What a five week period for the Eels.
Since we last talked, the Eels have only dropped one match and continue to lead the competition. Over the course of this post, I will delve into the numbers that the Eels have been churning out over the past five weeks.
We have read and watched the matches and analysis of our games so I wont bore you with more of the same. Instead l will try to delve into the past month of the Eels and see if we are improving in areas, any plateaus we may have it, and areas that need work.
Firstly, lets look at our forwards and see how they went.
Unfortunately I was unable to produce a map for the Roosters game, but the other games have demonstrated similar progression in the hit ups provided by the forwards.
The graphics clearly illustrate that the Manly game was a slog between the 20 metre lines whereas the Penrith, Canberra and North Queensland games were more expansive footy with our forwards laying a strong platform for our halves and outside men.
The more ‘red’ we see in the opponents half, the more effective our forwards are and how they can bring the backs into the game.
How impressive are the starting front rowers in creating this domination through the middle! Campbell-Gillard ran for an outstanding 217 metres and completed 50 tackles in what is no doubt a career high for him against the Raiders. He also cracked the 200 metre run mark against the Cowboys. Two weeks in a row, 200 metre runs for RCG.
Junior Paulo has been in career best form over the last 5 games. His run metres have been incredibly consistent, averaging 171 metres per game in these 5 games. He was just shy of 200 run metres against the Raiders, and broke the 200 metre mark against the Cowboys. His lowest in this period was 114 metres against the Roosters.
Our edge forwards in Ryan Matterson and Shaun Lane are proving pivotal in the Eels success this year. Both our edge runners are providing options on both sides of the field, so our halves in Mitchell Moses, Dylan Brown and new buy Jai Field have more options than a Datsun 180-B.
Outside of the Manly game which was played through the middle and not the edges (see the heat map), the two backrowers are averaging well in excess of 100 run metres. Shaun Lane‘s 130.2 running metres and Matterson’s 131.8 running metres are remarkably similar numbers which exemplify how equally in form both players are at this point in the season.
The work of our bench forwards cannot be overlooked.
Marata, Oregon and Kane are making close to 100 metres each time they come off the bench. With the game as quick as it is with the new 6 again rule, having a solid hard working bench is becoming paramount, especially fresh forwards after a repeat set. I have noticed that after a reset is called, the next hit up is either Marata or Oregon.
Our forwards are looking for the offload once we hit mid field. In the last five games the standouts have been Ryan Matterson with 12 offloads, and Junior with 18, including 6 against the Roosters and 8 against the Cowboys. Big mention goes to Nathan Brown for 7 offloads in just 2 games (5 against the Roosters).
The offloads are coming more selective as the season progresses which is great to see. I felt that there were times during last season, and early this season, that there was less purpose and greater risk in the offload. It now seems that the team builds into the matches, running with purpose, to earn the second phase play
Our second phase this year has been sensational. Having our little men in Reed, Dylan, Mitch and Jai hanging off our forwards is proving pivotal in our go forward. The Eels offloaded 23 times against the Cowboys in what was just a superb effort.
Focussing on the halves, the loss of Moses for a few weeks could be challenging. Even though Dylan Brown has been leading the side well during games, I think the most notable absence we will see is Mitchell’s long kicking game.
Taking out the Raiders game due to his injury occurring part way through that clash (he had already kicked over 130 metres in that match), Mitch Moses was averaging just under 500 kicking metres (497.33 to be exact) from his previous three games. Dylan Brown was only averaging 108.75 kick metres in the previous 4 games, but stepped his kicking game up with an impressive 360 kick metres against the Cowboys.
The likes of Gutherson, Mahoney will need to step up in this area. Jai Field is more of a running half (He kicked for 70 metres in his debut against the Cowboys). So with both our halves being runners, this might change the game plan from Brad Arthur and the coaching squad.
Dylan Brown’s running has been on point, clocking up over 100 metres in three out of the past five games. This is almost unheard of for a half. They may do it once or twice a year.
I’ll conclude this post by examining our backline, something which until this week had remain unchanged.
Let’s start with the gold standard, our captain, our skipper, our ‘KING’ Clint Gutherson.
‘Gutho’ has amassed an amazing average of 201 running metres in the past 5 matches. His 246 run metres against the Roosters was his highest before until he eclipsed this with 255 running metres against the Cowboys.
The form of our wingers is interesting to examine.
Many have been questioning the form of Blake Ferguson, a noted true scorer who can’t see to cross the stripe this year. Is this a loss of form that should concern us?
‘Fergo’ is averaging 175 metres in the last 5 games with a best of 236 running metres against North Queensland. His efforts coming from the corners and getting us out of trouble has been outstanding.
That’s where his form has been. Not all wingers need to be scoring tries, and the set starts they provide is critical to a team’s go forward.
This leads us to his wing partner Maika Sivo. Sivo has been averaging 130.6 metres per game in the last 5 with a best of 186 against Manly but also a miserly 78 metres against the Panthers.
As with Ferguson, Sivo’s runs have been from deep in our half to get us out of trouble. Both Parra wingers do the work of forwards in laying the platform.
Our centre pairing has been going fantastic as well. Michael Jennings has been absolutely brilliant since having a shave. It seems like the beard was holding him back and the clean shave has provided better aero-dynamics for the veteran centre. All jokes aside though, Jennings has been in sublime form this season and doesn’t look like letting up which is good for the Eels.
Waqa Blake on the other hand has been a little up and down in the past four games. His games against the Sea Eagles and especially the Panthers were outstanding. But after being ‘schooled’ by Josh Morris against the Roosters, he seemed to take that form into the Raiders.
As we saw against the Panthers, Waqa is a devastating hard running centre. But as seen over the years at the Panthers, his confidence can take a battering. That said, the coaching staff were able to get him at his strike weapon best against the Cowboys.
All in all you can say it has been pretty close to a perfect season for the Eels thus far. Even the loss against the Roosters wasn’t a disappointment as it showed we can take it to the top sides.
It was great being at the game again on Friday night and what a clinic the Eels put on against the Cowboys for the Blue and Gold faithful.
Looking forward to more of the same in the coming weeks.
Yours in Blue and Gold