The Cumberland Throw

Whisky Musings – Round 12: Eels finally remember they might actually be a good team

Round 12 Drink Of Choice – Glen Marnoch Islay


Yes the win came over a South Sydney roster ravaged by both injuries and Origin selections. Yes the Eels still conceded two soft tries up the guts. Yes the officials gave Parramatta all the marginal calls, wait scratch that one! On Friday night the Eels finally snapped a brutal 3-game losing streak with a solid but certainly not spectacular 26-14 victory over the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Some will be quick to dismiss the win on account of who the Rabbitohs didn’t have available but you can’t honestly tell me that the idea of Sam Burgress and Adam Reynolds leading around a composite mix of first-graders, fringe first-graders and young talent didn’t scare the bejeezus out of you the way the Eels were playing coming into Round 12.

Ultimately a win is a win and Friday night’s win steadies the ship for the Eels at 6-6 on the season while also keeping their stake on 8th place safe for now.


Pure effort goes a long way

In perhaps the most shocking rugby league revelation of all time, it turns out that if you run hard, tackle hard and don’t neglect your off-the-ball responsibilities in line-speed and kick-chase it will carry you a long way towards victory.

Mind blowing I know.

The difference in demeanor and attitude was apparent from kickoff and I don’t think it is unfair to suggest that if we saw anything similar in the last two weeks then the Eels would have comfortably accounted for both the Cowboys and Panthers.

Parramatta can ill-afford a second mental collapse this season. Fans got an extended look at how good this team can potentially be over the first two months of the season followed by their worst in the most recent month or so. From here on in the volatility of their efforts has to decrease and they absolutely need to trend their mean performances upwards.


Goal line ruck defence still an issue

South Sydney scored just two tries on the night which isn’t a poor result for the Eels on the surface. The nature in which they scored them is the reason for alarm as once again Parramatta proved unable to shore up their defence through their middle in the red zone. Reed Mahoney looks to be getting picked on by the opposition here to some extent but the Eels are also failing both technically and mentally.

On Friday night the Eels were guilty of not wrapping up the ball in both scenarios. Mahoney and Manu Ma’u both went high in their attempt to tackle Thomas Burgess but failed to secure the ball allowing the prop to easily crash over while later in the night three Parramatta defenders were unable to prevent an offload near the goal line resulting in a soft try to Tevita Tatola.

In previous weeks Daniel Alvaro and Marata Niukore both fell off the ball to allow Matt Scott and Tim Grant to score respectively. This is unacceptable no matter which why you slice it and the Eels need greater integrity through their ruck.


Ma’u is the winter of our discontent

The Eels were in desperate need of someone to stand up and lead the way forward on Friday.

Enter one Manu Ma’u.

The Parramatta enforcer blended his trademark aggression with intelligence and finesse in a masterful performance that surpassed 200 running metres and over 30 tackles in defence. Throw in a brilliant one-on-one strip from a deep line drop-out and you have the perfect individual game to rally his team-mates around.

Fans, and his fellow players, can’t expect such epic heroics every week but it certainly highlighted that Ma’u has got plenty left to offer the Eels as he searches for a new contract with the club.

Finally, with Brad Arthur fueling suggestions that Nathan Brown might be due back this week to take on the Sharks, between both Brown and Ma’u the Eels might finally have enough starch and resolve in their pack to not get rolled belly-up week after week.


Eels finally stop beating themselves but they do overcome officials

It has been markedly obvious that throughout the entire 3-game skid against the Storm, Cowboys and Panthers that the Eels were their own worst enemies. Melbourne were on a mission in the Magic Round after their embarrassing loss to the Sharks but the other two teams were thoroughly beatable.

They finally got their affairs in order on Friday night and produced a largely competent team performance – as I have already mentioned in this blog. They also however finally showed some backbone when the whistle didn’t aid them.

Adam Gee and Gavin Badger produced some genuine head-scratchers on Friday night, head-lined by a shockingly wrong call against Mitchell Moses after he charged down a South Sydney kick. Manu Ma’u was put on report for dangerous contact after tackling a Rabbitoh in the meat of his quadriceps while Maika Sivo was ruled to have knocked on a potential scoop-and-score try against the run of play…although that was a bang-bang play to be fair to the officials.

South Sydney were the beneficiaries of the vast majority of 50/50 calls en-route to a 8-5 penalty count as the visitors in a game where they did not has ascendancy in the ruck.

Credit to our troops though. They held firm, even against a weakened Rabbitohs team, and battled hard for the win.


Run, Moses, run

If there was just one lesson that Mitchell Moses should take out of the victory on Friday night, it is that his most lethal play-making tool is his speed. Moses was at his mercurial best and worst in a flawed but overall positive effort but South Sydney had little they could do when Moses attacked the line at pace.

Tries to Blake Ferguson and Josh Hoffman were built off the work done by Moses attacking the line and so often does his best footy come when he is confidently running the ball. Moses was guilty of squandering running lanes against the Panthers last week while he often resorts to speculator cut-out passes when he is out of rhythm. I am not saying he needs to be clocking up 100 running metres a week by any means but I think he should stream-line his play-making options somewhat to build around his speed and footwork.


The Other Guys

There have been plenty of under-performing first-graders for the Eels, pretty much of all which I think I have called out in recent week between Musings and TLT. It is only fair that the other guys, the blokes that have performed in spite of unduly low expectations, get their dues in turn.

Josh Hoffman has been just shy of truly excellent at right centre in recent weeks while David Gower was, dare I say it, a powerhouse off the bench against the Rabbitohs. Neither bloke has any particularly strong claim to job security and perhaps that is why they are making the most of their chances. Kudos to both of them.


The Final Word

It may have only been a baby step forward but after three weeks of kicking themselves in the head, I will take it. As I established earlier, the Eels can no longer afford the sort of mental lapse that led to this collapse and they have a mountain of catch-up work to do if they want any right to hang around with the big dogs at the upper end of the ladder.

Nathan Brown’s rumoured return will obviously boost the team and his inclusion will likely come at the expense of young backrower Ray Stone who did not enjoy a fruitful night on Friday. However, the likes of Peni Terepo, Tepai Moeroa and Kane Evans should not be resting easy because all have exactly zero credit to their names and should all be considered easily interchangeable with the likes of Tim Mannah and Oregon Kaufusi.

Earlier this year, in the halcyon days of this season, the Eels put together a gritty performance to see off the Sharks 24-12 at ANZ Stadium. If they can produce something similar in the confines of Cronulla’s home ground then I will start believing that Parramatta have turned a corner.


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Great musings Forty,
The refs were terrible and yes a depleted South’s team…. A win is a win.
Spot on about our goal line defence #soft. Wrap the ball up….so simple and we probably would have won the last 3 games. I believe the accountability must continue to keep the team on its toes. Kidwell must also be on notice as he must get the team to focus on our goal line defence. We have a tendency to rest on our laurel’s after a win. That’s the time to sharpen the focus.
Looking forward to the Sharks game.


People seem to forget we’ve had a weakened team ever since the two Browns were injured. Yes they’ll make a huge difference when they return and I like the way Smith has played recently, taking a back seat role while remaining solid in both A & D. The Rabbits forward pack was still largely intact and I thought we handled their forwards fairly well, keeping Sam fairly quite for most of the match.


Well said Glenn, you were certainly at the same ground as me on Friday night. Spot on mate.

Colin Hussey

Interesting and vg post forty. Cannot really disagree with anything. I tried to watch the game again but for some reason the 2nd half did not record, but from memory of it and the first half, I now shudder at what refs we get and what influence they have on a match that we are involved in. Is there a new rule that dissalows fast play the balls without the clubs being told, after the NRL and refs bosses came out with the put the whistle away and allow play to flow and be speeded up? Or did one ref… Read more »


The ball kneed out of Ray Stone’s hand, you mean! I think he has been slightly vilified for no reason.


Absolutely agree Rob. Stone needs to be persevered with imho.

Colin Hussey

Gazz have liked what I have seen of Ray Stone and this last game tells me he has a future, just needs to build his muscle a bit. He was dirty on himself for allowing that call.

Colin Hussey

I thought it was Ray that got that bad call, as it was it the dead part of my non recording couldn’t say for sure. It was very poor call, & IIRC it was another of Badgers calls, I used to think he was a good ref but I’ve seen some very poor performances for him this year, that & the call of playing the ball too fast are classics for mine. Would even make the grasshopper wince.


Here’s hoping no more battery acid forty. Without Damien Cook Souths looked like they concentrated on a solid, organised defensive line and sacrificed line speed in the first half and this helped us find some rhythm and go forward, but I think Bennett asked for less caution and more pressure at half time. His game plan was probably to take low risk with a cobbled together roster and see if we falter, but 14-2 got him thinking otherwise. Second half was 12-12. Souths battled strongly, so our form reversal wasn’t exactly handed to us, a good sign, hope confidence can… Read more »

Colin Hussey

Unfortunately, Tepai has a habit of trying that tackle and crab/goanna crawl over a tackled player and always gets pinged for it, all he needs to do is roll off to the side or make the move to get up quicker, its always usually done not far out from the try line. With Bennett coached teams there’s always 2 points in it for the opposition.


Completely different tactics against Souths whether by BA instruction or the team finally following orders. Back to the 2017 team approach of attacking with our defense and gaining the advantage thru the middle. Still soft on our line thru the middle and the Wenty team highlights show the same vulnerability – maybe Kidwell needs to reset our approach to on-line defense. Some good individual NRL performances. Having some extra punch with Nathan Brown’s return really adds something.

Trouser Eel

Great post Forty20. Kidwell’s credentials are to be questioned when we see a revised forward pack still unable to lock up the middle third.


Great Musings Forty, your truthful observations from first paragraph right through to the last is imo a fair assessment of where we’ve been poor lately, where some players have stood up and stood out lately.The credit where credit is due from Fridays game came to those it should. But I would ask, are you really supposed to have that many nips of scotch whiskey while trying to report on actual events? I see the evidence of 2nd, 3rd or 4th Glen Marnoch Islay in quick succession represented in your second last paragraph, second sentence. I thought those three fellas contributed… Read more »

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