The Cumberland Throw

Whisky Musings – Round 15: Parramatta find their steel in trip to the Top End

Round 15 Drink Of Choice – Balvenie Double Wood 12YO

 

Forget the string of explosive victories over the likes of the Bulldogs, Tigers, Dragons or Broncos…Saturday night easily marked the most significant victory on the 2019 campaign trail for Brad Arthur and his Eels to date. Not only did Parramatta notch up consecutive victories for the first time since Rounds 1-2 but their ability to overcome a 16pt deficit to a genuine Top 4 contender gives fans arguably the first true stirrings of hope since the near cataclysmic mini-collapse started against the Melbourne Storm in Round 9.

The Eels were far from perfect in the testing Darwin conditions but the game makes for fantastic teaching tape for the team about how opportunities will come your way if you are patient and do not simply roll belly-up to the opposition.

I am reticent to draw a direct parallel at this stage of the season but my immediate reaction on Saturday night drew me to one particular game in 2017 in Round 21 when the Eels rallied magnificently from a 14pt hole against the Brisbane Broncos (another Top 4 contender in that season). Parramatta were far more polished in that particular performance on the back of Mitchell Moses’ master class but in both cases the team showcased similar courage and heart.

Parramatta finally have a signature victory to plant the flag on and push forwards from hence forth. Whether they will remains to be seen but before that let’s jump into what made the Eels tick as they laid down 22 unanswered points in the Top End.

http://www.starrpartners.com.au/office/starr-partners-narellan

He could sell ice to an Eskimo

It certainly wasn’t improbable that the man that would ignite the Eels to victory would be Manu Ma’u. The Tongan Terminator is among Parramatta’s most relentless competitors in any given week but it was the manner in which he embarrassingly breached the vaunted Canberra defensive line that proved to be so comically inspirational. With a pump-fake so full of pomp and grandeur that it would make any Thespian proud, Manu induced Aiden Sezer into a role that was little more than a rapturous spectator enroute to scoring a particularly memorable try.

I have no doubt that Sezer will be put on full blast in Canberra’s review of Saturday’s loss for opting to take the soft glory play option in the intercept but let’s at least give Manu a modicum of credit for successfully executing one of the greatest over-the-top dummies of our time.

 

The bench press on…

Season best performances out of Tepai Moeroa and Peni Terepo alongside the continued brilliance of David Gower spearheaded Parramatta’s resurgence on the back of the breakthrough Manu try. The Eels will be without the services of Terepo for between 3-4 games after a receiving a reckless grade for a high tackle on Jordan Rapana but the Eels should be relatively fine moving forwards.

Marata Niukore, Oregon Kaufusi, Tim Mannah and Daniel Alvaro will be jockeying to claim the vacant spot on the bench while with the June 30 deadline passing the Eels also will have access to Development slot players like exciting front-row prospect Stefano Utoikamanu.

All of this selection intrigue circles me back to a point that I really want to hammer home in that interchange forwards hold a massively crucial role for teams in the NRL and the stigma that surrounds the game with being a starting player or bust irks me to no end.

 

…While the starting props are looking strong

Junior Paulo was superb on Saturday night as he built on a dominant showing for Samoa in the representative round and was once again ably supported by Kane Evans who is, on the weight of things, relishing his second chance in first grade this season.

Paulo’s punishing 180m came off just 15 carries for a bountiful 12m per run while Evans was quite productive in his own right with 109m from 10 carries. Evans missed an alarmingly high 8 tackles in the gruelling conditions but the statistics do not tell the whole story there given that the towering prop forward regularly led the defensive line in aggressive raids that looked to set the tone against a gritty Canberra pack.

Even so, Evans can obviously improve in converting that aggression to effective tackling but the intent was well noted in a game where the Eels were deadset on finishing strong.

 

Lady Luck shines, even amidst plentiful missed opportunities

Mitchell Moses and Clinton Gutherson were both guilty of squandering attacking raids down the right edge with errant final passes to Blake Ferguson in the first half. Kane Evans too looked to be guilty of a similar indiscretion upon initial viewing following a Benji Marshall-esque flick pass to no one from a line-break but I am reliably informed that Jaeman Salmon was taken out in support.

I guess that makes up for the incorrect penalty awarded to the Eels when Manu Ma’u was deemed to be taken out without the ball while Parramatta were also the beneficiaries of a missed knock-on against Gutherson in the lead up to Ferguson’s sensational corner finish for his first try of the night.

Certainly luck shined on the Eels to an extent on Saturday but it must be said that they also made a lot of it on the back of the sweat of their own brows. Aggressive and willing defence badgered the Raiders into uncharacteristic errors while Canberra equally profited and were punished by the whims of Jack Wighton.

 

Thanks goodness Dylan Brown is back but best will come later

Dylan Brown looked like a player that has missed 3 months in attack and that honestly shouldn’t shock anyone. The young star understandably lacked the timing and polish he displayed in the first three rounds of 2019 while he also had the ball robbed of his possession from an exceedingly clever 1-on-1 strip.

All of this is perfectly fine in my books because even with his struggles in the Top End the net gain to the team and Mitchell Moses was clear in one of the highest stakes games played by the Eels to date this season.

What Brown didn’t shirk however was his defensive responsibilities. Dylan led the backline with 24 tackles with 2 missed and 2 ineffective and regularly found defensive work closer to the middle when the team needed it.

The bye comes at the perfect time for the Eels and Brown as they look to ease him back into the full workload that comes with the NRL. Look for him to be much closer to his best when the Eels return to the field against the Tigers in Round 17.

 

The Final Word

I could have easily waxed lyrical about the efforts of Blake Ferguson, Maika Sivo, Josh Hoffman, Mitchell Moses and Reed Mahoney – all of whom rolled up their sleeves in the torrid playing conditions. It took a concerted and whole-hearted team effort to bring home the two competition points and it will take similar efforts in the coming weeks and months if the Eels are to defy realistic expectations and forge something greater out of this rebuilding season.

This is the benchmark. The standard that the entire team needs to hold itself to moving forwards. Now they know that when the chips are down and the stakes are high, that they do in fact possess the grit and tenacity along with the means to claw their way back from a significant deficit against quality opposition.

They have plenty of time to reflect on it with the bye at hand, just as we fans have plenty of time to savour a genuinely excellent victory.

See you in Round 17!

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Rocket
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Rocket

I’ve missed the musing.

sixties
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He’s back baby!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Sadly missed here also – hubby gets very distressed about why Forty hasn’t declared his drink of choice and his very clever and witty observations. It’s like he is waiting for a note from a friend, he will lament “⎌nothing from Forty”.

JonBoy
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JonBoy

I feel cheated when I don get a serving of Musings each week!

John Eel
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John Eel

The game against the Tigers will show us a lot about this team. The game against the Raiders showed that they can play with resilience and patience after getting significantly behind then turning it into a win.

They have a great chance against the Tigers to show just how good they are and should win. A win against the Tigers will set them up for a good run home.

sixties
Admin

Such a vital game John.
On another note, comments were made about the Raiders feeling the effects of 15 straight rounds without their bye.
That’s half of the teams, including Parra.

Gazzamatta
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Gazzamatta

A long time between drinks 40. I very nearly sobered up.

Pou
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Pou

“opportunities will come your way if you are patient and do not simply roll belly-up to the opposition”

Love this

Greg Okladnikov
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Greg Okladnikov

Great article. And the Tigers game is so important…..the follow up game that we are now expected to win is the challenge. Need to be mentally up for it. If we can win it, it will go a long way to building confidence into the finals

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Short reply, as I wait for my wife’s surgery tomorrow.
I hope Manu is offered a new contract here at the eels too valuable to let go

Kafusi, Stefano and Parry have been named in the NSW under 20’s SOO team. a great further grounding for them.

I am also pleased that Tepai – Stepped up, apparently considering a move back to RU though. Would love to see him back on the edges with a bit less weight though.

JonBoy
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JonBoy

Round 17 seems so far away. A week off for a bit of R & R might help with anyone carry any niggles and probably a good way of bringing DBrown back into NRL. HOWEVER…it worries me! I woud have preferred to have another game straight up so we could have some solid momentum behind us. Yes we smashed the Broncos. Yes we came back and showed steel and grit against the Raiders, but another solid showing this weekend would just make me feel warmer and fuzzier than the latest edition of Whisky Musings. Quietly, I’m hoping for Nathan Cleary… Read more »

John Eel
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John Eel

It may be that they move Graham to 6 and The King to the bench

Rowdy
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Rowdy

Who would you have felt better if we got our arse kicked because we were rooted and needed a rest JonBoy? I think among other things that the heavy schedule for most of the boys from the Bronco game buildup then during the Rep round with all the hype around their cultural experiences may have contributed to our anxious yet slow start to the game against Raiders?
I do love your SOO scenario though. I just don’t know how they keep picking Cleary?

Milo
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Milo

Good read 40.
It was a good win; albeit scrappy but in those conditions it could have gone either way but we hung in there. Our forwards showed the way imo and with some great courage runs by the backs that is always needed. Tough game and energy sapping. I was sweating just watching.
Can someone answer about the crowd, as it seemed small and i thought they would be keen for the game in Darwin….or is it a cost factor?
Every game is vital this stage of the season.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

NT Govt should try to bring Broncos or Manly if they want thé crowd at the game. Canberra dont have too many followers up here, Broncos does, and Manly haters àplenty…..

sixties
Admin

In saying “up here” I assume that you’re up that way Anonymous. This is a commercially good arrangement for the Eels, and I get the “spreading the game” and community work aspects. But from a crowd perspective, 5K after 6 years isn’t a wonderful number. What’s your opinion other than who the opponents are?

BDon
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BDon

Forty, I didn’t actually notice Evans missing 8 tackles and that’s turnstile numbers. The Raiders sent their back 3, all fast, good steppers, through the ruck and their forwards are strong carriers, plus I noticed Ryan Sutton came off the bench and ran strongly on fresh legs.Throw in the heat and Kane gets to 8, but he was active and energetic, hit the line hard, made ground and made the Raiders work in defence. I too was thinking one of his best games,wont change my mind but I”ll hold the thought.

Rowdy
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Rowdy

Great read Forty. I’ve been off the drink for the last 3 weeks so won’t be getting into any boutique Balvenie DW. What an inspirational summation of events my man. Personally I thought we had also been sold short being left out of the other comparisons given freely by journos which we equally suffered ie; “and don’t forget they’ve been down on a couple of their (read Manly, Canberra, Souths, Cowboys etc) top troops for long periods this season”? Yeah, why isn’t Parra mentioned here? what about D Brown (11 games), N Brown (9 games), Manu Mau (8 games) and… Read more »

John Eel
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John Eel

Rowdy I like you thought that the Eels with an ounce of luck and the good draw that they have were a chance of top 4 but I did not have the gonads to say it.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Missed tackles as you say dont always tell the story mate, the only way you miss is having a go , im more concerned about the lookers . Evans is giving it a real go for mine