The Cumberland Throw

Post Game Grades – Round 16 at Penrith


Parramatta Eels 12

Penrith Panthers 13


Every game of football has the good with the bad; but this game seems to slice that closer to 50/50 more than most. Obviously starting with The Good (like I do every Grades), tonight the Eels went within a whisker of taking down our Top 2, Western Sydney rivals, the Penrith Panthers in front of a raucous fanbase in their own backyard. We held them to 13 points (one try in each half), put a couple of sneaky tries past them ourselves and basically went set for set against one of the best teams in the NRL. We lost, but we are not pretenders, we are right up there and I will once again state my ongoing theory about the NRL Premiers – not always does the best team each season win the Premiership; you find yourself in the Top 4 and you peak at the right time, you are a shot.

In his Preview post this week, Gol noted “occasion has rarely mattered for when the Eels lay an attitude egg” and although the execution wasn’t perfect, tonight the Eels came with the right attitude.

In other good news, Isaiah Papali’i is maybe the buy of the century, and we are not dealing with the same sort of loss this weekend as the Sydney Roosters. Based on the quality of the other teams in the 8 at the moment, here’s hoping a one point loss doesn’t cost us a ladder position come Finals time.

This isn’t the sort of loss that should be keeping any Eels fans up at night. Considering how much we rely on the brilliance of Reed Mahoney, I am now a little bit more certain than 80 minutes ago that we are right in this 2021 Premiership battle. Maybe you think I’m being too optimistic, in which case let me present:


There were little things that annoyed me (a missed flick pass, a missed intercept), and then there were big things that drove me absolutely crazy (Gutho’s thrown intercept and forward pass to Cartwright, the defensive ‘plays’ for the Panthers’ tries, Shaun Lane in general).

I think what gets me most, however, are the missed opportunities.

As mentioned ad nauseum leading into tonight, the Panthers were without both Dylan Edwards and Nathan Cleary (apparently we were without Reed Mahoney? Who knew?) Still, I don’t think it’s sacrilege to say that Penrith are a better team than us at the moment, nor that they deserved the win tonight (although it would have been delicious to steal it from them at the death).

And as one of Mitch Moses’ biggest cheerleaders, that 80th minute miss cuts me deep. The narrative around tonight’s game was that Cleary and Luai are in incredible attacking form, setting up Penrith’s high octane attacking juggernaut; on the flip side, Parra’s halves come in with selection question marks. It was interesting to note, therefore, that both Parra and Penrith have now scored the same amount of tries (73) this season.

And I guess that’s why that missed goal hurts more than the missed penalty kick on the siren, more than the two competition points, and maybe even more than Mitch’s possible missed Origin opportunity. It would have started a different conversation, one that Moses’ excellent talent and dedication, and possibly one this team as a whole, deserves.

But he missed, so it adds more fuel to the fire and the defence of our halfback continues.

On a personal note, I also don’t get to make fun of Tyrone May after he scored a pretty straight forward try on us. Boooo.


The speed of Penrith’s defensive line is next level. Call it offside all you want (I suspect many will in the comments), but they are not being penalised for doing what they do and they are winning a lot of games because of it. If they can get away with it (legal or not), it should be replicated by any team who can do the same, and leave it to the refs (if they can) to penalise it away.

In other news, followers of Post Game Grades will know that I am big advocate of total metres being a reliable indicator of the team that wins. Tonight, in an evenly fought one point loss, Penrith ran for 2198 metres, and the Eels for 2196; I think it’s clear to anyone why we lost, then (please don’t take this comment seriously).

In the other numbers, the Panthers destroyed us in Post Contact Metres (647 to 508), possession (53 to 47) and had the edge in linebreaks (3 to 1), and it was neck and neck with completions (them: 33/43, 77%; us: 32/41, 78%) and scrums (6 to 5). The Eels interestingly missed less tackles than Penrith (32 to 44) and won the offload count (19 to 10). As an offload man from way back I thoroughly enjoyed that last 5 minutes of the first half when the Eels threw the ball around like it were on fire.

 It’s also worth noting that we held the Panthers to one try in the second half, despite one of the best teams in the NRL having 59% of the ball after halftime.

You know, I am thinking of changing the name of this section from M-V-P to either I-C-E or R-C-G, depending on the week-to-week need. RCG was once again enormous tonight, and really led us in defensive line speed, as well as a huge attacking game. On the other hand, despite his awful miss for the Panthers’ first, a poor game from Papa is about as scarce as a discounted roll of toilet paper during lockdown. Although he isn’t also easily referred to by three letters, I will also give a shout out to Ryan Matterson. Like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, Matto is one of my favourite things.

Still I’m going to once again give the MVP to Isaiah Papali’i. The ROI had 19 runs for 152 metres, a team high 61 post contact metres, one linebreak, 9 tackle breaks and 38 tackles. Ice’s contribution is simply huge and possibly the greatest thing to happen to the Parramatta Eels since future immortal Jeff Robson.




Clint Gutherson

1 – Fullback

Look, I love Clint Gutherson more than I love at least one of my children. However, holding him to his high standards, I wasn’t over the moon with Gutho’s game last week and I really didn’t love either the intercept pass to Brent Naden or the forward pass to Bryce Cartwright tonight (2 of his 3 errors). With that said, his goal line defence as a fullback might be the best in the NRL, bar none. The score could have easily been 19 or 25 to 12 if Clint wasn’t such a straight up freakish and committed talent at the back; so hats off to him for that. He had 13 runs for 101 running metres, a try assist to Sivo, 4 tackle breaks and 5 tackles, so there’s still plenty to like about the man we call King.

Wait, is that why he always chooses Elvis songs to play when he scores a try? Because HE IS ALSO THE KING?!



Maika Sivo

2 – Left Wing

Well the Panthers certainly welcomed Maika back to his old NSW Cup stomping ground, sliding right over the top of him as he scrambled his way to the Eels’ first four pointer, and his 15th for the year. I also really liked his running game tonight (13 for 104m, 5 tackle breaks and an offload), showing a bit of that Fijian ferocity we saw much more frequently when the calendar read 2019. Hopefully he’s warming up for the run home.



Tom Opacic

3 – Right Centre

I won’t say anything about Tom’s game, I just think it’s incredible that he even showed up to work after news that his brother was killed earlier today in a hit and run.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Opacic family.


Waqa Blake

4 – Left Centre

You might remember it was a magical performance from the much maligned Waqa Blake when the Eels first met the Panthers at Bankwest last year. Combined with the first two weeks when Waqa switched to the left, Eels fans might have been forgiven for hoping for a miracle tonight at BlueBet. Although there was no walking on water, Blake was solid with 10 runs (84m), 2 tackle breaks and 14 tackles (only one miss). He also happened to be the guy who drew the penalty for a chance to win the game. He wasn’t incredible and he wasn’t terrible. And you know what? I definitely do not want to fire him into the sun anymore, so that’s progress.


Haze Dunster

5 – Right Wing

In many ways it’s unfortunate that Haze Dunster has come into a consistent run of NRL play with the constant comparison to his predecessor hanging over his head; a predecessor who Brad Fittler once nominated as the 2nd best of winger of all time (!).

I want to say that Haze was once again pretty solid in defence, but 9 tackles and 3 misses (with another ineffective) isn’t great reading, even if it is against the form winger of the competition in Brian To’o. On the attacking side, Haze ran the ball an admirable 16 times, but only managed 94 running metres, also making 2 errors. On the plus side there was 3 tackle breaks for Haze, but at this stage it seems BA is choosing between a mistake prone defensive liability who churns through metres like Junior and Oregon do a buffet, and a young bloke who needs experience and about 5kg added to his frame in the coming offseason. Neither is a perfect choice in 2021, but at least Haze is getting experience we’ll need from him in the coming years. Who would you choose?



Dylan Brown

6 – Five Eighth

Apparently Dylan picked up a leg injury relatively early on (which he obviously played through), which would explain his non existent kicking game (4 for 72m), and muted running game (6 for 49m, 1 tackle break). He was, however, absolutely stellar in defence, taking down Villiame Kikau single-handedly on multiple occasions. If there was a bump, hopefully it is nothing serious, or simply nothing at all and a bit of an off game.



Mitch Moses

7 – Halfback

If you want a detailed breakdown of every breath Mitch Moses took tonight, I suspect you will find it in every paper and NRL talk show across the weekend. I am hoping that missed kick at goal (why, oh why couldn’t you just kick that one mate?) doesn’t cost him an Origin jersey. I also heard Greg Alexander struggles with how percentages work remarking “Moses is an 80% kicker, he knocks that kick over 9 times out of 10.”

Mitch had 5 runs for 33 metres, a try assist, a tackle break, 15 tackles, and an absolutely ridiculous 16 kicks for 728 metres.

“You see, Freddy? I kick good.”



8 – Front Row

In a classic twist of fate, RCG just so happened to notch his 150th game against his old club, in one of the biggest games of the season. Remember in the 15th minute when RCG just turned up out of nowhere like a ninja to diffuse a Panthers attacking kick? Or when he sprinted out of the line to smash a rampaging James Fischer Harris (they have history) into the dirt? Although he didn’t break the line and run 50 metres to score, RCG was absolutely brilliant tonight with a brilliant 17 runs for 127m, 3 tackle breaks and 33 tackles. A great knock for 150, mate.


Joey Lussick

9 – Hooker

Joey Lussick is not letting anyone down, once again getting through 50 tackles (albeit with 6 misses), passing 132 times without error, and having 4 scoots for 37m. Sure it might be his last game in the 9 for a little while, but I think the Panthers missed Cleary more than we missed Reed tonight, mostly due to how seamlessly this man has come into the top grade. Kudos, Joey.


Marata Niukore

14 – Front Row

Taking the starting position in the front row, the guy who used to play centre for us (quick, give me your Top 10 players who can play both of those positions) got through 9 runs, 71m, an offload and 27 tackles in a relatively no nonsense performance.

Although he might seem quite affable off the field, Marata Niukore is a scary man. For example, a lot of people choose summer as their favourite season; whereas Marata’s favourite season is the apocalypse.


Isaiah Papali’i

11 – Second Row

Described earlier this week as “a man who runs like he’s surrounded by a forcefield“, I loved his attacking stats, our only linebreak for the game and barge over try.

I did not love the straight up miss on Tyrone May for the Panthers’ first try, but that’s the only thing that kept him from unprecedented back-to-back A+ performances; but could not keep him from back-to-back MVPs.


Ryan Matterson

12 – Second Row

I know I’ve been a bit harsh of him lately, and his season has been shortened due to time out with injury, but if tonight’s game is any indication, Ryan Matterson is warming into peak form at just the right time. Tonight the stats read 16 runs for 119m, 2 offloads, 3 tackle breaks and 40 tackles.

He won’t feature heavily on any highlight packages, but there’s very little wrong with Matto’s game and it’s time for me to recognise just how good he is at Rugby League again.


Nathan Brown

13 – Lock

Cyborg had 17 runs for 118 metres, an offload, a linebreak assist, a tackle break and 47 tackles. I think he also picked up a bloody nose midway through the second half, an impressive feat for a machine.


Junior Paulo

10 – Interchange

Backing up from State of Origin is never easy (although several Panthers players did ok tonight), but Junior Paulo still managed 10 runs for 72 metres, 5 offloads, 2 tackle breaks and 21 tackles in his 42 minutes. Other than the brilliant offloads, the Big Guy was otherwise well contained by the Panthers’ middle.


Shaun Lane

15 – Interchange

I don’t want to sound alarmist, but tonight’s performance feels like the sorta game that should get a player dropped.

I think the best part about this moment was the multiple people who replied “at least he didn’t drop the ball”.

Ten minutes later (in attacking position, on the first tackle), he did.

Does anyone know how to make a voodoo doll?


Oregon Kaufusi

16 – Interchange

Tonight Big Country had 6 runs for 44 metres, had two tackle break and made 13 tackles.

Hey! What’s that over there?


Bryce Cartwright

17 – Interchange

Bryce Cartwright didn’t get the minutes (9) to allow him to make much of an impact tonight (3 for 22m, 5 tackles and an offload) but I enjoyed his powerful and direct first hit up in particular.

And, sure, ideally he doesn’t overrun that pass, but it was Gutho’s fault for passing him the ball forward.



Also, how about these stupid likable Penrith fans, all gracious in victory. Makes it really hard to hate them.

In all seriousness, kudos to the Panthers fans who weren’t complete ass hats after our loss; an approach some other fanbases (and some of ours) might want to consider adopting, too.

Well it’s another bye round for the Eels next week (a free two points, huh?) in the lead up to Origin. Here’s hoping both Junior AND Mitch get the call up.

After that we face the up and down Gold Coast Titans up in CBus. I look forward to being an absolute nervous wreck prior to kick off and reporting some semblance of a report to you after the final siren.

Whatever happens, I’ll see you then, sports fans.


Go you Eels,



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

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36 thoughts on “Post Game Grades – Round 16 at Penrith

  1. Offside

    I really don’t know what to say about last night Effort was good.
    Panthers were below their best they looked like the had an extra gear or 2 in them I’m not sure we do.
    Our attack is very predictable thankfully we can score of kicks because our shift plays are obvious and good teams stop them.
    I have to question the Bench rotation Lane played more minutes then he deserved and Cartwright may as well of not put his jersey on.

  2. BDon

    Well graded Mitch. Junior was at the other side of the hole Koriasau ran through, just saying.Also I reckon Lane sensed he had half broken through off Moses’ and was moving the ball to off load mode and simultaneously a Panther hand struck the ball. F is harsh, maybe…?
    The Panthers ‘line speed’ also contributes a lot to killing post contact mtrs…another stat site had the gap higher than 647 to 508.

    1. Mick

      I agree with the above. I actually thought Dunster was the weakest performer on the park, he was definitely a target and was man handled all night. Don’t get me wrong, seems a good long term prospect and effort is sound, just needs a bit more size and strength. Lane had two costly errors, but without having rewatched the game I thought he was generally impactful in a positive way. Not an A grade performance, but no worse than Dunster I didn’t think.

      I also agree RCG is in great touch. Has been better than Junior this year I think. Both great players, but can’t understand why Freddy doesn’t have RCG and Payne Haas as the Blues props.

      Great write ups lads as always. Thanks for making these an enjoyable read.

      1. Anonymous

        Panthers have always targeted Haze right through from his early development squad days. I think he demonstrated tonight that he is just too lean for a winger these days and lacks that electric speed that some of the successful smaller guys do have!

  3. Sec50

    I felt that Parra had the game in hand until the horrible intercept gifted to them which resulted in a try. There was nothing wrong with the effort overall but decision making was somewhat awry at times.
    I do agree with you re Lane. The defensive effort in the first try was nothing short of pathetic. BA has to make a statement. Fergo has to be given another go as well even though his NSW Cup form has not been exceptional.
    Mitchell did enough to show he won’t be lost in origin. I hope Freddie feels the same.

  4. Fathead

    Mate I thought an F for Lane was a bit harsh !
    Yes he had an error and the read was poor but he did do some good things.
    Is there any chance that we can clone Ice ??

  5. Paul

    Good stuff, Mitch.

    Summed it up perfectly with: “why oh, why couldnt you have just kicked that one, mate”.

    Well said re Tom O also. Prayers with his family…

  6. Big Derek

    Can’t agree with the grade for Lane, yes he did have a couple of errors, but that Gutho intercept was so easy to read , even my wife called it ( which she did, and is frightening as she’s not really sharp on footy).
    As before , our attack is so one dimensional, sweep or block play to an outside winger etc. need an injection of fresh thoughts and structures when we are in the opposition red zone. Crash plays are so well defended generally.
    Maybe a change in that area or an addition in the coaching staff is needed, just my thoughts as 8 years with the same attack coach probably means it’s time to refresh.
    When you look at what Saab is doing with genuine speed and he is a Merrylands junior who the recruitment staff at the time thought was just a skinny, quick winger, and was let go from our system.

    1. mitch Post author

      I don’t get what the Gutho intercept has to do with Lane’s grade?

      As I say below, for me the miss on Api (with Junior), the drop on the 1st (he wasn’t the only one guilty of that sin either) and the absolute nothing effort in Burton’s field goal. It’s not unsurprising at all, and brings back awful memories of Shaun Lane on an edge.

      That’s an F from me.

      1. Big Derek

        Wasn’t making any comparison between Lane and Gutho, was trying to make the point that out obvious sweep and block plays can be pretty obvious, and Guthos decision to go wide was just that .

        Mitch, you do a sterling job on the grades, much better than you believe. There was no intended criticism of your scores at all.

    2. John Eel

      BD I agree with your assessment on the attack. I said recently that we are probably a player or two short in attack. I believe that there is a real need for a fast outside back at the Eels.

      Apart from Russell we do not have speedy wingers

  7. Mr controversy aka rev

    The grades not to sure i thought dunster played well in patches his still young n will need to put 5/10 kilo’s on in the off-season.

    I like the fact he kept going at the Panthers defense on kick returns.

    Yet again lane is hammered i thought he played ok yes he missed a tackle but to get a F is really. I really feel for him i think his trying to hard n there for lead to miss tackles n miss take’s.

    Cartwright needs more time i think. Can’t have him playing only 9 Minutes. He really needs to split the time evenly.

    I thought tom was great considering his loss.

    Still very happy with our effort but it was poor execution in our red zone that gave the Panthers every chance they got to win the game.

    P’s Marata is not a prop i think his a edge backrower / centre.

    Well done to big RCG on 150 game’s.

    1. mitch Post author

      Yeah I can’t cop it any more. The miss on Api (with Junior), the drop on the 1st (he wasn’t the only one guilty of that sin either) and the absolute nothing effort in Burton’s field goal.

      That’s an F from me.

      1. Mr controversy aka rev

        Mitch no one made a attempt on Burton. Waqa tried running from Dummy half but slipped.

        Gee Mitch your complaining about his (lane’s) miss on api correct then you better give Isaiah papali’i a F for missing May. That was piss poor effort from Isaiah papali’i.

        Look i like the way Isaiah papali’i is playing I’m a fan just like everyone else is.

        Ppl will say he made up for it scoring just after halftime. Put look at who went passed them. I’d think it would be easier to tackle May then api.

        Look lane’s not the same his lost his starting spot n lost his left edge partner in jenko. I’m not giving up on lane.

  8. Anonymous

    Joey Lussick has filled in nicely while reeds been injured, but his passes last night severely slowed our attack. They were either over Mitch’s head or mitch was having to stop to catch the ball. He’s been ok, but I’ll be very happy to have little Reedy back. Best hooker in the game at the moment.

    1. Wilhelmina

      I’m glad it’s not just me thinking that! Lussick is a decent backup, he’s done well, and had some good moments last night. But his passing was too high, and it took away the time the first receivers needed, and that stifled our attack at times.

  9. Milo

    Look, we had our best chance to beat them at home, with no half and no fullback. I think our effort was good, but so it should be.
    Lane…not sure he deserved the ‘F’ but hey your grades Mitch so I respect this.
    I actually think Moses should have kicked the goal….and yes it is a tough one but he’s paid to do this.
    For heavens sake we need to find ways of winning these games….
    In my view we are too predictable at times with the ball as some have said, and yes a freshen up of staff could have been good last year but we are what we are, and we didn’t win.
    I don’t listen to the commentary anymore and our attack was at times one dimensional, and I get it was dewy (not the Dewey decimal system either) but we looked at times ‘clunky’.
    Gee Melb looked ok.
    For me at this stage Melb and Penrith are the yardsticks and of course this can change, but we need to win against some of the top 8 teams over the next month and more, and yes thats obvious.

  10. Pou

    I think you’re wrong to blame Lane for Koroisau’s try. Yes he got stepped by the smaller, nimbler player but that’s because he moved up to tie in with his outside defender (Papali’i) while Paulo failed to move up next to him:

    If Lane had failed to move up Koroisau would’ve just run around him and behind Papali’i. The lack of effort there was all on Paulo, as is usually the case when our middle defence breaks down. Why do you think we compress so much?

    1. Offside

      The main reason for that try was the offload we can’t defend against offloading or early shifts

    2. Mr controversy aka rev

      Thank’s pou someone who talks sense. I think mitch just doesn’t likelane aline with other’s trying to find an excuse to blame someone on our loss.

    3. Sec50

      I don’t agree Pou. Lane was entirely disinterested. He didn’t get stepped he was statuesque. Terrible game from him. He can be good but when he’s not on he really is not on. One too many bad games for me and needs some time in reggies.

  11. Wilhelmina

    I must admit, I’m surprised by Sivo’s stats. I was yelling at the tellie for him to come in and take more hitups coming out of our end. It’s an area of his game that just seems to need more effort – he does that, and it’s Blake who? I’ve got plenty of criticisms for Fergs, but effort at our own end isn’t one of them. Dunster was making the effort, but as everyone has noted, he’s physically not there yet. I want more from Maika.

  12. greg okladnikov

    Great report as always. We definitely had our chances but 4 or 5 errors / penalties to me really changed the game / momentum.

    2 key missed tackles that led to tries
    The 5th tackle into touch penalty
    the Nathan Brown giving away a restart on a 4th tackle in Panthers half in 2nd half gave field position for the Panthers and they then got the repeat sets and scored
    The Gutho forward pass to Cartwright – cheap turnover gave field position and eventually a field goal opportunity

    I agree on your thoughts on Tom Opacic

    And I agree on some of the comments about our attack – may just need some more variety – we have a definite Plan A….but not sure if there is a Plan B or C if A is not working

    Last nights game reminded me a quote I once read – the gap between winning and losing is small, but the impact is significant

  13. Clive

    It’s no disgrace in getting beaten by the Panthers by 1 but I do have some concerns.

    Firstly the one out hit ups coming out of our end is too predictable and teams are just bashing us. Brad needs to change the game plan because the middle forwards can’t keep taking the punishment for a whole season. We ran out of puff last year and the same thing will happen this year

    Brad’s bench rotation is terrible. Papaali and Lane were exhausted yet Cartwright gets 9min. This type of thing is a common issue.

    Lastly is Moses Goal kicking. He missed a sitter against South’s last year which changed the game and last nights miss was very poor.
    It’s not an issue if it’s an isolated thing but it’s becoming quite common. I don’t think his temperament suits goal kicking, he’s too hot and cold.

    1. Mr controversy aka rev

      Can’t blame Mitch Moses for that missed goal. That’s straight up a weak excuse.

    2. Poppa

      Your point re Mitch Moses goal kicking is relevant but I am not sure we have the answer, I was more disappointed for him and his ongoing confidence than Parra losing the game,
      The good in his game far outweighs the negatives but human beings, being the creatures we are, there is a tendency for these type of issues to weigh a player down and develop into a phobia.
      I hope Fitler sticks with him (assuming he was the front runner) but logic would put the Souths connection in front now. For Mitch’s and our sake I hope he looks at Moses for the future (backup), given the mortgage Cleary has on the job. Such a reinforcement for Mitch will help him personally IMO.
      Like wise RCG should replace Junior on form and it wouldn’t do any harm for the Bear to get poked, I think Junior is coasting at both levels, Origin and Club…..probably unconsciously!

  14. Mr controversy aka rev

    Ok before ppl start blaming Mitch Moses for costing us the game let’s look at all the game changing point’s.

    Point #1 Isaiah papali’i miss tackle on May that lead to a try.

    Point #2 lane’s miss on api lead to a try.

    Point #3 gutherson forward pass to Cartwright in our red zone gave Burton a crack at feild goal.

    Point #4 gutherson again passing a intercept in our red zone that leads to a try read point #1.

    Point #5 Matterson flick passing in the Panthers red zone On a 6 again call.

    Was going to say point 7 n 8 but that’s tom n his attempt intercepts. But his mind was elsewhere.

    Point #9 lussick was passing the ball high n low need to be more chest high.

    Point #10 Moses missed goal.

    So what I’m saying is that we had many chances to win the game n defended those 2 tries we let in.

    So have a great weekend n be thankful we aren’t raiders or bulldogs or North Qld or rooster fan’s.

    We went set for set with the Panthers none of the above teams did. God bless you all.

  15. Wile

    Thought Dylan Brown had a great game. He wins most contests – like the one with Burton. He is only 20 and has a great foundation to develop his game

    1. Anonymous

      Very good in D, but lacks creativity with the ball, that I think puts added pressure on Moses, thinking he has to come up with the big plays, as no one else does. Gee we would be ordinary without Gutho as the mister fix it too often.

      1. BDon

        DBrown is playing more of a structured game, there ain’t no Cliffy Lyons there (although it probably helps his discipline in defence). The number of times he half goes through a gap tells me we should be getting more benefit but for some reason, as you say, we don’t. Maybe a bit more time learning will see reward.

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