Round 5 Drink Of Choice – Jim Beam Devil’s Cut
I am not going to lie folks, this is a weird game to write about. When you distil this game to its simplest form, the Dragons out enthused the Eels to claim the 26-12 victory. When you analyse where it went wrong for Parramatta, it is largely the same issues that were blemishes on wins against the Broncos, Sharks and Tigers. As such, Musings will definitely dabble into the territory of brevity this week as I, much like the team, try to put this defeat in the rearview mirror.
Too fast, too furious
The St George Illawarra Dragons didn’t have any kind of genius grand plan on Sunday night. Sure they executed well with crisp ball movement to put Jack Bird and Mikaele Ravalawa over but this game however was won and lost on the speed and aggression of the Dragons in the ruck. In recent weeks you may recall I have raised concerns about injuries leading to a lack of quality depth in the middle rotation for the Eels. Of late, Oregon Kaufusi has been the lone middle on the bench with Marata Niukore covering right centre and Isaiah Papali’i working on the edge and to Parramatta’s credit they have fought through that burden enroute to a 4-0 start.
It all unravelled on Sunday night though when the visitors did a tremendous job nullifying the impact of Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard. The Eels needed a stinging counterpunch from their bench to wrest back control of momentum and the resources simply were not there. Instead we saw a panicked response from Parramatta that only served to exacerbate the situation.
I do have to tip my head to the Dragons in the end though. They wanted that win far more than the Eels and the result ultimately reflected that.
Sideways Syndrome and general short-sightedness
Not for the first time in 2021, the Parramatta Eels were guilty of forcing the ball laterally for extended periods of play. With the Dragons scoring early on the back of their dominance of the ruck, Parramatta almost reflexively started to scramble for points in the worst possible manner…and by Saint George did the Dragons eat it up.
While the bulk of the responsibility for the Eels slipping off course falls on their spine, there were plenty of other contributors to the mess. Blake Ferguson, Shaun Lane and Bryce Cartwright all had games they would rather forget between loose carries, forced offloads, miscued kicks and a bizarre attempt to game a penalty next to the sideline. So many opportunities and so much momentum was sabotaged throughout this game by frustrating lapses and even though the Eels only just dropped their first game of the season, a part of me would not be upset if there was a change or two.
With that said, I expect that Team List Tuesday won’t bring anything outrageous to the table. Hopefully Ryan Matterson will be fit, although his recovery should not be rushed while perhaps Michael Oldfield is a consideration at right centre if only to free Marata up to reinforce the ruck. Regardless of who gets picked, the garbage play needs to be thrown out and repeat offenders need to be on a very, very short leash.
Still time for Bryce to get right
Was it the nerves? Or perhaps he just couldn’t get a grip on his instincts? Either way Bryce Cartwright didn’t have a great club debut for the Eels. Of note was a silly forced offload that ultimately resulted in a penalty against the Eels on a captain’s challenge and a late defensive lapse (in which Mitchell Moses was also culpable) leading to the a Matthew Dufty try.
It was the antithesis of his performance in the NSW Cup last week where he looked far more measured and far less trigger happy. We need that Bryce Cartwright if the rangy backrower is to become a regular fixture in first grade for the Eels.
Still, it wasn’t all hot garbage. He ran the ball quite well and while the execution was way off, the idea and his vision for the attempted grubber to Ferguson was encouraging. However, you have to get those ones right if you are willing to put boot to ball, otherwise just leave it to the primary playmakers.
I understand if fans want to cut bait with Cartwright already but I am still advocating for at least a smidgen of patience as Brad Arthur tries to find a niche for him in the team.
The Final Word
Like I said at the start, I really don’t have much to say, or write, about this one. The Eels were punished for the sins that have dogged their early season wins by a team that was hungrier and more juiced up than them. The loss leaves the Penrith Panthers as the only undefeated team in the NRL and leads the Eels into one of the toughest road trips in the competition as head down South to take on the Canberra Raiders.
A repeat performance on this coming Saturday night will see the Eels humbled by a fellow competition heavyweight. By the same token, their approach to the game against the Storm showed everyone how good this team can be and I would expect their performance will be closer to the latter than the former in Round 6.