The Cumberland Throw

Post Game Grades – Finals Wk 1 vs Knights


Parramatta Eels 28

Newcastle Knights 20


We won, and live to fight another day in Season 2021.

The Parramatta Eels are just 3 wins away from a Premiership.


Hey, great kickoff, Gutho.

I gotta be honest, I was enjoying the game much more at 22-10 than I was at 22-20. With that said, I still felt like if Parramatta were to lose, it was because they allowed Newcastle to do so, not necessarily because Newcastle were the better side (I mean no disrespect to Newcastle, I just thought we were the better side).


I also continue to be amazed by the number of people in Rugby League who think referees need to be sure a try would have been scored in order to award a penalty try. Blocker (said such in the past) and Braith (said it multiple times today), please take note:

“the Referee may award a penalty try if, in his opinion, a try would have been scored but for the unfair play of the defending team.”

For what it’s worth I thought the ball hit the ground before Gutho kicked it (but he was intending to kick the ball, which makes that ok) and Will Penisini probably would have scored the try if not for the illegal play (hence, a penalty try).

With that all said, I don’t think the result changes as the alternative was Eels penalty with 3 minutes to go, attacking the line against 12 Novacastrians, leading by 2.

Nonetheless with today’s win the Parramatta Eels make the Newcastle Knights disappear from the 2021 Premiership race like a NSW COVID-19 daily briefing; with us all year only to disappear in an instant.


I tell you what, wasn’t BA’s choice to leave Ryan Matterson out of the side popular? With a single flick of the pen it seems BA’s neglect to name the rep backrower managed to alienate more people than Guy Sebastian.

In other news:

  • Knights 48% possession, Eels 52%
  • Knights with a ridiculous 34/36 completions (96%), Eels 34/41 (83%)
  • Knights 8 errors, Eels 10
  • Knights and Eels both with 4 linebreaks
  • Knights 2259 running metres, Eels 2526
  • Knights 522 post contact metres, Eels 695
  • Knights 41 missed tackles, Eels 35

Hey, the only stat that really matters in this Finals game is the scoreboard, as next week we wind the machine up and go again.


If you had anyone other than Mitchell Moses as best on ground today, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. Sure the early kicks were a little average, but the pass for Fergo’s try, the short kicking game (particularly in the second half), the goal kicking (4 from 5) and that run, my word, that run.

The Prince of Egypt is the man of the hour, the apple of my eye, the egg in my omelette and tonight’s Post Game Grades MVP.





Clint Gutherson

1 – Fullback

Even though this game was played in Rockhampton, the air raid sirens were ringing loud in Parramatta tonight, as the Knights shelled bomb after bomb Gutho’s way. Diffusing 5 bombs and taking 9 catches in total, Gutho actually had a rather quiet day otherwise (22 runs for 180m is very good, but he didn’t look free out there, did he?), still presumably making his way back to full fitness after that nasty cork he caught against Melbourne. Our captain also had a couple of sneaky try assists, 2 linebreak assists, and 3 tackle breaks, so it certainly wasn’t a bad outing; just maybe not a dominant one.


Haze Dunster

2 – Left Wing

A pleasantly surprising leg drive game from Haze Dunster (19 runs for 157m, 2 tackle breaks) saw me preceed his name with “YES!” much more than I did “WHAT THE HELL?!” this afternoon. I thought the clear miss on the Hymel Hunt try was best left at home, however.


Will Penisini

3 – Right Centre

The incredible rise of Will Penisini means Eels fans will be missing Michael Oldfield’s contributions like self respecting Americans miss Donald Trump. It seems like he just gets better each week (and he’s already pretty good), getting through a RIDICULOUS 18 runs for 160m, 6 tackle breaks, 1 linebreak, 1 try assist and 16 tackles in his first ever Finals game. Also, how about bringing out the Gidley flick against the Knights?

For a bit of perspective, Luke Brooks has played in more than twice as many NRL seasons (9) than Will Penisini has played in NRL games (4); yet the latter has more Finals try assists (1) than the former (none in 0 games).


Waqa Blake

4 – Left Centre

With a dominant, team high 7 tackle breaks, Waqa Blake murdered his opposition man this afternoon like the Gold Coast Titans murdered a game sealing try. Throw in a ludicrous 17 runs for 164m, a try, a linebreak, and 10 tackles; you’d HAVE to admit that the baby girrafe has looked infinitely better over on the left than he ever did playing over on the right.


Blake Ferguson

5 – Right Wing

Not unlike Bennett and Cleary, after an ugly leg pull incident in the first half, you can tell there’s no love lost between Blake Ferguson and Sauaso Sue. In many ways Fergo was a bit rocks and diamonds this afternoon, scored a couple of cracking tries in the corner, and getting through a tonne of work (16 runs for 142m, 6 tackle breaks), but at the same time we saw his opposition winger score a hattrick at the other end (as well as a couple of errors), his defence looking more out at sea than a tourist on Bondi Rescue.

Thankfully I think the Fergo ledger ultimately ended up pointing Parra’s way this afternoon. Assuming he’s fit, here’s me desperately hoping next week is not Fergo’s last ever game in the Blue and Gold (take that how you will).


Dylan Brown

6 – Five Eighth

In typical Dylan Brown fashion, I just feel like he’s better than he has been, but not as good as he could be at this stage of the season. The numbers were nice (3 runs for 36m, 1 tackle break, 23 tackles), but not breathtaking just yet. Here’s hoping the young buck (see below) has a HUGE game next week against those dastardly Panthers.


Mitch Moses

7 – Halfback

With his most dominant Finals performance ever (10 runs for 132m, 1 try, 1 try assist, 4/5 shots at goal, 18 kicks for 623m, 1 linebreak, 1 linebreak assist, 4 tackle breaks, 1 offload, 16 tackles with only one miss), tonight Mitch Moses also singlehandedly ensured Newcastle became the latest LGA of concern in NSW.



8 – Front Row

The runs were incredible (11 for 109m), the defence (28 tackles) very strong, but how about that one big hit in the second half? I tell you what, if Tyson Frizzell were a jam donut, there would have been jam everywhere.


Ray Stone

9 – Hooker

Although he is starting to rack up the career games numbers (today was his 27th NRL appearance), I think it’s fair to say that today was only his second NRL game we’ve seen Ray with this sort of momentum. If it wasn’t Waqa Blake, Junior Paulo or RCG smashing blokes for the fun of it, it was invariably Ray Stone. These last two games, the chip off the old block has been more than just a cog in the Eels defensive machine, he has been the machine, period.

Granted, I’m not sure what the future holds for Stoney (0 runs for 0 metres today, which is fine considering his role), but he’s starting to reveal his true value, and I am very much here for it.


Junior Paulo

10 – Front Row

In comparison to the feeble attempts to stop him this afternoon, Junior Paulo looked like a rampaging Godzilla, throwing Knights defenders aside as if they were terrified citizens of downtown Tokyo. Newcastle’s best had no answer for the bullocking Samoan, as he wilfully racked up 14 runs for 126m, 5 offloads, 2 tackle breaks and 40 tackles in 71 freakin’ minutes.

However, his second half hit on Kurt Mann’s forehead will go down at the NRL judiciary about as well as 50 Cent hashtagging his Cognac sponsor in a 9/11 tribute post. It’s still a little bit of a lucky dip these days, but as a result, I fear we’ll be without the big man for the ultimate Battle of the West next week.


Shaun Lane

11 – Second Row

I know it seems like I pick on him a bit (I do), but if you feel like getting a bit mad later, keep an eye out for Shaun Lane’s effort on the Hymel Hunt try. The error when the Eels were on the attack wasn’t ideal either, but he certainly wasn’t the only Eel to do that today (10 team errors all up).


Marata Niukore

12 – Second Row

It was a shame to see Marata’s hit on one of the Saifiti brothers go to waste when they called back Junior Paulo’s aforementioned effort on Kurt Mann; particularly as it’s likely (in my opinion at least) that he’ll be sitting down next week due to (yet another) suspension. Ugh. Otherwise it was an outerworldly 16 runs for 142m for Crash, with 33 tackles thrown in for good measure.


Nathan Brown

13 – Lock

I actually thought I’d find much more impressive numbers from Cyborg than I found today (8 for 74m, 37 tackles, 5 misses), as I thought he looked much more dangerous with the ball in hand. With that said …


Will Smith

14 – Interchange

YES WILLIAM. I thought the famous Hollywood actor deputised brilliantly for Ray Stone today, ducking and weaving his way to 6 runs for 71m, 4 tackle breaks and 11 tackles in his 26 minutes today. It’s also worth noting that Will was on the park for the end of the first and beginning of the second half, a time where the Eels dominated the game and the scoreboard to the tune of 18-6.


Bryce Cartwright

15 – Interchange

Yes, Cartwright did very well to hang onto the ball while he was miraculously held up by the Newcastle defence in the second half, but otherwise I thought he was relatively pedestrian out there today (5 runs for 28m, 1 offload, 12 tackles) in his 18 minutes. Hopefully a bounce back game against his old club next week.


Isaiah Papali’i

16 – Interchange

What a straight up talent Isaiah Papali’i is. I’m not sure where we would be in 2021 without these typical numbers (20 runs for 183m, 1 offload and 35 tackles). For those worried about the fact he came off the bench, 57 minutes of playing time should put that argument to bed, particularly when he is just so damn good at maintaining the rage when Junior and RCG go off.


Maka Makatoa

17 – Interchange

It was 4 runs for 42 metres and a tackle break in Maka’s 14 minutes this afternoon, a solid stint giving our middle men a much needed breather. Interesting to see he has seemingly leapfrogged Oregon Kaufusi on the depth chart; we’ll see if this trend holds next week.

As I touched on above, you can throw out all your statistics, your wins in a row, your best starts to the season. All that matters now is this:

The Parramatta Eels only need 3 more wins to become the 2021 Premiers.


Next week we have a date with the Penrith Panthers, who are surely feeling all the heat after a last start shock loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

If we lose I’ll be crawled up in a ball; but if we win?

Well 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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31 thoughts on “Post Game Grades – Finals Wk 1 vs Knights

  1. Wilhelmina

    I think I’ll take Gutho’s “rather quiet day” quite happily. In positive news, he wasn’t called on to make last-ditch try-savers. Which had a lot to do with Fergo’s defensive reads/decisions close to the line being so terrible he didn’t get the chance, as well as a lack of mid-field breaks for the red and blue.

    Penisini is so impressive for a young player with so little experience. I don’t get why the commentators aren’t salivating over him the way they do some other young guns, but happy for him to externally fly under the radar. Dunster is also starting to look like *he* believes he belongs in first grade now, with his runs out of our end so much more effective. I have to admit to wishing for Sivo when Dunster got the ball close to the line though, where he knew he had to come back in rather than go over the top of the defence.

    Loved RCG’s impact – one of the major site’s post-game rankings had him having a quiet first half. Dunno what game they were watching! But Mitch was the clear MVP – he’s what Mitch Pearce wants to be.

    I have a nasty feeling the MRC is going to resolve the issue of who to leave out next week if Lussick is back. Stone has so earned his place, but Will Smith has too. Are we too light with both of them? Maybe not, given Stone’s defence. I do still think Lane is out there too long, and would be more effective in shorter stints, but that takes up interchanges we then can’t use for the other forwards. Cue those HIAs where the bloke limps off?!

    Final notes: I thought it was seriously poor form that the ground announcer seemed to be drumming up a Newcastle chant, for what is meant to be our home game. As for the Knights player who was squirting water on the ball that was about to be kicked off, following our final try of the first half… yeah, not cool.

  2. Offside

    I found myself yelling every time gutho got the ball in the 2nd he just looked hell bent on killing our attack it wasn’t his best game obviously he’s not 100% but he needs to be better.

    I love Ray Stone that is all.

    Marata once again will miss week 2 of the finals he is starting to be a suspension liability

    I think Junior 1 game back from suspension will be in a bit of bother aswell

    1. Mr controversy aka rev

      I agree offside Marata is aggressive which is good but needs to tone down just a bit.

      Matterson to replace Marata next week. Simple really.

      Stone was outstanding 50 tackle n not a miss. Great defending from stone.

  3. Kevin Chambers

    As always this is my favourite article to read after every game. Very entertaining and humerous at the same time. Some grades a bit tough today. I thought Waqa was just as effective as Penisini. And despite Lane cheering on Hymel Hunt as he runs straight past I thought he was very strong. I thought he was lucky to be in the side but he repaid the faith and just ran and tackled hard. Looking forward to 3 editions this season.

  4. BDon

    Tks Mitch. Lot of A’s there, but they translated in a strange way. We had good control of that game for long periods but a few dumb errors and a Knights team which recorded stats that would win most games (except missed tackles) made things nerve wracking.
    Also strange was our start was as bad as you can think of, but after 5 minutes I had this outer planetary feeling that we had them covered.

    1. Clive

      I had a similar feeling mate. It felt like we were in control of the game the whole time but the scoreboard didn’t reflect that.

  5. Mick

    I don’t really know what to make of that game. Obviously I enjoyed the win, and I thought we were aggressive and dominant particularly defending them on their line. But it didn’t translate to a lot of confidence that we would win, up until the last try. Newcastle seemed to make the most of their limited chances, whereas we couldn’t maintain consistent pressure.

    I also would have liked to see Maka and Bryce get more minutes. We perennially under utilise the bench and I have to imagine that is going to take its toll through what has to be the one of the toughest runs to a premiership in recent history.

    Fingers crossed we aren’t hammered at the judiciary. I didn’t see Maratas incident, and I don’t remember Paulo making head contact – but I didn’t think it was a shoulder charge. He just got bumped out of the tackle by Lane while coming in to defend.

  6. Anonymous

    Well put Mitch. A few thoughts I had from this game:
    – Fergo gives me a heart attack every time he runs the ball in eels half (I have many flashbacks of drop balls and brain farts), but his game was passable today. Do we have any other wingers as backups?
    -Gutho’s kick returns certainly werent incredible, falling over alot before the line. Do you think he is holding back for bigger games?
    -Would have enjoyed seeing early kicks with that wind behind us 2nd half, to add to BA’s description in press conference as ‘dumb things’ to not close out the game at 22-10.
    – Ray Stone take a bow. 15mins to go when he was tackling, i thought he would be gassed very soon after, but he held out the whole game.
    – Do you think the tackles on report will be costly??
    – Also, Bryce Cartwright out for Ryan Matterson please. Matto can do everything Cartwright can do, plus he’s a better defender

    1. Colin Hussey

      I read where Fergs was looking at a big contract to go to Japan and the Rah Rah’s end of this season, now there is talk of him getting an extension with the eels. Ok! he scored two freakish tries which is part & parcel (sometimes) of his play, but he is still poor with his defence more often than not.

      He is a big fella for a winger, but his reads really are at best 40/60. Watching the likes of Dunster & Penisini, surely we have some young players that can be signed instead of Fergs.?

      As for the game, for me it increased my nerves to a large extent, it started with Gutho’s first kick. I thought, he we go again. But in the end credit to both teams, & I have vivid memories of how the knights over the years has been a bogie team for the eels, was not far off the base yesterday.

      Now to give the riff a what for, which I think Matto and Carty should both be playing against them.

      1. John Eel

        Colin the best news is Junior and Marata will both be playing

        On Fergo he is reportedly on $550,000 currently. If he is not willing to take a massive haircut he will likely end up in Japanese Rugby on big bucks. Maybe that is not a good choice of words.

        The Eels have some very complicated cap management in front of them if they want to keep the nucleus of this team together. Fergo may be part of the solution.

        1. Colin Hussey

          John, agree overall with what you have said. In the end though this year has shown that Fergs is pretty much on his last legs for RL. Watching the try scored on his side on replay it showed how he got caught out when the knights winger got the ball from his centre and the ball went straight past Fergs, he had to stop and turn round but he could not regain the run and gave up, that is something that is relatively common in his play.

          He has in general been a fair signing for the eels, but! he is past his best, and there were some young eels that were given a run against the riff a couple showed potential so would much prefer to see them given the chance for contracts.

          I looked at a list of the Riffs contracted players, and the vast majority were hardly into their 20’s.

          1. John Eel

            I did not word that well. When I said he may be part of the solution I meant that by him leaving he will free up cap space to sign others.

            I believe that he won’t be at the Eels in 2022.

            Sorry to mislead

          2. Colin Hussey

            No probs John. I looked at the Zero Tackle site and the eels player list shows Fergs at $500K a season, I think in his first year he was worth that, but last year no way, and this year, no more than $400K, & I think he will drop in value if he stays with the NRL.

            When I mentioned young fellows, two came up that I think should be lifted up into the NRL squad following their games against the Riff on the last night of the regular season while still young they are future NRL players Hayze Perham & Samuel Loizou

          3. John Eel

            I would rather promote guys like those two on base salary than extending a former great in the twilight of his career.

          4. Colin Hussey

            That’t the whole point John, Fergs at $500.oo ending this year and he would want the same coin at the very least to stay, or those two players divide 400.00 between them and the other for the kitty and lift other players that are keeps.

          5. Mick

            I thought I saw Addo-Carr was on 550k at the Dogs. He’s much better value at that price if the numbers are accurate …. consequently I don’t know why we didn’t have more of a crack at him.

  7. Mr controversy aka rev

    I personally think brad should have brought Cartwright on at 22/10 mark. But still happy with the win.

    Hopefully jr is just fined instead of suspension. Waqa’s report will see him get off you had to be steve wonder to not see there was nothing in it.

    Matterson in for Marata i think next week.

    On to another thing. How long does a ref have to wait for Tyson frizzle to make his mind up about staying on or being interchanged.

    Like 🤬 get him off. His in la la land. Newcastle should have been dropping out instead this BS freshen up the knight’s. We should have been taking the 2 point’s yet Newcastle scored 2 tries. Wasn’t happy about that neither was sterlo.

    As toovey says we need investigation.

  8. Longfin Eel

    I loved how our halves (Moses in particular) ran the ball. They are lethal when they do that, choosing their moments carefully. We’ll need to see more of this next week. If we are without 2 of our biggest hitters next week, we’ll need to change the game plan slightly. Hope Lussick is back for some of those dummy half runs.

    In the end it wasn’t a pretty game, but we got the job done. We’ll need to lift again against Penrith, they will be hurting and extra keen to win.

  9. !0 Year Member

    I would like to take a vote on the baby giraffe moniker, I sincerely believe it belongs to Moses, the kid cannot run without slipping over, its almost comical. 🙂
    Go parra.

  10. Clive

    This was a weird game. It felt like we were in control the whole time but just couldn’t translate it into points. The forwards were fantastic and RCG was incredible in his first game back.

    I was really impressed with Penisini, to hold his own against guys like Olam and Best in his first four games is fantastic.

    One thing I don’t understand though is Brad’s use of the forward rotation. Lane is renowned for his lazy efforts in defence yet he played 70min yesterday while Papaali gets 55. Cartwright gets less than 20min despite us being told in preseason that he’s the fittest forward in the club.

    Yesterday’s game was played in hot humid conditions yet 2 of our 3 forwards on the bench get less than 20min. It’s like Brad doesn’t trust those guys to perform despite their performances suggesting otherwise. I know I’m being picky but at this time of year we will need to get everything right to have a chance and Brad’s use of the bench has been strange all year.

    1. John Eel

      I agree that Cartwright needs more minutes, Lane needs less minutes but I liked the way that he used Papali’i.

      To run 180 metres in 50+ minutes and massive post contact metres. I am guessing that they went into the game with that plan.

      Having to rest the hooker makes it harder to manage the replacements and that would be partly responsible for the outcome.

  11. Anonymous

    Mitch, stupendous synopsis of the game and I thank you for the effort you put into this, I do enjoy the read each and every week. However I have to say Ray Stone was an A for me, I really think he was outstanding, particularly when playing out of position.
    You guys do an awesome job “Thank you” !

    1. Dday

      Enjoyed that game & write up Mitch. Good overall performance, let Castle back in but felt like we had control for most of the game. Agree with half a dozen As & Moses for MVP but Stone must have been close behind. Reg was enormous, what a statement game.
      BA has some selection options this week and can potentially freshen up the pack, lussick Matto & kaufusi in, Smith, lane & big Mac rested this week.
      Bring on the Riff

  12. Zero58

    Exciting game and it looked like for a few minutes Parra just might give it to the Knights.
    But, they hung in there and with a number of game heros.
    My MVP was Ray Stone. He did exactly what BA asked him to do. Nothing fancy just serve the ball which he did quite well and defend. 50 tackles without a miss and some were real stringers.
    Looking at some comments and there is some consensus BA does not take proper care with the bench rotation. He must do better than this.
    Lane was on his haunches not long after half time. He is just a fifty to sixty minute player.
    Cartwright does not get enough minutes and he in making up for his short stint at times by over playing his hand. He is a far better player for his 15 minutes or so.
    Why was Ferguson left on the park (second half) when running on one leg. Will Smith would have stopped that last try.
    Gutherson grubber looked like a dropped ball but, it was no different to Slater’s try a couple of years back. Drop kick grubber. And, without any doubt it was a penalty try.
    We have a new cult player with Penisini. He really looks the goods.
    Moses is no longer a flat track bully. He really stood up and played a man for the moment game. Ice Papa is a giant.
    Tough one next week but doable.

    1. Poppa

      There was probably not a winger in the world that could have stopped that last try off the Ponga pass, Ferguson was only a metre away but the pass went like a bullet. Hayne is the only other player I know with the sort of ability to make that pass.
      PS maybe Ferguson was on there to score his second try (on one leg, running straight for the corner). No one else in the Parra side would have scored it!

      1. Poppa

        Some say they were a little disappointed with Parra who always seemed to have control but I believe credit needs to be given to the Knights, they have a good side on paper, arguably at a rep level higher than us.
        The also won 5 of their last 6 and in a different environment would have been a more difficult side through the whole season.
        BA made a point in the pressor about being in front 22/10 and not going on with it and countered with the benefits of a close game in the final summary.
        It’s purely subjective but I think Newcastle could have given any of the top sides a run for their money yesterday.

      2. Zero58

        It was a great pass but, Ferguson was hampered by his injury but not for Smith. We don’t really know because Smith wasn’t there but he was certainly unimpeded by injury. So yes he could have because he is good enough.

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