Round 6 Drink Of Choice – Nikka From The Barrell
No Ryan Matterson. No Waqa Blake. No Dylan Brown. A 15-year hoodoo hanging over their heads. Coming off their first defeat of the season where they were out-muscled and out-enthused. On paper it sure looked like the deck was stacked against the Parramatta Eels heading into Round 6. Yet, beyond all expectations the Eels conjured up a signature 35-10 victory – their second over a premiership heavyweight in 2021 – and in doing so buried both the loss the week before against the Dragons and their horrendous losing streak in the nation’s capital.
Like in Lethal Weapon 2, or that one episode of Family Guy (which naturally references the aforementioned Gibson/Glover classic), Parramatta invoked diplomatic
immunity eelmunity to flip the script on the Canberra Raiders and stay abreast of the cadre of front-runners threatening to break away from the peloton. So, after dropping puns, voodoo, pop culture references and even a professional cycling reference all into the intro let’s now get into the meat of the Eels’ mighty 25-point victory on Saturday night.
The Minister of Foreign Against Affairs
The portfolio of the halfback is always the most scrutinised among any team and among any of those teams, Mitchell Moses is perhaps the most scrutinised halfback in the NRL. With Dylan Brown sidelined for a week for a crusher tackle in Round 5, the gauntlet was thrown down to Mitchell to shoulder an even greater load for the sake of the team. Boy howdy did he pick up said gauntlet as well as he spearheaded not only the win but a handsome for and against gain of +25 against one of the most esteemed defences in the competition.
The lone try assist (although it was a contender for try of the year) and five tackle busts really don’t do justice to how influential Moses was from start to finish yesterday. He facilitated almost everything for the Eels as he expertly blended the holy trinity of run, kick and pass in a landmark career performance.
His long kicking game in particular deserves the highest acclaim possible. It was transcendental. The mixture of height, distance and hang-time borderlined on a video game cheat code as it seemingly broke the systems of the game. To consistently land the ball short of the goal line from halfway in the manner that he did to allow his chasers to dominate the initial tackle takes an insane level of execution. It is an absolute weapon and a crucial difference maker.
The Minister of Defence
The scope of Reed Mahoney’s portfolio goes well beyond just defence (especially in 2021) but when the wily, young rake is consistently knocking down 50 or more tackles a game then it certainly becomes a headline consideration. Mahoney’s 55 tackles (0 missed, 4 ineffective) led the team by a wide margin (Shaun Laune’s 43 tackles trails in second place) and the fact that his monstrous defensive workload is not impacting his expanded offensive responsibilities in a huge testament to his fitness and drive.
Speaking of those offensive responsibilities – Mahoney is credited with a linebreak, linebreak assist and a try assist a piece on top of scoring a cheeky little opportunistic try of his own. The only real blemish on his game came from an ill-advised kick that went dead on a play where Ben Cummins was slow in awarding the Eels a six again call. He played the perfect complementary role to Moses and continued his ascent towards the elite echelon of dummy halves.
Isaiah wins the Papali’i runoff
In a big time literal sense. Not only did Isaiah Papali’i outgun Josh Papalii to the tune of 17/156m to 13/129m but Parramatta’s rising star achieved the incredibly rare and impressive feat of relegating Canberra’s front-row phenom to the role of speedbump. Isaiah’s herculean feat enroute to scoring the game’s opening try created an iconic moment as he left Josh strewn on the ground. Furthermore, it set the tone for the night as the Eels subjugated an outstanding opposition pack to a sustained and punishing physical barrage.
Parra Papa has become a regular feature in this column and figures to feature prominently as the season progresses. His talent, versatility and physical intensity have rightfully endeared him to fans of the blue & gold and beyond and it continues to baffle all and sundry how he was allowed to fall into our hands. The craziest thing still is that he is only 22 years old. Governments have been overthrown and presidents impeached for lesser crimes.
Eels announce new running candidate
Ryan Matterson’s lengthy recovery from a concussion has been a significant blow to the team. Yet it has also created opportunities and Wiremu Greig is perhaps the single greatest benefactor to date. The hulking prop forward, an early season acquisition from the Cowboys, made his NRL debut against the Raiders on Saturday night after Matterson was ruled out in the lead up to the prime time clash.
Greig was tasked with a very particular set of responsibilities as he teed off late in the game against a fatiguing opponent. He performed his role admirably and while his 5 runs for 53m back that up, he also showed some impressive gallop and hustle to support a Reed Mahoney linebreak and scoop up the batted ball.
The most eye-catching stat from his debut though was the 13 minutes that Brad Arthur trusted him with – especially against a respected rival like the Raiders. Arthur has never been afraid to put rookies on a slow burn in the NRL but Greig might be an exception to that in some capacity. He is almost purpose built to be the perfect complementary prop to the likes of Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard as an explosive tour de force utilised in small bursts. It remains to be seen if he will hold his place in the team but he certainly did not do his prospects any harm on the weekend
Also, if anyone from WIRE4U if you are reading this blog by any chance you need to know that Wiremu is your dream TPA candidate.
The Final Word
There are never enough words for victories like these. Every player could have a section dedicated to their efforts. It was even an issue in the latest episode of The Tip Sheet with the game fresh in our minds during our instant reaction. Still, brevity is the soul of wit and you have to draw a line at some point. This is that line tonight.
As much as the Round 5 loss still stings, the Parramatta Eels have taken care of two hugely important pieces of business in 2021. Victories over the Melbourne Storm and Canberra Raiders not only secured four vital competition points but they represent significant steps forwards in the psychological composition of this team.
Continue to enjoy this ride folks. Sure there will be the odd bump or hiccup but this is a hugely entertaining team to follow in a season where so many teams have so little to cheer for – in both the short and long term. For now though we are off to Darwin to host a shockingly plucky Brisbane Broncos outfit in our first return fixture of the season. The Top End has been a happy hunting ground for Parramatta over recent years and I am keen to continue that trend in Round 7!