team. Some of the tape from this game will be sensational (Blake Ferguson’s try) while some will be shameful and painful viewing on Monday (Victor Radley’s try) but with two games left before the Eels christen their new home ground – they need to consolidate their efforts from the first three rounds.
Heading into Easter Monday sitting on three or four wins would position the Eels to make a charge through the Origin period, where they are usually relatively unscathed from rep selections, as well as welcoming back reinforcements from the injury ward.
A traditional bogey team in Cronulla and a mercurial Raiders outfit stand between them and that Easter Sunday showdown with the Wests Tigers. Banking two wins from those two outings would be massive for Brad Arthur and the Eels.
The Final Word
The Roosters showed their class and taught the Eels a lesson in how to close out a big game tonight but for 60-minutes Parramatta were landing body blows and counter-punches on the champs. For a team bouncing back from a spectacularly awful 2018, for a team riddled with injuries in the forwards, for a team fielding the youngest and most inexperienced spine in the NRL – that is a hell of an effort.
We fans have every reason to be excited about this roster. They are clearly a work in progress but they can slug it out with the best the game has to offer. Tonight may have seen them get dropped to the canvas after the Round 10 bell rang but come Monday they will pick themselves up and hopefully be better for it.