What a difference a week can make. Let alone the weather.
With two wins to open the Eels account for 2021, lets, as they say, compare the pair.
The first 40 minutes of the Eels season was absolutely diabolical to put it mildly.
Dropped ball, errors, and just no respect for the opposition saw the Eels walk into the sheds against the Broncos 16 nil down.
Worse than that, there seemed no answers to our spluttering non existent attack.
Completing at a miserable 59% in that first half with not even a shot offered had not just Eels fans scratching their heads but the whole NRL.
Having only 40% of the ball only helped to widen the gap between the teams.
Then the next 40 minutes unfolded and the old adage of ‘ a game of two halves’ couldn’t have been a truer word spoken.
The Eels held onto the ball to achieve 57% possession of the second half with a completion rate at better rate of 77%.
The big turn around was the minutes the Eels played in the opposition half. From the first half with a tick over 16 minutes in Broncos territory with 7 and half minutes in the Broncos red zone, the Eels second half saw them camped in Broncos territory for 30 and a half minutes with 16 minutes in their red zone. All that pressure finally saw the Eels pile on 24 unanswered points to take the game out.
Players of note from this note would be Reed Mahoney, Junior Paulo and in his Eels debut Isaiah Papali’i.
Reedy had a magical night at Suncorp. His figures are very impressive. His main stats saw him run 8 times for 105 metres, made 56 tackles with no misses and included 2 offloads, 2 line breaks, 2 line break assists, 1 try assist and a meat pie for his efforts. Absolute sensational figures.
Junior Paulo was in full beast mode and his positional play was second to none. The match sealing try saw him position himself brilliantly after the offload to crash his way over. Junior had 14 runs for 140 metres and with 5 offloads, again proving himself as one of the leading offload merchants in the NRL.
Eels new signing Isaiah Papali’I first hit out for the club turned him into the Eels new cult figure right away.
Isaiah had 18 runs for 193 metres with 30 tackles in the mix. Papali’I figures look even more better seeing he was only on for 56 minutes. His runs on the right edge were stinging and laid a great platform for the Eels in the second half. His tackling was also very stinging with some great reads in defence on the Broncos attack.
Now we fast forward a week and wow what a difference in weather. Going from a fast dry track in Brisbane, to an absolute water logged Bankwest Stadium.
I will give kudos to the ground staff and drainage at Bankwest. The field looked brilliant after all the rain before and during the match, and there was only one time that I saw water pooling on the surface.
Much credit goes to both teams for a sensational game of rugby league in such poor conditions. Both sides completed over 80% in the game. Eels 88% and Storm 81%. The Eels had 47% possession in the match and managed 37 and a half minutes in the Storm half with 17.04 minutes in their 20.
What is impressive with the Eels win against the 2020 Premiers is the Storm had 7 extra sets of 6, held the ball for nearly 43 minutes of the game with 20 and a half minutes in the Eels 20 metre area. The Eels showed great resilience in curbing the Storm attack which saw the Storm arguing between themselves and upsetting their rhythm.
Stand out players for the Eels once again was Junior Paulo along with Maika Sivo, Nathan Brown and Marata Niukore.
Junior again played all over his opposition front rowers. Bagging another try with great positional play, 12 runs for 91 metres and 6 offloads.
Maika Sivo is looking like the Maika Sivo of 2019. He is getting more involved and this is showing in his confidence and his running. His match winning catch and try showed just this, not only following through on the Moses kick but knowing and having the state of mind against an old team mate to realise his height and superior jumping ability and to go for it. This shows the big Fijian flyer is putting 2020 form behind him. Sivo had 17 runs for 164 metres, 1 line break and 6 tackle breaks.
Now this was a very pleasant surprise. After Waqa Blake was a late scratching, Brad Arthur naming Marata Niukore at centre and this had a lot of heads being scratched.
But what a sensational play from the coach.
Marata had an outstanding game at centre, and dare I say, could be close to cementing a spot there. Niukore’s first hit out for season 2021 saw him with 13 runs for 116 metres. Add to his hard running with 6 tackle breaks. He played the full 80 and looked as fresh in the 80th minutes as he did in the first minute. With doing a bit less defensive work, Marata’s attack looked on point and his runs had a lot of venom in it.
Will B.A. stick with the same centre selection next week?
Another string to add to the bow of a great win against the Storm, was the Storm’s running metres – 300 more running metres than the Eels. That time the Storm had should have seen the Eels wilting. They didn’t!
The Storm were just out played and out enthused in every aspect on the night. It was a win that Eels fans knew they had in them and finally it emerged.
Now we look ahead to next Saturday night against the Sharks. The extra 48 hours will be a god send to our players after last nights hard performance.
Having put together 3 out of 4 great halves of football, who knows what 2021 holds for the Blue and Gold, but lets only look at the next game – “one game at a time”.
Yours in Blue and Gold