Parramatta Eels 4
NQ Cowboys 35
Well, I’m glad I didn’t make the trip to Darwin. Normally if we lose a home game like this I’d be drowning my sorrows in a Parramatta dive bar and grabbing a regret kebab on the way home. Tonight I can just put out some half-arsed grades and go to bed.
Considering the ridiculous conditions, this game started as well as it could for the Parramatta Eels, yet it wasn’t enough to overcome a flat, uninspired performance that began with lazy set starts from Clint Gutherson and ended with unchallenged bombs and predictable crash balls in the red zone. The Cowboys just wanted this one more and weathered the Eels middle like a boxer knowing his outmatched opponent will tire himself out throwing punches, then they moved in for the kill when our spirits were broken. The only thing more painful and difficult than watching this game as an Eels fan would have be playing in it.
Before you go burning jerseys and abusing the Parramatta social media interns, remember that this game was played in conditions I’d be calling oppressive if I had to run a BBQ on a summer afternoon. Footballers shouldn’t be asked to compete in this, and if you are hosting a home game in conditions like this, it would be nice to not be facing the one team that would train in these conditions throughout an entire pre-season. I know, I know, we don’t choose our opponents or when the Darwin game is played, but maybe it is time for another NRL team to take up the good fight in the territory, because we’ve been going there for nearly a decade now and were still outnumbered significantly by Cowboys fans. Maybe Territorians just hate Eels.
For the numbers inclined:
Completions: Cowboys 34/38, Eels 32/38
Metres: Cowboys 1,676, Eels 1,563
Line Breaks: Cowboys 6, Eels 1
Tackle Breaks: Cowboys 36, Eels 17
Kick Defusals: Cowboys 89%, Eels 43%
Tackles: Cowboys 359, Eels 327
Missed Tackles: Cowboys 17, Eels 36
It’s back-to-back for the Burramattagal Bicep, Ryan Matterson. While tonight the only singing will be a mournful rendition of “Everybody Hurts”, Matto ran for 210 metres with 79 post-contact, threw 3 offloads, was a valuable link man and made 30 tackles. He looked the only one likely at times, and if “almost” offloads were a statistic he would have given the counter hand cramps tallying them up today. You da MVP, Matto.
1 – Fullback
It wasn’t a good night for the King, whose uncertainty under the floating kicks of the Cowboys halves meant at best our sets started with a short, flat-footed run and at worst with Clint Gutherson turning to chase a bouncing ball. I liked some of his attacking injections and we should have scored off an early King grubber, but the Cowboys stayed in the territorial battle thanks to their kicking game, which Gutherson did nothing to nullify.
2 – Left Wing
Hayze Perham isn’t a winger, so it isn’t really his fault that his opposite crossed for three tries tonight. While the NRL profiles suggest he only gives up 7 centimetres in height to Kyle Feldt, on the field it looked like a stepladder would only have helped him to contest high balls against the Cowboys winger if he cracked one over Feldt’s head before the game. I’d be more upset if he wasn’t the literal last option Brad Arthur has on the wing.
3 – Right Centre
Well, we finally got Will Penisini into some space. While the man that makes your 12-year-old brother chuckle every time the commentator says his name did some strong work on his carries, the Cowboys used a very NFL-style “bend but don’t break” defence against him and shut down his flick pass and ability to unlock the outside man. That results in an impressive stat sheet for Will, but it didn’t lead to any points on the scoreboard.
4 – Left Centre
For the love of Peter Sterling, just move him back to five eighth.
5 – Right Wing
Bailey Simonsson didn’t do much wrong tonight, but his effort highlighted the lack of X-factor he has as a player. He had a few difficult chances that the best NRL wingers manage to convert, and he didn’t get anywhere near scoring any of them. That massive hit was nice though.
6 – Five Eighth
Jake Arthur has a bit too much Corey Norman in his game right now, laying pass after pass back on the inside without engaging the line. While I appreciate the inclusive nature of the Parramatta team this week to get him nearly as many touches as Mitchell Moses, how about we just lean on the incumbent NSW State of Origin halfback instead of giving it to the 19-year-old just as often to throw another inside ball? The only person wishing Jake threw more inside passes is Isaiah Papali’i, who will be glad the Footy Show isn’t around anymore to highlight epic Falcons.
7 – Halfback
Before you go crying in the comments, no, Jake Arthur probably didn’t have a “better” game than Mitch Moses today. This grade reflects Moses going missing out there at a time when the Eels need him to stand up. He should be like Jackson Hastings at the Tigers in games like this one: demanding the ball whenever possible, knowing the result is on his back while an essential rookie lines up next to him. Hastings is averaging nearly 100 touches per game right now, an admittedly insane number, while Mitchell had just 55 tonight, Jake 51, Gutherson 43. We needed more.
8 – Front Row
Reg’s battle with Jason Taumalolo was beautiful, it all too brief. Even the Moustache of the Millennium can’t overcome tropical humidity, so while RCG had a shorter stint than usual out there, the Eels were, as usual, a better team with him on the park.
9 – Hooker
This was a “doing too much” game from Mahoney, who fell in love with the crash ball which was just eaten up by the Cowboys defenders. He defended well, but some of the lacking structure of the Parramatta attacking sets falls on the man who starts each and every play.
10 – Front Row
What we saw of Junior Paulo tonight was good, there just wasn’t enough of it. I never want to see Oregon Kaufusi have more carries in a game than Junior, and tonight Paulo took 8 runs, Kaufusi 12. It wasn’t a night he would have enjoyed, but this captain’s knock made the performance of English test captains in an Australian Ashes series look inspiring.
11 – Second Row
Gee I wish he’d held that ball. I’d also suggest that a man as tall as Shaun Lane might find more success just catching the ball and falling over than he would trying to bat it back off kicks.
12 – Second Row
Along with Reed, Ice was the only Eels forward to play 80 minutes tonight and while it wasn’t his finest knock, he got through a mountain of defence and did decent enough work with the ball.
13 – Lock
Cyborg took 9 runs for only 63 metres tonight. His average play-the-ball speed was slower than all Eels forwards except Shaun Lane. On the bright side, he didn’t throw any hospital passes to fellow forwards.
14 – Interchange
The “what a great story” shine is wearing off Makahesi Makatoa, who is now just another mildly effective bench middle. I’m sure he could have contributed more than just 20 minutes tonight, and he was very busy in that time, making as many runs as Junior Paulo and Shaun Lane did all match, but he isn’t a difference maker.
15 – Interchange
The only A of the evening goes to our MVP, who was again immense. His work rate in these conditions shouldn’t be possible, especially from a man whose arms are so big he needs auxiliary oxygen tanks just to keep them powered. Somebody should check he doesn’t have a sneaky third lung hiding in his chest somewhere.
16 – Interchange
I might be crazy, but how about we give the longer stint to Makatoa, the guy who doesn’t do anything wrong, instead of leaving Oregon Kaufusi out there for 33 minutes so he can miss a team high 6 tackles, with 2 more ineffective.
17 – Interchange
There was to be no Darwin magic this time around for Bryce Cartwright, who on the positive side had a hand in getting the Eels on the scoreboard, but on the negative side was beaten by Tom Dearden. There has to be a better way to use him, but he doesn’t deserve that to be found until he can commit to defence.
This game of football was a massive punish, and the sooner all involved can forget about it and move on, the better. There are plenty of excuses: the conditions, the injuries, the long trip on a shorter week, our insistence on going up early to promote the game, the team being denied fresh water because Brad Arthur requires every bottle of Evian in the state to be placed in the coaches box. Don’t discount the Cowboys because the last time you watched them was probably this time last year: they’re a pretty good footy team this season.
I don’t think this loss signals any greater failings, we were just beaten by a very committed team that played tough defence and were better suited to the slog. A big effort next weekend against the defending premiers and all will be forgotten.
Until next time, stay slippery Eels fans.
Images and stats courtesy of NRL