Eels 10 defeat the Knights 4
It wasn’t a pretty match but a win is a win, the two points are in the bank, and the Eels still sit atop the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership.
Unquestionably, it wasn’t the Eels best match this season, but to grind out a win like that shows where the Eels are at, both mentally and physically.
The Knights had an obvious and logical game plan.
Attacking the flanks, especially the right side, looked like proving a master stroke from Knights coach Adam O’Brien.
He realised his forwards couldn’t match it up the middle against the Eels, so why not use the flanks. In doing so, this would tire out and make our outside men less affective in attack.
There was onlly one problem with this – The Knights had no attack. On the occasions the Knights did look threatening, the Eels cover defence was sensational. That side of our game has improved out of sight in season 2020.
With the Eels only conceding just over 10.5 points a game, they are currently the best defensive outfit in the competition.
Indeed, in five matches this season, opposing teams have only managed to score 6 points or less. This is quite an incredible achievement from the Eels.
The old Hit Up map isn’t looking too flash this week!
As we have seen previously, anything red that ventures more into the opposition half really shows our dominance in those games. In other words, the Eels had to really do the hard yards in this match.
Talking of the hard yards, what a sensational performance from the returning Nathan Brown. He picked up where he left off before his two match “holiday” with a sublime performance.
His numbers of 273 run metres from 28 runs and 52 tackles was game high and also season high. What an absolute unit!
Also a big shout out to RCG. ‘Reg’ just continues to show his reach vein of form clocking over 200 run metres once again this season. You would have no argument claiming that he and Junior are the best front row pairing this season.
There was not a struck match between these two sides in running metres. The Eels made 1797 metres from 189 runs whist Newcastle had 1793 run metres from 217 runs.
Having a quick look at the backs, our captain Clint Gutherson was superb. He registered 175 running metres in a quality game. Let’s not forget our little running half Dylan Brown, who once again broke the 100 metre mark with 127 run metres. Great effort.
In a tight game, our wingers helped our forwards in trying to get some sort of field territory. Sivo with 125 run metres and Ferguson with 154 run metres helped out the only way they know how.
Michael Jennings continued to produce with 113 running metres. He’s certainly a reborn player since his forgettable 2018 season.
Although Waqa Blake nearly destroyed Ponga with ferocious defence and made a number of key jams, it was a quiet match for him in attack. His 29 running metres will likely see BA looking for ways to get his devastating running centre involved more consistently.
The following set starts heat map demonstrates the task faced by the Eels in this clash.
With so few starts in Newcastle’s territory it was near impossible for the Eels attack to get a good roll on. Smart plays and thinking from both Gutherson and Mahoney saved the Eels
If we look at Newcastle’s set starts, the challenge faced by the Eels defence is perfectly exemplified!
What a difference in these two graphics.
Newcastle got plenty of set restarts from the ref but this goes to show how effectively Parramatta’s defence shut down any form of Newcastle attack.
In an outstanding team effort, Reed Mahoney stood out with a tackle count of 59. Overall, the Eels made 419 tackles to the Knights 377.
Despite making more tackles than the Knights, the Eels looked fresher in the back end as Newcastle just had no answer to cracking the Eels hard lined defence.
It was obvious that Knights targeted Waqa Blake, but he was up to the task, making 23 tackles – the highest of the Eels back five.
Our halves also were put to the test with Dylan Brown making 25 tackles and Jai Field 30. So Newcastle’s plan to target our right side and halves did not pay off.
This match may not have been the greatest spectacle, but it did showcase the Eels defence. Despite some dodgy calls and without much luck, the Eels brought the 2 points back home.
So now we move onto our old nemesis the Manly Sea Eagles.
They will be hurting after a dismal display against the Dragons, so this game could be a little dangerous for the Eels.
Even though their best two players in Tommy Turbo and Fonau-Blake are warming the pine, the Eels must still bring their A-Game against the Sea Eagles. Dessy will have Manly up and firing for this game, especially at Brooky. No doubt the talk for the rest of the week will be about that forward pass a few weeks ago.
However, the Eels are playing terrifically patient footy this year and will be primed for this return clash.
It will be a great birthday present to have the Eels demolish the Sea Eagles.
Yours in Blue and Gold