Parramatta Eels 26
Gold Coast Titans 8
After snapping a four-game losing streak in Round 16, the Gold Coast Titans were aiming for back-to-back wins for the first time since Round 3. Thanks to an absolutely dominant period from the Eels 20 minutes in, it didn’t happen.
Whether it was Clint Gutherson, Ryan Matterson, Dylan Brown or his brother Nathan, the Eels were simply too potent, taking full advantage of a 12 man Titans outfit.
You know, I want to give the Titans a bit of credit, too. They look a much improved outfit from the team that got absolutely destroyed in 40 minutes by the Sea Eagles a few weeks ago, and much more like the team that took it to the Raiders last start. Injuries from tonight might cruel any momentum they might have looked for, but they very much went with the Eels for the first and last 20 minutes of the game and it was only an Isaiah Papali’i touch that stopped Corey Thompson from opening the scoring.
You want Bad? Talk me through Dylan Brown’s hair.
I saw both Gutho and Papa fixing their hair at different points of the game tonight. To be honest, I don’t blame them, particularly if Dylan Brown’s hairdresser is the likely option in the bubble.
Our second half wasn’t great (either in concentration or execution), but I’m not going to blame a team who got the win in their first chapter of their great northern odyssey, without two of their best attacking players and only conceding 8 points (well, almost 14). Just keep warming into the run home, boys; it’s that time of the year you want to be playing your absolute best footy.
It was an even game as far as possession goes, with each team sharing 50% of the ball, although the Parramatta Eels enjoyed more run metres (2331 to 2040), more post contact metres (698 to 542) and bizarrely more scrum wins (8 to 4), despite the Titans opting to take a second scrum after receiving a scrum penalty. The Eels’ first half with the ball was as secure as one would hope (16 from 20 for 80%), but the second half was almost polar opposite with a pretty average 11 from 17 for 65%). The Eels absolutely dominated in the offload stakes with 22 to the Titans’ 8, also breaking more tackles (33 to 24) than their Gold Coast counterparts.
I also thought Matt Checcin had a pretty good game out in the middle tonight, with 4 penalties to the home side, 3 to the good guys and a pretty terrific interaction with Kevin Proctor.
Speaking of Kevin Proctor, his sin binning really did open the game up for the Eels, as the boys in Blue & Gold (and well, white) ran in 3 tries while he was stewing in the sin bin.
Despite the crackdown on high shots, most of you seemed more than comfortable with the decision from the match officials. Play on, I say.
Also tonight I saw something I hadn’t seen before (although apparently it’s becoming more prevalent):
How about that?
I’m sorry, but as far as I’m concerned there’s no debate. Almost as if he took the premier backrower contest with David Fifita personally, Ryan Matterson was the best player out there tonight, even if he only scored one try from his three trips to the Titans in goal area. Tonight the Adonis had 20 runs for 139m, a try, 7 offloads, a linebreak, 2 linebreak assists, a tackle break and 37 tackles. After a pretty difficult first half to the year, you get the feeling Matto is warming back into his representative back rower form. Just in time for the pointy end of the season, too.
1 – Fullback
Like his teammate Mitchell Moses, Clint Gutherson is often the butt of opposition fan jokes; whether it be due to his hair, his dramatic appeals to refs, the Gutherino, or his royal nickname. Nonetheless, you just know those same fans would kill to have him running around in their club’s colours. Coming into tonight’s game, the man someone else dubbed “King” is number 1 in the NRL for both kick return metres (1136), support play with 169 involvements, 3rd for runs (299) and run metres (2835), 7th in tries (12) and line-break assists (15), 10th for line breaks and try assists (both 13), and 14th in tackle breaks (56).
Tonight it was no different, with an encyclopaedic stat line of 17 runs, 167m, 1 linebreak, 2 try assists, 6 offloads, 5 tackle breaks, 3 tackles and 6 points (courtesy of 3 from 5 off the boot). Phew.
In short, Gutho was just out there tonight doing King things.
2 – Left Wing
You know what? I really enjoyed Maika Sivo’s game tonight. Other than that time Gutho passed to where Sivo should have been, the big Fijian showed a lot of intent and aggression in both attack (12 runs for 150m, 1 linebreak, 2 offloads and 4 tackle breaks) and in defence. Although speaking of that defensive aggression, I suspect we’ll be seeing you at the judiciary this week, Maika, courtesy of a high shot on a particularly unlucky Gold Coast Titan.
3 – Right Centre
Honest Tom Opacic not only put on my all time favourite Rugby League play (the chip and chase) to force a drop out, he straight up saved two tries (well, linebreaks) with a couple of terrific covering tackles. Throw in 9 runs for 94 metres, a tackle break and 23 tackles, and baby, you got a stew goin’.
4 – Left Centre
I actually remember thinking that Waqa Blake was relatively ineffective out there tonight, and when he overran a Gutho pass midway through the second half, I took a look at the stat sheet. Little did I know that Waqa would not only prove me wrong then, I would be even more wrong after 80 minutes with him getting through 19 runs, 155 metres, 2 offloads, 2 tackle breaks, and 18 tackles (including terrific pressure to force a mistake from Ash Taylor with 10 to go). Maybe it was the 3 errors that got to me? I don’t know, but that’s a pretty great outing from the Baby Giraffe, regardless; and he continues to look infinitely more comfortable out here on the left than he ever did on the right.
5 – Right Wing
Even aside from one of the craziest pick ups you ever did see to score his second ever four pointer, I thought Haze showed a lot more intent in attack tonight, resulting in what I suspect is a career high 136 running metres (15 carries) from the 8 game veteran. Whether he is getting the hang of first grade, or just really worked hard on it the past fortnight, this is the sort of input Blazer needs in order to keep questions over his continued selection over his once time Australian representative teammate, Blake Ferguson. Great to see from the young Kiwi.
6 – Five Eighth
Despite sporting a haircut that made his head look like a block of Top Deck, Dylan Brown was outstanding in the first half tonight (a try, 7 runs for 91m, a linebreak and a tackle break across 80); punctuated by his 50m dash through the line and past noted speedster AJ Brimson. Dyl could have had another four pointer with about 10 to go, too; but he bobbled an open passage to the try line (well, he was admittedly 80m away, but a girl can dream).
Overall, although he didn’t grab the game by the scruff of the neck in the second, it was nice to see Dylan get some reward for his terrific running game, more so in a game without his trusted halves partner.
21 – Halfback
Look, it wasn’t as enchanting as his Magic Round debut, but Jake Arthur was more than serviceable at 7 tonight, and showed some improvement in defence (including a particularly great second half cover tackle on Beau Fermor). Although Junior Arthur had 2 runs for 17 metres, 14 tackles and 147 kicking metres (he bombed effectively), at one stage in the second half he did put in a kick on the 3rd tackle that was about as well received by his outside men as a Paul Vaughn house party. Despite being his worst moment of the night, it was still a better kick than reigning Dally M medallist Jack Wighton would have put in.
8 – Front Row
Another solid performance from the man who would not have looked out of place in a sky blue jersey Wednesday night. Nonetheless, tonight RC to the G had 15 charges for 147m and 18 tackles, evidently leaving the linebreak and 50m dash for the try line moments to Dylan Brown; which I thought was nice of him.
9 – Hooker
After 6 weeks on the sideline, you just know Reed Mahoney would have been absolutely itching to get out there. Until he set foot on the field tonight, Cash’s football life would have felt like the Rugby League equivalent of at home learning; an arduous slog, seemingly without purpose or reward. And you know what? He was absolutely stellar in his return, with his sharp service a noticeable improvement from the nonetheless solid passing of Lussick and Roache; particularly regrading the width it allows the Eels to play with. Reed was also chipper when he tucked the ball and ran, with a try, 6 runs for 60m, a linebreak assist, a try assist, 4 tackle breaks and his customary 42 tackles.
Great to have you back, little one with the hat.
14 – Front Row
Although he doesn’t have the same impact as Junior Paulo, Marata Niukore rarely lets anyone down when starting in the front row. Tonight Crash had 9 runs for 88m and 27 tackles; demonstrating about as much statistical variety as his front row partner tonight; with a similarly pleasant result.
11 – Second Row
Ice played very well tonight (13 runs for 130m, 1 offload, 4 tackle breaks and 31 tackles but with 6 misses). Sure, it wasn’t the greatest game you’ve ever seen (that was two Rounds ago against the Dogs), but let it be known that I like Isaiah Papali’i more than I like every single one of you; including my dear Mum who never misses reading Grades. Hey, Mum!
12 – Second Row
Well, I guess it would be nice if I could touch your body. I know not everybody has got a body like you.
13 – Lock
Every now and then that crazy little face ball from Cyborg works an absolute treat. Tonight was one of those nights as with the world’s angriest man also collected the linebreak assisting pass from Matto on his way to 15 runs for 129m, 1 offload, 1 linebreak, 1 linebreak assist, 3 tackle breaks and 38 tackles. How good!
15 – Interchange
Tonight Shaun Lane had a try, 11 runs for 95 metres, a linebreak, a tackle break, and 24 tackles (4 misses, 2 ineffective).
*puts voodoo doll back in the drawer for another week*
16 – Interchange
There might be a stellar performance that has slipped my mind, but I think tonight was Oregon Kaufusi’s best game of the year. Judging by his numbers (13 runs for 143m, 2 tackle breaks), Big Country was about as fun to tackle tonight as a COVID test with a blocked nose. With that said, I can’t imagine getting tackled by him was all that crash hot, either.
17 – Interchange
You know I really wanted Bryce Cartwright to come out tonight and absolutely take it to his old team. However, despite some solid runs (6 runs for an impressive 70m), and solid defence (13 tackles, 1 miss) by the time he came on in the 50th minute, Bryce had as much to do with tonight’s win as Paul Green’s coaching’s helped the Maroons win on Wednesday (and that’s not much).
19 – Interchange
Will Smith came on early after 3 minutes as the result of a Jake Arthur HIA, but wasn’t able to do much in his 24 minutes in total. If nothing else it was good to see the Hollywood superstar back out there in the Blue & Gold after a long injury lay off.
Next week it’s the once thought to be mighty, but turned out pretty crappy Canberra Raiders. I’ll never take a victory over the Green Machine for granted, and we need to lock in every win we can as we try to hold onto that all important Top 4 spot.
Whatever happens, I’ll see you then, sports fans.
Go you Eels,
Photos courtesy of the Parramatta Eels. Stats courtesy of Champion Data.