The Cumberland Throw

The Preview – 2019 NRL Semi Final: Eels vs Storm

Date: Saturday, September 21, 2019

Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne

Kick Off: 7:40pm

Referees: Ben Cummins, Grant Atkins

Head-to-head: Played 36 Eels 13 Storm 22 Drawn 1

Odds: Eels $3.00 Storm  $1.40

Broadcast: Fox League, Kayo

Last Four Encounters:

Storm 64 Eels 10 Suncorp Stadium (2019)

Storm 20 Eels 4 AAMI Park (2018)

Storm 18 Eels 16 AAMI Park (2017)

Eels 22 Storm 6 AAMI Park (2017)

 

The Warm Up

Before getting on with this week’s big clash, how amazing was that 58 to nil record shellacking of the Broncos! Our Eels were a pulchritudinous sight to behold as they registered a magnificent 11 tries and announced themselves as a team deserving of respect.

But last Sunday’s celebrations won’t mean a thing if the team fails to produce this week. At this time of year, a loss means your next game is six months away.

Regardless of changes to their personnel, the Storm has a culture which expects to be playing football in late September. Words such as consistency, execution and professionalism could easily feature on their coat of arms.

In contrast, Parramatta have a near pristine finals frequent flyer card, given that this will be just their fourth scan of that microchip in the last ten years.

What does that history mean? If last week has to be locked away then the past should mean nothing.

I’m not so sure you can ignore either the recent past or the stuff from deep in the memory banks.

The last two victories have provided the Eels with both confidence and momentum. That can be a massive factor during a finals series.

And though the Storm are last up losers, their rich history of finals football provides them with a wealth of experience that can prove crucial at this time of year.

I’m on the edge of my seat just thinking about what lies ahead. I’m not ready to jump off this ride  yet.

 

Having a Punt

Warning! You are about to read some gloating.

After a self-prescribed sabbatical from the punting tip, it’s now been two weeks back in the winners circle. The head to head/over under double has delivered both weeks, so let’s stick solid.

And the TAB odds are deliciously attractive.

Take the Eels to win coupled with over 36.5 total match points and you’ll get, wait for it… $6!

If you play first try scorers, the favourites are listed below.

Eels – Sivo $9, Ferguson $11

Storm – Vunivalu $8, Addo-Carr $8

 

Feed Your Footy Brain

The Storm enjoy a perfect record in finals footy against the Eels, having won all five clashes. That said, the winning margin has only reached double figures once, and the Eels can feel aggrieved about crucial decisions in three of those matches.

The scores are listed below:

Storm 18 Eels 16 1999

Storm 12 Eels 6 2006

Storm 26 Eels 10 2007

Storm 23 Eels 16 2009 GF

Storm 18 Eels 16 2017

The Eels have won 6 of 17 matches against the Storm in Melbourne.

 

Tracking: Waqa Blake

It’s impossible to understand why the Panthers didn’t want to keep this talented centre. He’s not the only Eel to trace back to an origin at the Riff, but his mid season departure still has me simultaneously scratching my head and smiling like a Cheshire Cat.

Waqa Blake

Last week Blake was equal parts explosive pace and destructive defence. Given he’s only played eight games in Eels colours, he would just be scratching the surface of developing combinations with his right side team mates.

Imagine what will be possible with a pre-season under his belt!

Since debuting for the Eels, Blake has averaged 122 running metres per game, with 2.4 tackles breaks thrown in for good measure. Add in three tries, two try assists, five line breaks and a line break assist and you have an impressive introduction to his new club.

Early ball and space are words he would delight in hearing.

If he gets his fair share this week, the Eels take a big step towards victory.

 

Danger man: Cameron Munster

Let’s consider the Melbourne spine.

What Cameron Smith brings is a given. Hughes and Papenhuyzen are relatively raw and essentially unproven in finals footy. Therefore, the  key to Melbourne’s chances lie with Munster.

The Maroons representative is the Storm’s X-factor. And it’s backed up by his stats.

In 22 games Munster has tallied 7 tries, 18 try assists, 8 line breaks and 17 line break assists. And yet, his own running games is just as impressive as he’s registered 85.6 running metres, and 2.5 tackle breaks per game.

If Munster is kept quiet, there’s a fair chance that you halve the effectiveness of the Storm’s spine. If he’s given too much latitude, he could easily be the difference between the two teams.

 

Team Lists:

Eels: 1. Clint Gutherson 2.Maika Sivo 3.Michael Jennings 4.Waqa Blake 5.Blake Ferguson 6.Dylan Brown 7.Mitchell Moses 8.Kane Evans 9.Reed Mahoney 10.Junior Paulo 11.Shaun Lane 12.Manu Ma’u 13.Nathan Brown

Interchange: 14.Brad Takairangi 15.Daniel Alvaro 16.Tepai Moeroa 17.Marata Niukore 18.Ray Stone 19.Jaeman Salmon 20.Peni Terepo 21.Josh Hoffman

Storm: 1.Ryan Papenhuyzen 2.Suliasi Vunivalu 3.Will Chambers 4.Justin Olam 5.Josh Addo-Carr 6.Cameron Munster 7.Jahrome Hughes 8.Jesse Bromwich 9.Cameron Smith 10.Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11.Felise Kaufusi 12.Kenneath Bromwich 13.Dale Finucane

Interchange: 14.Brandon Smith 15.Tui Kamikamica 16.Max King 17.Joe Stimson 18.Curtis Scott 19.Tino Faasuamaleaui 20.Tom Eisenhuth 21.Brodie Croft

 

Junior Paulo vs Nelson Asofa-Solomona

This battle of the big men brings together two vastly different body types, but two impressively skilled individuals.

Junior Paulo

When Brad Arthur spoke to his team about backing themselves and their point of difference, he could have easily asked Junz to stand up as the epitome of that statement.

The 125kg prop possesses a skill set that is the envy of many halves. He can carry the ball through the middle and drop the ball off to supports, he can play a link role to wide running centres or back rowers, he can take the line on with power and footwork, or he can simply tuck the ball under the arm and take the tough run.

His numbers back up his skill set. An average of 122 running metres, two tackle breaks and 2.5 offloads per game is a great base. A season high of 180 running metres, 5 offloads and five tackle breaks is superb.

Though it’s rarely seen on match days, Paulo also possesses a kicking game and even enjoys piloting conversions from the sideline during training extras. Then again, it’s not unusual for certain Eels forwards to showcase such skills when the hard work is done!

The return of Junior to Parra this season has added another dimension to the Eels pack. His clash with the seasoned Storm forwards, especially at the start of the match, will be critical.

And if we’re talking big Melbourne forwards, they don’t come any larger than Nelson Asofa-Solomona.

The giant Kiwi stands 200cm tall (that’s 6ft 7 for dinosaurs like me) and weighs in at 115 kg (just over 18 stone). And mobility makes these dimensions doubly dangerous.

Though his average of 113 running metres per game falls short of Paulo’s returns, he sits very close to the leading metre eaters in the Storm pack – just behind Finucane at 120 metres and Jesse Bromwich at 118.

With tackle breaking and offload prowess, big NAS is a key player in the Storm’s attack. And his battle up front promises to be intriguing.

 

And The Winner Is

The Storm didn’t finish six points clear in the minor premiership due to luck. They perched themselves at the top of the ladder because of their incredible consistency.  The difference between their best and worst was the proverbial length of a bee’s D.

Likewise, the Eels provided their own brand of consistency. They placed themselves in the Top 8 in Round one, then took up permanent residency from that point onwards. They did so because they could consistently bounce back from their poorer performances.

Don’t think for one moment that the Eels offloads and shifts are a recent addition to their repertoire. They’ve been honing their skills and that style since the pre-season. I’ll be surprised if they’ll let wet weather restrict such play.

In contrast I expect that the Storm will try to play a grinding game – nothing like their last encounter in Magic Round. Opening the field up will only play into the hands of a full strength Eels. But don’t underestimate the Eels unheralded pack.

The start of this match could determine the outcome. The Eels need to work from a strong early platform.

Parra to win in a very physical clash.

Eels 28 Storm 20

Man of the Match – Junior Paulo

 

Eels forever!

Sixties

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Seth hardie
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Seth hardie

I hope we kick off and impose our defensive intentions early.Let them know we are here to play.Hope the refs are balanced and don’t succumb to a can smith obedience class.

Billy
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Billy

I suspect your score prediction is heart over head Sixties, but wouldn’t it be lovely to send the Storm out in straight sets. We’re certainly due some favourable decisions against them, but I won’t be holding my breath for it.

I’m at the airport, waiting for a delayed flight to Melbourne to cheer them on regardless. Go the mighty Eels!

BDon
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BDon

Mmm..same refs this week, not sure what that means. The Storm will be all over us like a rash, line speed will be their mantra to cut down time and space. A no whistle night might play into their hands. Whatever sixties, here’s to a pulchri win.

Milo
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Milo

Start strong; be consistent with the ball; complete at about 80%; play to BA plan and out enthuse them; Ive been confident all wk but cannot pick a score as the weather will determine this.
And pls Refs give us a fair go……

!0 Year Member
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!0 Year Member

What do we have to overcome, to win this game? a Team which has lost 5 times this year. Their worst loss was by a margin of 4 points. This will be a grinding game, if we can stay in it. Even if we pull ahead, the storm will come back, their stats for this year prove this. Furthermore, if we do dominate, they will start to play super dirty, they are sore losers. If the boys are prepared for this, they will bring home the cookies and the chooks will be the next in line to be slaughtered. From… Read more »

Shelley
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Shelley

I really don’t know what to think with this game. If we can hold them or slow them in and around the ruck I am confident we will win as we will have too much skill out wide and on the edge. But I am not sure we can and I fear Smith may pick out our markers. I think they will bring Scott into the centres to try and stop our big outside backs. We need a big game from Nathan Brown and Moses. Brown to hold our ruck together and Moses must kick long to the corners. I… Read more »

Trouser Eel
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Trouser Eel

Your inventory of morphemes in English is commodious. Let’s hope Parra plays with a similar level of skill and dexterity.

Clive
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Clive

If the refs allow the Storm to turn the game into a slow boring wrestlefest we dont stand a chance but if they keep them honest we are a big hope. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of faith in the officials but fingers crossed.

Dday
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Dday

Watching the game from Sapporo hoping for the quiniela today – Wallabies + EELS

58Zero
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58Zero

Last week was the biggest ambush since General Custer went down. Magnificent. And all they can talk about up here is who to dump at Brisbane – really!! The only one who has taken notice is Bellamy. I certain he will bring back the same team as the magic round except for Welch. If the Prince is on his game like last week Parra by ten. I think goal kicking will be a real factor. Polar Bear’ s game last week will carry over as back up support to JP. The back line is looking as classy as the early… Read more »

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Personally I think storms weak link is Hughes and if we attack him we will win. If Croft plays they will win. Should be a cracker and can’t wait, hopefully we win but think the storm will prevail in a close 1. Either way very proud of the boys as they have done well this season and hopefully with a couple more new players will even be better next year.

Steeleel
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Steeleel

Just listened to Wenty demolishing the Rabbits, to make the GF next Sunday at Bankwest, 3pm