The Cumberland Throw

Post Game Grades – Round 3 vs Cronulla

Parramatta Eels 28

Cronulla Sharks 4

With their third win from as many starts the Parramatta Eels join their Western Sydney rivals Penrith at the top of the NRL ladder, continuing their undefeated run to begin the 2021 season.

Although I admittedly thought everything had gone belly up in the first 40 minutes of the season, Brad Arthur also deserves a stack of credit for continuing to tweak Parramatta’s approach, emphasising a patient attack and resolute defensive structures. It would have been easy for the Eels to blow everything up after two pretty disappointing Finals exits in 2019 and 2020, but thankfully cooler heads prevailed. So hats off to you, BA; although it is obviously early days, at this stage the Eels once again look to be a legitimate Top 5 team in Season 2021.

With an NRL injury toll as long as Joe Biden’s To-Do List , thankfully the Eels were left relatively unscathed, with Mitch Moses expected to recover in time for our Easter Monday clash with the Tigers.

The injury toll from not only tonight’s game, but also from the Raiders Warriors game too, was nothing short of horrific. I don’t know whether it is the new rules, the water logged surfaces or just coincidence, but to send multiple teams down to one/no players on the bench on the same day is not a good look.

Courtesy of Pam Whaley, here’s the list of injuries suffered in the 6 games so far this weekend:

The Sharks should nonetheless be applauded for a pretty courageous effort in holding Parra out as long as they did. With zero players on the bench, Fox Sports’ Jake Duke reported that the Sharks did not actually make an actual interchange for the whole game, you’d think they are probably the first team to ever do that (although did Sione Katoa’s interchange not count?). Whether one or zero it nonetheless underscores the incredible injury toll suffered by the boys from the Shire.

Changing tack, although the Eels were a little shaky with their completion rate, and harsh judges might have expected Parra to put a 13 man opposition to the sword a little earlier than they did, overall the game plan and game management (hold the ball, build pressure and wear down the opposition) was on point and should be appreciated by all and sundry. To be honest, other than the possible injury to our number 7, there should be very little complaints from the Blue & Gold Army tonight.

Scott Morrison was in attendance tonight, and Reed Mahoney even convinced him to scull sip a beer post game. Bob Hawke’s record remains safe, it seems.

In other news, place me firmly on team ‘Bring Back The Scrum’, as limiting it does not serve to make the game more exciting, it simply serves to limit legitimate attacking opportunities.

Tonight the Eels unsurprisingly ran for a lot more metres than their exhausted counterparts (2601 to 1873), as well as enjoying more ball (55 to 45), better field position (47 mins to 43 in opposition half) more penalties (6 to 2), more offloads (13 to 6) and the missed tackle count was not even close (46 to 17). The Sharks did, however have greater ball security when they were with ball (82% to the Eels‘ 73%).

I would happily give up a week of pay for Clint Gutherson to simply know my name.

Tonight the captain ran a monstrous 20 times for 272 metres, had 2 offloads, 2 linebreaks, 5 tackle breaks and kicked 4 from 5 for the Blue & Gold. That’s an MVP performance.

Clint Gutherson

1 – Fullback

Despite the MVP performance, in the somewhat negative/borderline comical column, the man once dubbed ‘Lemon’ put in a similarly named bludger of a kick up once Mitch Moses went down, and then almost outdid it with a shank penalty goal that somehow found its own way between the uprights. If anything, each added to the spectacle.


Maika Sivo

2 – Left Wing

Thanks to an unorthodox long ball from Will Smith in the 36th minute, the Fijian Scud Missile now has an incredible 27 tries in his 25 appearances at Bankwest Stadium. That is some record.

In other news, Maika did well to take a couple of high balls peppered his way in the early goings, and returned from his HIA to finish with 11 runs for 128 metres, a linebreak and 3 tackle breaks. Bula!


Tom Opacic

3 – Left Centre

Poor bugger thought he scored.


Marata Niukore

4 – Right Centre

Is the injury to Waqa Blake a blessing in disguise? Maybe. Have we uncovered the best centre since Greg Inglis? Definitely not, you’re insane.

What cannot be denied is that the footballing game of Marata Niukore has certainly flourished under the tutelage of Brad Arthur, and in the fertile football soil of Kellyville Park.

Playing his second week in a row in the unusual yet somehow somewhat familiar centre position, Crash not only cleared 162 running metres from his 16 runs, he also had a ridiculous 6 tackle breaks, 17 tackles and one of the prettiest try assists you ever did see. He also somehow got away an incredible offload to Junior Paulo in RCG’s try; the man is a walking Rugby League miracle, and it feels like everything he touches at the moment is turning Blue & Gold.


Blake Ferguson

5 – Right Wing

Thanks to the aforementioned Matt Gidley-esque lead up work from Marata Niukore, Blake Ferguson scored a terrific first half try, and then went very close to scoring number two early in the second half. Not satisfied with 19 runs for 199 metres, a linebreak and a team high 7 tackle breaks, Flipping Ferguson broke the backs of the Cronulla Sharks with a nice little rebound try in the 69th minute, celebrating for the Bankwest faithful like only he can.


Dylan Brown

6 – Five Eighth

In a game where the responsibility I thought he would have relished was thrust upon him, Dylan Brown had a mixed game, including yet another stone cold dropped ball in attacking position. If it wasn’t the game Mitch went down, you’d be a pretty tough marker to be disappointed with any game where your tackle happy Number 6 runs 16 times for 124 metres, and makes 28 tackles. However, it was that game, and although we won, I wouldn’t desribe it as the game where Dylan came to the fore. If Mitch is somehow out for Round 4 or is out in any future clashes, I think many smarter football minds than me will also be hoping Dylan takes greater control of proceedings.


Mitch Moses

7 – Halfback

If anything, tonight’s proceeding underlined just how reliant we have become on the directional guidance provided by one Mitchell Moses. Not unlike his namesake leading the Israelites around the Sinai Desert, the 2021 Eels have evidently grown accustomed to looking towards their attacking leader for direction. Being 36 years since the Blue & Gold last tasted premiership glory, let’s hope this parched wandering doesn’t go on to last for the full 40 years.


RCG

8 – Front Row

You get the feeling that RCG will not shut up about his 72nd minute effort all week at training, running over multiple defenders on his way to another cracking front rower try.

Nor should he, either. If it were me, I’d also bring up the 15 runs for 154 metres, 1 linebreak, 1 linebreak assist (thank you very much says Mr Stone), 3 tackle breaks and 34 tackles. But the cherry on top was that four pointer, mercilessly crushing Chad Townsend’s feeble attempted tackle before letting the biggest smile you ever did see out loose from under his moustache.


Reed Mahoney

9 – Hooker

It was hard to think that Reed Mahoney would live up with the lofty expectations he set himself in Rounds 1 and 2, and although he didn’t quite reach that same altitude tonight, he is nonetheless on track to stake his claim as the most improved player in the NRL in the early rounds of 2021. Tonight’s edition featured crisp service, clever kicks, 3 tackle breaks, a crazy catch and 38 tackles. Another fine game from ole’ Swampy Reed.


Junior Paulo

10 – Front Row

If you haven’t watched Junior Paulo’s involvement in RCG’s try, go back and watch it again. It would be terrific play if it was from someone in a regular size body, but from someone in a body the size of a mythical giant, it’s absolutely unbelievable. The world’s biggest man ran 13 times for 121 metres, 2 tackle breaks and 17 tackles. He also did other, regular prop things like adding a line break assist and a try assist. You know, like all props.

In a comment more about Clint Gutherson than it is Junior Paulo, but last week our captain burned his challenge on Blake Ferguson, this week it was a prop. Sure Junior is not your run of the mill prop, sure, but he is a prop nonetheless.

That’s our captain breaking two cardinal rules of the Captain’s Challenge, and I’m not sure if I can emotionally trust him any more (yes, it was pretty close).


Shaun Lane

11 – Second Row

Happy 50th game in the Blue and Gold you big lump of a man. I really should applaud Shaun Lane for not only avoiding making me unreasonable angry, but more so for his impressive 15 runs for 146 metres, his linebreak assist, 2 tackle breaks and 32 tackles.

I’ve gotten past a lot of the anger I was feeling for Lane these last 6 months or so. Maybe we’re healing, maybe I’m growing up, maybe Shaun Lane is no longer running around out there like a lazy, one legged giraffe; I mean who really knows?


Isaiah Papali’i

12 – Second Row

You know I love you, I always will. My mind’s made up by the way that I feel. There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end. Because on Papa, you can depend.


Nathan Brown

13 – Lock

As can be expected, there were his characteristic tough charges, as well as a couple of incredible hit in defence, but I also thought there were flashes of some pretty loose footy in Nathan Brown’s first half tonight. Thankfully my question marks seem to disappear midway through the second, as Cyborg ended up with a forward pack leading 17 runs and 154 metres, 2 tackle breaks, 1 offload and 30 tackles. Sign that contract already, you big angry clown.


Oregon Kaufusi

14 – Interchange

After thinking he was a relatively mild mannered middle man, I must say I was pleased to see a little bit of niggle from Big Country out there tonight. Oregon threw down an outstanding 14 runs for 150 metres in the middle, adding 2 tackle breaks and 22 tackles to his impressive 2021 curriculum vitae. This guy, he is my sorta guy.


Keegan Hipgrave

15 – Interchange

Let the record show that the Eels remain undefeated in games with Keegan Hipgrave in the side; stay woke people.

There must be a glitch in the Matrix, because tonight Hipster Mo played his third respectable game in Blue & Gold in three attempts, and I haven’t yet screamed his name in anger. For those unaware, I wasn’t exactly Keegan’s biggest fan when he was at the Titans, and needless to say wasn’t exactly thrilled with his signing for the Blue & Golds. I’m still not sure he’ll ever win us a game or single handedly change the direction of a contest, but he was once again solid in defence, made his runs in attack and didn’t actually do anything stupid. I also hear he’s a pretty great bloke to be around. I’ll take it.


Will Smith

16 – Interchange

Given a much bigger slice of the game and more minutes than he would have expected, Will Smith did more than his fair share in contributing to the win tonight, keenly and patiently steering the Eels around the park in the second half. His running metres won’t send you reaching for the record books (6 runs for 28m, no tackle breaks) but he did manage a sneaky good 2 try assists and a line break assist in a no fuss performance in the halfback position. In a fast paced game where injuries and utility players are carving a bigger role, I’m not sure Will’s value to Parramatta has ever been higher.


Ray Stone

Ray Stone

17 – Interchange

Oh the run, the step, and only the second four pointer of his career. Tonight’s try and stat line (11 runs, 144 metres, 2 tackle breaks) is just desserts for a man who has bided his time returning from injury and has worked hard to carve out his own role for this Parramatta side. You can see why he is the sort of player that others want on their team, and you can tell BA loves his no nonsense game. Also, I don’t know if this is true, but I hear he sleeps upside down like a bat.

Anyways, great game, Stoney.



Well as I said at the top of the post, three wins from three games is a pretty sweet way to start a season. With that said, the takeaway from this game will not be the Eels’ undefeated start, but rather the ghastly injury toll suffered by our opponents (fair enough, too).

If things got any worse for the Sharks out there tonight, at least they know their coach would have been pretty handy in a utility role. I’d hate to think what would happen if Wayne Bennett’s frail old man body ever had to take the field for the Bunnies, though; the man’s older than Jesus.

Looking ahead for the Eels, next week is the return of our annual Easter Monday clash with the Wests Tigers.

At least until then, enjoy that sweet, sweet undefeated feeling for yet another week.

Go you Eels,

Mitch

Photos courtesy of the Parramatta Eels. Stats courtesy of Champion Data.

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Wilhelmina

Awesome game, awesome grades as always! Couldn’t find a poor performance out there tonight. Gutho just always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Opacic has been a pleasant surprise, solid if generally unspectacular – every team needs players like that. Hipgrave is yet to win me over, but as you say, also yet to draw any particular ire. Lane looks interested again. Kaufusi really had an impact, which was lovely to see. I don’t think there are enough superlatives for our front row ballplayers. Who knew Stone had a step? Niukore is totally outplaying Waqa… Read more »

Big roy

Those that watch 20,s all knew stone had a step!!

Paul Taylor

I think as a team we have really grown this year. If we have learnt one thing it is we have to win games over 80 minutes. Our patience is fantastic and we have started to understand that we can just control the tempo and have faith in the systems and we will get the job done. I have always been a massive NIKOURE fan and I love him. He is a footballer who plays with heart, passion and desire. However, we cant keep rolling the dice with him at centre. WE will get caught out sooner rather than later… Read more »

Anonymous

Funny you say that about D Brown, it’s like they are second guessing themselves. You can see when Mitch is in his own head, game goes to shit, Brown shows similar traits.

Anonymous

Another wonderful grading report. I am a little perplexed about gutho however. Cronullas try off the scrum, no fullback around. I just question his positioning at times. Onto Waqa Blake, surely he’s got to be sitting in the stands wondering if he’s gonna get another run in firsts. Surely BA is looking at that right edge thinking shit this is working. We all are!!!! After the debacle of his round 1 performance, lane is building bridges although I still close my eyes when he gets the ball. My only constant source of pain is the inability to wrap the ball… Read more »

Murray Cod

I wondered how many people noticed the the 4 man (Cronulla attack) 4 on 3 man Parra defense set-up from the scrum which “not surprisingly resulted in an extra man for the Sharks to score in the right hand corner? It happened again about 15 mins later and nothing had changed, Dylan stayed on the short side not counting the heads in the opposition backline?

Offside

Can’t fault the grades.
I have to say since mid last season to now I’ve developed some concerns about Dylan and his development.
Yes he’s young but he doesn’t look a natural playmaker at times. Tonight was a opportunity to step up but he looked to just play second or third fiddle to gutho and Smith.

Big shout out to Kafuasi who is getting better with each game. Stocked for Stone those numbers are real good when you consider he came on in the 2nd half

sixties

I must say that I’m somewhat surprised by the comments around Dylan Brown. i think they are overly critical. To explain, I’ll actually begin with my own criticism, because as a young player who’s still only 20 he has areas that he needs to develop. Remember, he only turns 21 in mid year. So my criticism – he’s had a moment each week where’s he’s switched off and dropped the ball when not under pressure. Also, he telegraphs when he won’t be involved – he just sits out of such plays, walking and not looking busy. I might also be… Read more »

Offside

I think your actually over defending Dylan here I think for most of us the dissapointment stems from is he getting better or is he still a work in progress? A game like last night should of been his time to shine I feel his long kinking game needs alot of work.

He looks good when he straightens the attack and engages defence I think this must be something he’s working on with Joey.

Colin Hussey

My thoughts with DB is that in the dropped ball, most of them come from crook passes to him, and somewhat too high, the big one last night was just like that, also a bit in front of him. At his age and playing in his 2nd year full time NRL game, he’s doing ok and can only get better. One thing on Fergo when scoring his turntable try, why did he not keep running and plant the ball closer to the goal posts? Watching the Sharks players position in trying to get to him 2 closest were just at… Read more »

John Eel

I thought DB game improved markedly in the second half.

Whatever BA said to him at the break worked.

Dave

Agree with you 100%
I think people are over critical its not like he has years of experience behind him
He does work well on that side qnd will only get better

Trouser Eel

My MVP was Matata but I can cop Gutho getting it. Lane showed some good footy it there, knowing when to hold it and when to pass.
Would love to know how many 6 agains were called, it seemed like the ref forgot about the rule.

John Eel

If you look at the errors, penalties and six again the Sharks did better than the Eels. This is why they had the better completion rate

I hope this is a temporary thing and we get back to the 80 plus % completion rate we had against the Storm

What I really liked was that we ran more than 2,000 metres last night

Brettsback

Good reads as always. Solid performance all round and the most pleasing thing was obviously the patience shown by the eels. Maika will be twice the footballer when he stops laying down. He does it far to often and often adversely affects the flow of the game and allows the opposition to catch their breath. It’s a low percentage play. Please get on to this BA I’m not sure an eighteenth man is the way to go until you’ve lost all four bench players as the Sharks did last night. Maybe a compromise would be for an extra one or… Read more »

Murray Cod

Absolutely agree regarding Waqa making Fergo look bad, last season he appeared not to know when Fergy was available to take a pass a few extra metres outside him. Although Fergy was having a shocker of a season of his own making? These notable confusions in attack were exascerbated in defence.

Anonymous

Brett, as an Eels fan I am embarrassed at the regularity the Maika lays down, he has to get it out of his game.

BDon

I reckon you got the player to player performance levels pretty well Mitch. Some tough love on Dylan Brown, I can see that, but geez he defends well, another classic cover tackle on Mulitalo(?). His game management and attack will slowly fall into better shape if he can stay healthy and stay on the park for a solid, grinding apprenticeship. I’d rather have him than pretty well all others.Just a random thought, he runs hard at gaps but rarely no one pushing up beside him, he does it suddenly so support players need to be thinking ahead. Also Nathan Brown… Read more »

John Eel

Good point about not pushing up. Generally unless Gutho is doing it others aren’t.

Anonymous

our new centre marata is killing it How many trys so far for fergo compared to having waqa inside of him

Mick

Agree with all the above generally, albeit I probably would have given RCG and Niukore slightly higher grades, I thought they were both fantastic and first time RCG slightly outdid Paulo this season. Was surprised by how quick Ray Stone looked scoring that try too! Will be interesting to see who makes the 17 once everyone is fit.

Prometheus

Nice bit of hard edge coming through from eels. Dylan is fine, Oregon good post contact metres, Smithy was nicely involved and hats off to the Sharks they took some beating in adversity

Steve Moore

Telling like it is, as usual. Top shelf, mate.

Dazboy70

Great read as always fellas. Will you guys be doing a report on reserve grade?

Anonymous

Anyone else think that Hipgrave looks like Homelander from The Boys? I reckon there’s a crazy maniacal presence about him that’s yet to be unleashed.

John Eel

Generally I thought Oregon was outstanding last night one of the best games I have seen from him since coming into NRL.

Backs up his off season training performances

On another game, I thought Roache showed some nice touches in his first game last night

Also thought Penisini and Dunster looked good

Colin Hussey

John how many have put Oregon down as being too small, along with the calls for use to chase others?

John Eel

He is not small by any measure Colin.

He actually showed a bit of mongrel on Saturday night. I am a fan

Anonymous

No disagreements John, and he certainly is a lock in either as a starter or off the bench.

Anonymous

Penisini is good John, I cant wait until he gets a shot at the big stage. I heard the Sharks are actually keen to get hold of him, for a starting NRL spot.

greg okladnikov

Great grades report as usual…nothing to argue with really. I think Marata has improved the right side defence a lot and has not weakened the attack at all – I like his direct play as a centre and his size advantage is causing grief for the opposition – Waqa may be worried. Also thought Will Smith was good…and maybe because he came into the game as a specific role as a 7 as opposed to a utility covering many positions. Forwards were very strong and the off loads just add that extra dimension. On the Dylan conversation – great defender… Read more »

Jimmy Corbo

Only one thing to say this week.

I LOVE Ray Stone and I need the world to know that.

One Putt Pete

Always a good read Mitch. Enjoy the laughs and what a great season start😀🐝

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