Parramatta Eels 39
Newcastle Knights 2
If I didn’t hate Newcastle I’d feel sorry for them after that beating. It was like watching a boxer throw body shots for six rounds, then suddenly the Knights goal line defence was reaching for energy that wasn’t there anymore. The Parramatta Eels were clinical and incredibly effective in executing what should be the game plan every single week. It was the perfect response to the game that shan’t be mentioned. It was a brutal win, and I loved it.
It is limping room only in the Parramatta casualty ward, with Wiremu Greig, Dave Hollis and Mitch Rein the only healthy members of the first grade squad not on the paddock in Newcastle this weekend. You will note that none of them are centres, hence the unpopular shift of Dylan Brown to fill the role of Tom Opacic.
The last two years we have been blessed with great health in the regular season only to be cruelled by key injuries in the lead into (and during) the finals. We’re owed some luck at the pointy end of the year, so hopefully we’re just getting our quota out of the way early on.
The 39-2 final score is a combination that has only been seen twice before in NSWRL/NRL history, the last time back in 1975 when tries were worth 3 points, the time before in 1910. Everybody loves a disrespectful field goal and while today Andrew Voss could have found a negative if Mitchell Moses parted the Hunter River (“but if he’d done it last week it could have made the May edition of ‘Miracles Monthly’”) this is the kind of obscure trivia I bet he’d crack a smile at.
This wasn’t really an X-Factor kind of game, it was more like watching an efficient machine in operation, like a meat grinder. It’s minced Ponga for dinner tonight!
For the numbers inclined:
Possession: Eels 59% Knights 41%
Completions: Eels 34/40 (85%), Knights 23/33 (69%)
Metres gained: Eels 1905, Knights 1165
PCMs: Eels 699, Knights 438
Line-breaks: Eels 7, Knights 1
Tackles: Knights 371, Eels 283
Missed tackles: Knights 39, Eels 24
Errors: Knights 11, Eels 6
In a game won through the middle, I’m giving MVP to the most impressive Eels forward for mine: Ryan Matterson. The Adonis of O’Connell Street was everywhere in his 38 minute stint, dominating the defence with every carry and looking more dangerous than I can remember in a Blue and Gold jersey. Nearly 50% of his metres were post contact, an absolutely steamrolling number. Matto, you da MVP, and that means I get to do this.
1 – Fullback
On a day where his subjects took care of the hard work, Clint Gutherson could just sit back and admire the destruction as his foot soldiers ran riot through the fertile fields of Newcastle burning defenders and pillaging trylines. The King was largely unchallenged in defence, but joined the attacking party for 157 metres and 7 tackle breaks. Enjoy these easy days, your majesty.
2 – Left Wing
It was a friendly wing debut for Hayze Perham, who was rarely challenged in defence and handled the long and mid-range kicking game of Newcastle with ease. His ruck work was solid, he finished well and most importantly, he stayed healthy.
3 – Right Centre
It took a scrappy effort, but the Man of Unspeakable Nicknames finally got off the mark in season 2022 by being on the spot for a lovely scrum set play. Will Penisini is keeping busy out there, but I continue to wish to see him in some clear air sometime.
6 – Left Centre
To hit some lazy commentary stereotypes, Dylan Brown is just a footballer. He’s clearly got the physical skills to play centre and showed it today, and to Dyl’s credit he accepted his role and didn’t try and play as a hybrid half. The only time he was caught out of position was in attack, and while he certainly can play centre, the shorter this cameo out wide for Dylbags, the better.
5 – Right Wing
I swear, the grades stamp isn’t stuck, it’s just a B+ kind of day for the outside backs. Good but not exceptional across the board. Bailey Simonsson might be worth a B++ just to differentiate him, he is timing his defensive rushes well, his kick return and ruck work has improved and he was very busy out there today. Now he’s getting the basics right, I’m hoping we can unleash a bit more of his attacking potential soon.
17 – Five Eighth
I don’t think Jake Arthur was bad today, but where Dylan Brown had the athleticism to hold his own while learning the craft of a first grade half, Arthur doesn’t have the speed or a step or physical defence to cover the gaps in his fundamentals. There is nothing wrong with that, he’s 19 years old and has played about 20 games against men in his life, but that will get caught out in first grade football very quickly. Once the injury crisis is weathered I hope he gets an extended stint in NSW Cup to grow those skills.
7 – Halfback
From early on when he feigned a kick and the Knights defence parted like some sort of body of water (maybe a lake?), it was clear Mitchell Moses was on. When the middle is rolling like this a halfback’s job is easy, but Moses was professional, he timed his running game well and his kicking was to its usual high standard. Bonus points for the disrespectful field goal, of course.
8 – Front Row
Brad Arthur gave his starting props a well deserved rest with the game in hand, meaning Reagan Campbell-Gillard only put up human numbers of 12 runs and 144 metres. Reg worked hard and was an important part of the Parramatta middle dominance, but I’m glad he got a light load this week.
9 – Hooker
“No doubt regretting chasing the cash” Mahoney pocketed two of the easiest try assists he’ll ever nab this week as Isaiah Papali’i crashed through a dozen Knights defenders in the space of two metres and Shaun Lane brushed off David Klemmer like he was dust on his shorts. His running game was well timed and he had his forwards rolling, but Reed, cut the charge downs, please. What do you think our ratio of recoveries to six-agains on charge downs is? One in five? One in ten?
10 – Front Row
Like his fellow bookend, Junior Paulo did the hard yards in the early stages that laid the platform for a dominant win, but didn’t really enjoy the spoils of that work. His presence in the defensive line clearly bothered the Knights, who had to be running in any direction other than Big Junez’s as he was forced to make only 11 tackles. Having seen Toby Sexton disintegrate before our eyes, I don’t blame them.
11 – Second Row
“Good Shaun Lane” is an addiction I just can’t quit. His try was assisted by some ordinary Knights defence, but his offload for Hayze Perham’s first as an Eel was pure class. His work was what we will call “efficient”, making only 8 runs (fewest of all forwards, interchange or starter) but what he did in those early stages when the game was a contest is what made it “not a contest” shortly after half-time.
12 – Second Row
Where last year Isaiah Papali’i found the line with a combination of power and speed, today he crossed for two tries that were pure power. It doesn’t matter the recipe, just that it tasted delicious after the bitter meal he served up against his future club last week. The yardage work and strong defence was there as well, of course, and he won’t find it so easy near the line going forward, but today we saw the Ice we all fell in love with last year.
13 – Lock
The Cyborg must have overheated in his early performances because his form has certainly cooled in the last fortnight. Nathan Brown’s early drop and penalty ultimately didn’t cost the Eels, but when field position and possession are so crucial to the gameplan any individual responsible for two errors in quick succession is putting undue pressure on the team. His work in the ruck and line-speed is still strong, but he needs debugging to clear out the mistakes..
14 – Interchange
Big Mak got his second longest run of the year and made the most of it, throwing some offloads, making some tough runs and generally taking advantage of the strong platform laid by the starters. Nothing special, but nothing wrong at all, exactly what you want from a first change big man.
15 – Interchange
This was an eye test MVP performance from Matto, who looked dangerous with every touch and kept the fire burning at first changes. His numbers are just marginally better than his fellow forwards: 15 runs, 164 metres, 80 post-contact, but where Lane and Papali’i accounted for the tries, Ryan Matterson accounted for the dominance. I say hey.
16 – Interchange
I didn’t really notice Oregon Kaufusi out there today. His numbers are good, he didn’t do anything wrong and he played plenty of minutes, sometimes that is enough..
18 – Interchange
Even in a dominant win, Brad Arthur could only find 13 minutes for Bryce Cartwright to do his thing. You’d hope Carty would look for the ball a bit more than finding only 3 touches in those 13 minutes, but Parramatta put the cue in the rack in the late stages and Bryce just did his job..
Parramatta did a job today, choking Newcastle out of the contest then powering over them in the later stages. Let’s not overreact: the Knights goal-line defence was terrible, and they really fell apart in the second half after playing very controlled football in the first. It wasn’t a win that will shorten the Eels’ premiership odds, but it was an important statement.
The real joy of this performance was it being exactly what Brad Arthur would have asked for. It was exactly what fans needed to see after drifting back into “bad Eels” against the Tigers. It was a textbook performance against an outmatched opponent, it was exactly what a good team should do to a not-so-good team. That it was a nice kick-along to the for and against and our defensive record is a nice bonus.
The shortest road trip of the season is followed by the longest as the Eels head to Darwin for their annual territory throwdown, this year against the surging North Queensland Cowboys. It’ll be hot, it’ll be steamy and hopefully it’ll be another good Parramatta win.
Until next time, stay slippery Eels fans.
Images and stats courtesy of NRL