Round 14 – Friday 14th August, 2020 @ Bankwest Stadium
Final Score – Eels 12 defeated by Dragons 14
In what can only be described as a look back at the past, the Eels again failed to deliver against an opponent many expected them to beat.
The Eels form over the past month has been very indifferent compared to the Eels start of the year. Yes 11 wins and 3 losses still looks good on the ladder, but there have been some concerns around recent performances.
In this game it was definitely the Dragons who wanted the win more and they took home the chocolates in a farewell gift for coach Paul McGregor.
The Eels started strongly but then just faded and looked rudderless as the rain and cold settled in.
Parramatta jumped out to an early 6 point lead when some nice play from the Eels saw our skipper Gutherson open up the scoring in the 14th minute.
Some dubious defensive decisions from our wingers saw the Dragons claw back with 2 tries and things looked ominous for the Eels as they struggled to take back the ascendency in the game.
An early second half bulldozing try from Kane Evans was the hit back that the Eels needed to again take the lead. But 2 penalty goals from the Dragons Zac Lomax ended the night for the Eels.
Having a look at key team numbers, the Eels completed at 70% with 31 completed sets from 44.
The Eels had the ball for just over 42 minutes of the game (51% possession) with about 22 and a half minutes in the Dragons 20 metre area, but Parramatta just couldn’t find a way over the Dragons line.
The heat map shows that the Dragons defensive line really stood up to their much fancied rivals.
Although the Eels were trying to assert some sort of field dominance, you can see by the red area that they barely got past the half way line. The time we had in the Dragons 20 was less productive as our forwards were just drained after the hard slog to get out of our own half.
This map speaks volumes about the previous maps from our winning games.
If the other map painted a bleak picture about our attack, this map is as bad as you can get. There are absolutely NO set starts in the Dragons 20 metre red zone. But there’s plenty to be found in our own 20! This means minimised pressure, despite the overall time, and plenty of slogging it out of our own territory. This is the story of the match.
What a welcome sight to have Ryan Matterson back, and early on in the game he showed how much he can contribute to the team. Hard running and great defence is Matto’s motto and with 133 run metres from 15 carries, 41 tackles and only 1 miss, his return was definitely a positive on the ledger..
Nathan Brown just keeps on keeping on. Even the Energizer bunny can’t keep up with Browny. Once again he topped 150 metres with 158 running metres off 17 runs, 43 tackles with 5 misses. He was again trying to lift his team and get us out of trouble for the win but unfortunately wasn’t our night.
Our starting front rowers tried their hearts out. Reagan Campbell-Gillard ran for 134 metres from 15 carries whilst Junior Paulo managed to run 95 metres from 10 carries before an ankle injury cut short his time.
Big mentions for bench forwards Kane Evans and Marata Niukore. Kano ran for 117 metres from 13 runs and was awarded a well deserved try. Whilst Marata ran 10 times for 98 metres.
There was a huge statistical achievement in this game, and of course it came from our inspirational captain. Clint Gutherson delivered a personal, match, club and NRL record breaking 359 running metres from 33 carries. Brilliant!
Our wingers again tried hard to get us out of our end, but their defensive decisions were head scratching.
Blake Ferguson ran for 151 metres from 17 carries with Maika Sivo had 16 runs for 135 metres.
Maika had a better game then his previous two as got more involved, but his runs just don’t have that venom in them at the moment. It seemed like just a few weeks ago when he was flattening out opponents.
In the battle of the Fijian Flyers, his opposite winger Mikaele Ravalawa won this time.
Our centre pairing has tracked way off in the last few weeks. Both Michael Jennings and Waqa Blake were looking like the best centre pairing in the competition a few weeks ago, but last few matches they have struggled to find their way into the game.
Jennings had 12 runs for 74 metres, but his defence was a bit concerning – making 19 tackles but missing 8 which was a game high. Waqa had just 6 runs for 58 metres.
I’m not sure if they are not getting enough ball or just can’t find a way into the match, but both these centres are hard running and can easily break the line.
Is Moses still hampered by his troublesome calf? Is this holding him back a little in attack? His defence though on Friday night was great with some heavy strong tackles.
So now this game is done and dusted we look ahead to the almighty Melbourne Storm.
With a rare game at Parramatta for the Storm, this is shaping up as game of the year status if the Eels can reclaim their earlier season form.
A number of star players out for the Storm means that the Eels won’t have a better opportunity to strike and regain some winning momentum.
Cameron Smith isn’t a certainty to play, and with their win over the Roosters, Bellamy may delay Smith’s return for one more week. Fingers crossed he sits this one out. That said, the Storm are a systems team and as we saw against the Roosters, the Storm can play without him.
No doubt the Eels will be a much better side this week than we have seen in the last 3 games.
A strong middle game is what is needed to stop the Storm. We need to keep pushing up the middle then utilize our edge runners closer to the Storm try line.
One Melbourne wing will be depleted with Suli Vunivalu out with a broken jaw, so that edge and wing side can expect plenty of traffic and bombs coming their way. Throw in a likely inexperienced halves pairing, and the Storm look ripe for the picking.
Bring it on!
Yours in Blue and Gold