Parramatta Eels 22
Penrith Panthers 20
Well wasn’t that something? The Parramatta Eels finally went one better than “matching up well” with Penrith and delivered the Panthers their first home loss since tries were worth three points. Parramatta fans are known to go all out in celebration of big victories and I duly obliged, which explains why the grades are a day late:
The Eels now hold victories over the Storm and Panthers, aka “the only two good teams this year”, on their home turf. It’s a fairly convincing answer to the question “can the Eels win the comp?” and one that should warm the hearts of Parramatta fans in the unlikely event they lose another game this season.
Well Penrith fans are taking this loss well:
The bad is reserved for everybody else who isn’t a Parramatta fan, as they are, without question, argument or debate, forced to consider the Eels the real deal in 2022. The scary part? This team can only get better as the casualty ward clears and combinations develop. Hope you enjoyed your memes while you could.
X-Factor has decided most of the recent Battles of the West, so it was nice to see Parramatta on the right side of it all come full time. The Reed Mahoney penalty try was a brave, but correct call. It’s very easy for a referee to lean back into doubt and go with the penalty and professional foul, but I’m happy with that being called a try every day of the week. The obstruction to deny Brian To’o was also a good “letter of the law” call on a rule the NRL has tried to make black or white in its interpretation.
I’m also glad the blown captain’s challenge didn’t cost us in the end. Challenges are just so important that I don’t see the point of risking them on anything but the surest bets in the early stages of a game. Referees are taking a tougher stance on loose carries and players need to be aware of that risk.
For the numbers inclined:
Possession: Parramatta 54%, Penrith 46%
Completions: Parramatta 36/42 85%, Penrith 30/37 81%
Run metres: Penrith 1,735, Parramatta 1,699
Average set distance: Penrith 46.9 metres, Parramatta 40.5
Offloads: Parramatta 17, Penrith 8
Missed Tackles: Parramatta 29, Penrith 33
Ineffective Tackles: Penrith 30, Parramatta 12
Penalties Received: Parramatta 6, Penrith 2
Scoreboard: Parramatta 22, Penrith 20
A very tough call here, but I’m going to go with Junior Paulo for two reasons. First was his heroic captain’s knock in a game where several members of the side were coming in without training most of the week due to illness. He offloaded aggressively, did some ball playing and still ate his way through 207 metres from 23 carries. The second is that I’ve run out of Ryan Matterson nicknames. I did not expect “nicknames for muscular guys” to be in my Google search history this year, but there we go. Junez, you da MVP.
1 – Fullback
The King dug deep in this one, popping up everywhere and making clutch play after clutch play. My favourite was the forced dropout where he somehow threw Stephen Crichton into the in-goal despite being on his own back. The Reed Mahoney penalty try was the result of that repeat set, and that clip plus his crunching shot on Nathan Cleary extends the Clint Gutherson “excellence in defence” montage beyond the 10 hour limit of YouTube uploads.
Speaking of 10 hour YouTube compliations, one of this celebration please:
2 – Left Wing
Ivan Cleary may not have made the game, but the coaching notes he scribbled on a napkin and threw out the hospital window must have simply said “Hayze”. Penrith directed kick after kick at the makeshift flanker then punished him on every kick return, but Hayze Perham handled himself well. It would be hard to drop him from the side after this performance, but Sean Russell is ready and ultimately presents as the better long term option.
3 – Right Centre
There are seasoned veterans that don’t make the heads-up play Will Penisini did for the Eels first try, spotting Viliame Kikau down in backplay and running short side, getting a freakish offload away for Clint Gutherson to score untouched. His name might mean I can never search for his stats at work, but Will is certainly showing the signs of being a star.
4 – Left Centre
It was a strong return for Tom Opacic, who did a lot of dirty work that his shape, size and style isn’t really suited to. He’s the perfect backup for a squad and will never let you down, but his biggest contribution to the game was allowing Dylan Brown to play in the halves again.
5 – Right Wing
I’m not going to hold a Tyrone May double against the man charged with defending him, Viliame Kikau had one of those games that delivered his reputation and there wasn’t much Bailey Simonsson could do about it. Simonsson is improving in the hard yards department and racking up a body count with his rushing defence, this time cutting Izack Tago in half like he was Ray Stone. I’m not going to be voting for him as “buy of the year” anytime soon but I’m glad he’s around.
6 – Five Eighth
It was a more classic version of the Dylan Brown Experience in the return of its original line-up position, putting in a huge defensive effort, running the ball frequently and being right on the spot for the match-sealing try. His short kicking game had some good moments too, and the Eels are really settling into this “weapons on both sides” halves combination nicely.
7 – Halfback
It was a game that demanded control, so while Mitchell Moses didn’t deliver an eye-popping performance he was very good in keeping Parramatta in the game when the field position battle tipped the Panthers way. I’m sure he would appreciate more time to kick than he got for most of the night, and his defensive efforts were solid. It is probably a good sign for Parramatta that they can win a game like this without Moses or Brown playing a dominant role.
8 – Front Row
The Moustachioed Monolith was on the droopy side this week, confirmed as one of the players laid up with illness, but you wouldn’t have known that watching Reagan Campbell-Gillard rip and tear against his former side. Where Junior Paulo is the triple threat of passing, offloading and running, Reg is an incredibly effective, single purpose tool for bashing through defensive walls.
9 – Hooker
It was a good night for “Chasing the Cash”, who controlled the ruck well and was in the right place to create the penalty try opportunity. He got back to his high effort defence as well, making a team high 49 tackles with one miss, and most importantly his single kick had absolutely no chance of going out on the full. He’s learning.
10 – Front Row
A massive gold star for Captain Bowh-lo, who was an absolute menace and in one of his “they can’t handle me” moods. The offload was back in a big way, he wasn’t going to ground in tackles and his passing game is creating plenty of chances and a lot of extra metres on the edge of the ruck. On a night where yards were hard to come by and the match was won and lost in the middle of the field, Junior Paulo was a man among boys.
11 – Second Row
Brad Arthur may not get all of his bench calls right, but Shaun Lane is definitely a more effective player over 60 minutes rather than 80. His workrate could still improve, but his offload created the penalty try and that deft kick deserved a result when Hayze Perham couldn’t stay in the field of play. His defensive effort was strong, and when Lane is tackling properly, he’s playing well.
12 – Second Row
Ice was hot on the heels of Junior Paulo for best on ground tonight, breaking tackles like the Papa we fell in love with last year and coming so close to the line a couple of times. His defensive workrate was again phenomenal but it was the venom to his running that I loved the most. He’s rounding into form.
13 – Lock
With Ryan Matterson in great touch and Junior Paulo playing distributor, Nathan Brown doesn’t quite have the role we are used to in this team. Luckily, he is still very effective as a bash and barge ball carrier and an energetic presence in defence, leading line speed even if he doesn’t always stick the tackle. That wasn’t a problem tonight, making 33 tackles and missing one, and if this is the version of Cyborg we get all year, I’ll be a happy customer.
14 – Interchange
A short but effective stint from Mak Attak, who must have enjoyed relinquishing “most ridiculous hairstyle on the field” for a week thanks to that shag carpet off cut that Viliame Kikau calls a mop.
15 – Interchange
I avoided the great “who else could we play there?” debate about Dylan Brown in the centres for my own mental health, but gee that big step Ryan Matterson put on Dylan Edwards to score a crucial try had me thinking “maybe he’d go alright out wide”. It was a just reward for a man who is playing with limitless energy, offloading at will and making metres for fun. His shift to the edge only improved his performance and I hope it is something we start to see every week from Brad Arthur.
16 – Interchange
The NRL website tells me Oregon Kaufusi had a 100.1% tackling efficiency last night, so it is nice to see Big Country breaking the laws of physics to make up for his ordinary efforts last week. He wasn’t a big impact player last night, but he did good while he was out there.
17 – Interchange
It turns out I am a lot more forgiving of Brad Arthur leaving a man on the bench for 80 minutes when we knock off the defending premiers in front of their own fans.
Wins like this one are what makes being a footy fan worth it. I woke up on the floor still wearing my shoes, my head feeling like it had been used by Ray Stone for tackling practice all night, but just the memory of the previous night’s win had me so sprightly I could have run a marathon. I didn’t, I sat on the lounge eating hash browns and watching the replay, but it is just the first of many times over the next few years that the memory of this game is going to make me smile.
Magic Round came early for the Eels, but that just means we get to double up next weekend against the revitalised Roosters. Now that we’ve cracked the two top premiership threats it would be nice for Parramatta to move on to breaking hoodoos, starting with Sydney. It’ll be a cracking time, no doubt.
Until next time, stay slippery Eels fans.
Stats and images provided by NRL