It’s a deep kick off, the ball is passed to a charging RCG, and the big man puts the pedal to the metal as he collides with four defenders.
They didn’t miss him, nor did he allow them to drive him backwards. In fact within the same set Reg lined up for a second carry.
This was the opening to today’s opposed session.
It was almost a full dress-rehearsal as for around 35 minutes the Blue team took on the White team, under match conditions, including conversions.
NRL referees were in control and I’m pleased to report that the Eels won the penalty count!
At the end of the “clash” both teams had crossed for two tries (sorry, I didn’t keep track of the goals) and the entertainment factor was high.
Waqa Blake continued his strong preseason with outstanding moments in both attack and defence. His combination with Haze Dunster led to a number of line breaks, with the athletic Blake also producing an evasive 25 metre solo run through centre field which left a number of defenders in his wake.
However, it was the capacity of Dunster and Blake to shut down opposition attacking raids which most impressed. I couldn’t hear the talk, but I was encouraged by the way they functioned as a defensive unit.
Jake Arthur again produced another impressive performance. In addition to his organisational skills, the 19 year old half scored a try reminiscent of his debut four pointer against the Warriors. After slicing through the edge of the ruck, he appeared to be tackled just short. But those long limbs proved handy as he stretched his right arm out to plant the ball. JA is proving hard to ignore.
Not to be outdone, Moses provided his own highlight, delivering a superb pass to put Penisini through the defence, and the young centre did the rest in a sprint to the goal line. The Blue team’s halves were on fire and the early lead was established.
With Moses and Arthur putting their mark on the contest, it was time for Dylan Brown to have a “hold my beer” moment.
A powerful carry and quick play the ball from Ogden put his White team on the front foot, as they took the ball from deep in their half to the red zone. When the pill landed in Dylan’s hands, a step off the left foot, then a burst of acceleration saw him cross for the first of his tries.
Unfortunately my vantage point did not allow me to identify the principal players in the next try to the White team. The ball was shifted two passes to the right of the posts before finding the decisive ball runner who scored the try.
That concluded the match, but the session was far from over.
The rest of the morning was split between M runs (and N runs), red zone attack/defence and Malcolms.
Each team was given an extended period in the red zone to either attack, or defend, the line.
The fatigue was established by running Malcolms between the alternating of the roles.
Obviously there were defensive moments to praise, but the repeated possessions saw each side ask plenty of questions in attack.
Isaiah Papali’i really impressed in this drill (as he did with the M runs). He set up a try for Sean Russell and threatened the line with every carry. Ice’s fitness is coming to the fore and I expect him to have another terrific year.
Others to cross the stripe included Junior, Haze and Matto. Dylan Brown scored another sharp try, and Jake Arthur set up a try for a player that we couldn’t identify due to our obstructed view.
Matt Komolafe rekindled memories of his capacity to get across the line back in the pathways when he crossed in the corner after it looked like the defence had him covered.
Matt had the knack of converting half chances into tries in Junior Reps and it will be to the Eels benefit if he can do similar in the senior grades.
I thought that this was Dylan’s best session of the preseason.
Parra’s star five-eighth is widely acknowledged as the premier defensive number 6 in the NRL, but critics are quick to highlight his attacking stats as evidence of him being under pressure to step up in 2022.
Personally, I regard a try saved as just as important as a try scored. At 21 years of age, Dylbags is critical to the Eels defence.
It all comes down to what BA wants from him.
In what was a typically physical opposed session Friday, Dylan Brown was one of my standouts – in attack.
He wasn’t on his own, and there is possibly more that BA is expecting of him from a ball playing perspective, but Dylbags provided a reminder of just how dangerous he can be when carrying the ball.
(All images courtesy of Bocko, Eels media)