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.