Parramatta Eels 26
Sydney Roosters 16
How about that?
What a brilliant game of footy. The first half delivered end-to-end attacking football as the Parramatta Eels channelled the energy of 2001 and offloaded at will to score some spectacular tries. It was as good a half of rugby league as you’ll ever see. The second half was a brutal battle of field position, the Eels refusing to give an inch to a Roosters pack that aimed up over and over, waiting for the men in Blue & Gold to fold. That moment never arrived. It was a stunning demonstration of toughness and resolve, one fans desperately needed to see.
Yes, the real test is playing to this level every week, but being reminded of what the best Parramatta can do was certainly a nice way to wash off most of the stink from last Monday. That it was done against an opponent near the top of their game was just as impressive as some of the tries themselves.
Not tonight. No, it wasn’t a perfect performance, the officiating was inconsistent and it would have been nice to score a try in the second half, but there was no bad to take out of this game.
Regardless of how the season finishes, there will be some spectacular moments that make the 2022 highlight reel worth watching for years to come. Just about every Eels try tonight deserves to make the cut, but the offload-a-thon finished by Maika Sivo will be very hard to top for try of the year.
The statistics for the match prove two points: the Roosters played pretty well, and the Eels dominated them. It feels like we say this far too often, but Parramatta would have put 50 on 8 or 9 other teams in the competition playing like this. That average set distance number is something I’ve never seen so one-sided.
For the numbers inclined:
Possession: Eels 54%, Roosters 46%
Metres: Eels 1,916, Roosters 1,465
Average set distance: Eels 47.9 metres, Roosters 35.8
Tackles made: Eels 302, Roosters 411
Missed tackles: Eels 46, Roosters 31
Penalties conceded: Eels and Roosters 8 each
This feels like the kind of week to do something soppy and say “the whole team is the MVP today” and take everyone to Maccas for Happy Meals, but Junior Paulo isn’t one for saccharine gestures and demanded selection as the sole MVP with a huge performance. He will undoubtedly celebrate by eating a whole chicken in the sheds and sharing none with his teammates.
While it was a career yardage night for Junior, what impressed me is the opposition he did it against and the method of his dominance. He wasn’t throwing a lot of offloads and was relatively quiet as a distributor, he just put the head down and barrelled through the opposing pack relentlessly and remorselessly. It was a true captain’s knock. You da MVP, Mr. Bow-low.
1 – Fullback
Long live the King! After a tough few rounds of winter Clint Gutherson delivered prosperity to his kingdom once more, ever-dangerous in attack and a dependable last line of defence. That tackle on Angus Crichton was a ripper, and it took a stellar defensive effort to deny Bailey Simonsson after Gutherson pulled off a beautiful dummy. Tonight was vintage King.
2 – Left Wing
Welcome back Bula. While the steamroller ran out of gas in the second half and was chopped down close to the line a few times, he delivered some brutal charges on kick returns when given a touch of room and most importantly, he has his confidence back. I don’t remember a time when fans chanted a player’s name without them scoring a try, but that was the kind of night Maika Sivo had running the ball.
3 – Right Centre
It was either a Roosters strategy or his mate Joseph Suaalii having a giggle and telling Trent Robinson “run at my boy all night, he can’t take it”, but Will Penisini made double the number of tackles as the rest of the three-quarter line combined tonight. That didn’t blunt his attacking output, he was second to Ryan Matterson in total offloads, but for a young player his work without the ball is simply phenomenal.
4 – Left Centre
Where Penisini is the defensive machine, Waqa Blake is the metre eater, making good yardage out of our end on tough carries. The modern “Penrith” style requires outside backs that can take the load off on early tackles, and Waqa has taken to that role like Brad Arthur to Mount Franklin. It’d be nice if he didn’t miss so many tackles, but I’m not going to be picky this week.
5 – Right Wing
There was nothing really wrong with Bailey Simonsson’s effort tonight, he just didn’t shine as brightly as his backline partners. His ruck work was a step below Sivo and Blake and he didn’t manage to ice what was admittedly a difficult chance, but he didn’t do much wrong either. Maybe we should loan him to every club in the NRL next year, so every week becomes a revenge game.
6 – Five Eighth
Dylan Brown was the dominant playmaker tonight, as the second half turned into that kind of game where hard running and gaps around the edge of the ruck were favoured over spreads and structure. His pass on “that try” was a ripper and his support play was, as usual, excellent. Special highlight to some of his second half tackles on big men, where the Roosters asked a lot of questions and Dylbags had all the answers.
7 – Halfback
Mitchell Moses had his running shoes on tonight, including a beautiful last tackle short-side dart that showcased everything good about his game: vision, speed and footwork. On a night where the Eels won the game through second half field position, his kicking was a notch above his opposites, and his defensive efforts were outstanding. A complete performance from the Prince of Egypt.
8 – Front Row
I love it when a player “takes it personal” and all the talk about Reagan Campbell-Gillard being dropped from Origin 2 was indeed taken very personal by the Moustachioed Monolith. He cracked 200 metres, was busy over big minutes and I’d say any other week this was an A+ performance, but his captain and partner in crime went absolutely HAM and I need a distinction between the two.
9 – Hooker
It was a busy night for Reed Mahoney, when offloads were flowing like wine he was usually the beneficiary and, except for one ugly miss, he was on the spot and distributed off the second phase play quickly and cleanly. He still threw a few too many crash plays for my liking and missed a couple of open side opportunities, but his kicking, support play and defence was outstanding.
10 – Front Row
I could just give a collective A+ grade to the whole forward pack, but that would mean needing to create another grade above that to properly credit the game Junior Paulo played against the Roosters. He played big minutes and was busy for every one of them, running for a career best (according to the commentary team) 229 metres, breaking 4 tackles and making 27 of his own. Junior was relentless, a man on a mission, I hope he can bottle this and unleash it every week for the rest of the year.
11 – Second Row
Tonight the Tall Glass of Water was a $12 carafe of sparkling at a restaurant that makes you wear a tie, delivering perhaps his best performance in the Blue & Gold jersey. The offloads were unstoppable, the line running impeccable and the workrate beyond what I thought he was capable of. Shaun Lane was the focal point of that left edge attacking tonight and it proved to be a coaching masterstroke. Long live Good Shaun Lane.
13 – Second Row
Ice looked like an NFL running back when he got low and threw the shoulder into James Tedesco on his way to a barnstorming try. He was at his tackle breaking best here, but on the edge he wasn’t as busy in attack as we’ve come to expect and he fell off a few too many tackles. I like this build of the Parramatta forward pack a lot, so if we can find a way to keep Papa involved and he can remain this devastating with the ball, it will be a long night for any opposition.
15 – Lock
Ryan Matterson was a cheat code tonight, able to break the laws of physics to offload out of any tackle and possessing the psychic vision to know exactly where his support players stood. Flick offloads, standing offloads, falling offloads, offloads that seemed to phase through the tackler’s bodies, it was all on display from the Adonis of O’Connell Street who capped it all off by signing a new four-year deal. If we get this most weeks, Matterson’s new contract will be a steal.
14 – Interchange
It was a night for the big names to shine, which meant Big Mak got a measly seven minutes as the Eels Origin reps went on a stampede. It wasn’t a brilliant seven minutes, but with a rest week next week I think I’d prefer the 55th minutes of Junior and Reg over the 10th minute of Maka. No offence to the Mak, he’s just not on the level of those big guns.
12 – Interchange
Simba’s involvement tonight was much more during the “brutal slog” part of the game than the free-flowing, 2001-Eels attacking part, but he was strong in yardage and defence, and unlike last week he wasn’t overused on crash plays off the half that stifle backline movements. In this team, the bench is his best spot.
16 – Interchange
Big Country has firmly established his position above Makatoa in the forward pecking order, getting a solid 32 minutes where he was busy and strong in attack but managed to miss 3 of his 14 tackle attempts. In a game where his fellow props were a tough act to follow, Oregon Kaufusi held the line. Good job.
17 – Interchange
I should go easy on Hot Rod given he only played three minutes, but when you get belted so hard you lose the ball in the 79th minute, as the fresh man on the field, well let’s put it down to over-exuberance. We’ll see better from him in the future.
Let’s check in with how former grades-master Mitch is doing:
Yeah, that’s about right. While this win doesn’t prove the Eels are over the weakness that saw “last week” happen, that shouldn’t stop you enjoying what was a cracking performance against top-line opposition. You have our permission to have complicated feelings about the Parramatta Eels, the only thing black and white in the NRL is a Magpies jersey and you can feel like you support both a premiership contender that can beat anybody on their day and a team that could lose to anybody at any time.
My favourite part of the win was how it was done in a completely different way to other big wins this year. Sure it came off the back of excellence in the middle, but the free offloading, the halves targeting slow cover defence with inside balls and sharp line running, it was a very different win to the one over Penrith or Melbourne. Remember this one when you want to call for Brad Arthur to be sacked after the next loss, this was a masterstroke of coaching as well as excellence in performance.
Enjoy another week off for representative football, as we return fresh for an intense run to the finals and the first Eels premiership in far too long.
Until next time, stay slippery Eels fans.
Stats and images provided by NRL