Round 7 Drink Of Choice – Bundaberg Rum Blender Edition 2014
Parramatta’s reign of terror in the Top End is far from over folks. Hell, the Parramatta Eels have finally evolved from grinding out tough wins in the torrid tropical conditions to putting their opposition on the door of extinction. Darwin’s theorem on the survival of the fittest has never been more relevant in rugby league as the Eels surged past the Brisbane Broncos to claim a 46-6 victory in Round 7. The 40-point drubbing marks the sixth victory from 7 outings in Darwin for the blue & gold and also sees them poke their nose ahead of the South Sydney Rabbitohs to claimed second place on the ladder. There is so much to talk about tonight and so little time for me to wax lyrical and I mean that seriously – it is 11:30PM already and I have three grades of footy to cover tomorrow on Saturday! So let’s get right into another edition of musings!
Be sure to check out the instant reaction to the Round 7 shellacking of the Broncos!
The Bryce Is Right (shamelessly stolen from my friend Ham)
Bryce Cartwright was always going to be a polarising figure at the Eels. Anyone that reads my inane ramblings will recall that I completely understood if anyone had serious reservations about Cartwright but that I also advocated for giving him a chance to prove himself. As much as he deserved criticism for a poor club debut against the Dragons in Round 5, he now deserves significant praise for his role in putting the Broncos to the sword.
This is what I envisaged from Cartwright when Sixties reported on his excellence in the preseason. Naturally I knew that some bad moments would come like the odd impetuous offload but this is the payoff I wanted. A game built on powerful and nuanced running that facilitated the offloads naturally. He scored a try tonight through sheer want-to after plowing into the teeth of the defence and otherwise tormented the right-edge of the Broncos by exploding onto the ball. Yes there were flashy and brilliantly executed offloads but they were earned.
Equally pleasing was his diligence in defence with the notorious ‘weak link’ posting 19 tackles with 0 missed and just the 1 ineffective to defy that billing.
After relegating him to afterthought minutes against the Raiders last week, Brad Arthur trusted Bryce with 54 massive minutes this week and the backrower repaid the faith and some. This was the allround performance the Eels wanted from Cartwright when they took a punt on him in the offseason. One swallow does not make a summer but this is a genuine starting point for Cartwright at the Eels. Now he has to build on it.
I will readily concede that the Broncos made some solid inroads into Parramatta’s ruck defence tonight. Payne Haas for one proved to be difficult to contain in his opening stint. Yet the Eels absorbed all that opening pressure and beyond conceding an early try to the damaging Tevita Pangai Junior early on, they would go on to shut the visitors out for roughly 70-minutes. Most pleasing for me personally was the desperation displayed late in the contest as Pangai Junior was held up over the line on two further occasions as Eels poured in to prevent a second effort. Rhys Kennedy was also stopped short of the line and induced into an error to maintain a second-half clean sheet.
Parramatta defensive structures meshed well with what Brisbane threw at them and the energy shown from both edges from the inside in support earned positive grading across the board.
Maika finds a new gear
No one has ever doubted Maika Sivo’s explosive athleticism. The owner of the most violent fend in the competition and a prolific try scorer by any measure, Sivo lived up to both of those hallmarks in Round 7. He finished the night credited with 9 tackle breaks and a handsome hat-trick – both of which should earn him high praise. Even so, it was his willingness to push through the testing conditions that pleased me the most. It was clear that Maika was well outside of his comfort zone early on tonight but he refused to shirk his share of the load. The massive winger continued to cart the ball up, showed great hustle to take a fast 20m restart and bust the line and outside of an early brain-fart he showed great composure under the high ball.
Tom Opacic deserves a wrap himself here as he continues to do a bang up job at left centre. The one-time Bronco consistently prioritises feeding his Fijian running mate quality ball but has also kept himself plenty busy by notching up his third try of the season tonight. Likewise Clinton Gutherson’s silky touch on his right-to-left pass and the svelte play-making of Cartwright also proved handy in unleashing Parramatta’s cult hero tonight.
Circling back to Sivo now, this is exactly what we need from him after an underwhelming 2020. Consistent involvement, the proper utilisation of his unique explosive traits and an attention to detail in key moments. Each of these three things individually is clearly important but together they lift him from a flawed offensive weapon to devastating allround presence. The challenge for Maika to maintain this level of focus and play.
Eels should be alright after going all right
While the Eels played the Broncos off the park for the vast majority of the game there was one period of play that led to a lull in proceedings. It came as the home team made a concerted effort to force play to their right and after a handful of botched finishes they eventually switched back to their left where they swiftly broke through. It left the commentary team bemused and it would be interesting to know if it was a directive from ‘BA’ or an initiative taken by the players.
It wasn’t all bad though. Marata Niukore had some quality moments in Brisbane’s half and most importantly Dylan Brown looked decisive and dangerous taking on the line. Brisbane could barely pin the young five-eighth down throughout the night and his first step acceleration off the right foot bodes well moving forwards. The playing relationship between Dylan and Mitchell Moses seems to be in a harmonious zen as Moses takes on the bulk of the organising responsibilities and frees Brown up to tee off with the ball in hand.
Moses is still plenty capable with the ball in hand himself mind you all. His late try assist for Gutherson was part Mohammed Ali (float like a butterfly, sting like a bee), part Karate Kid, all highlight reel material. A moment of singular focus and precision that speaks to a player that has complete confidence in himself and his game. You love to see it.
The Final Word
Thankfully this week’s musings has a companion episode of The Tip Sheet to help cover all the things I couldn’t in this blog. So many other players deserves praise. Isaiah Papali’i continued his scoring streak and was dominant once again while Oregon Kaufusi completely owned the game in his time off the bench. Wiremu Greig continues to build sweetly with a growing role in the team. Blake Ferguson is piling up quality involvements inside Parramatta’s half and continues to defend extremely well alongside Marata.
This was a really fun win as the team pushed through incredibly challenging conditions to pummell the competitiveness out of an upstart Brisbane line-up. The show rolls on back to Sydney now as the Eels have a date with the Bulldogs. Parramatta have definitely been guilty of playing down to Canterbury across their recent clashes but get the chance to right that wrong on Saturday out at Stadium Australia. Pending Ryan Matterson getting through the NSW Cup fixture tomorrow unscathed, we also will get a fascinating selection ‘drama’ on Team List Tuesday which adds to the spice through the week!