The Cumberland Throw

Post Game Grades – Round 20 vs Panthers


Parramatta Eels 34

Penrith Panthers 10

The record book cares little for circumstance, and the record book will show the Parramatta Eels just gave the defending premiers and the class team of the last three seasons their worst beating since 2019. The Eels now account for 50% of Panthers non-Origin impacted losses since 2020. Sorry Tigers and Sharks, your wins against reserve grade teams last year don’t count.

The crowd was buzzing, the early footy was free flowing and most encouragingly, two of the more maligned Eels in Reed Mahoney and Clint Gutherson had great nights. Long may the Panthers’ Eels curse continue!

You’re a hard marker if the first thing you say after that game was “gee we could have been better in the second half”, but that’s just the kind of fanbase Parramatta has after 30-odd years of disappointment. A half century would have been nice but Penrith are the class of the competition for a reason and they dug in hard for the second forty.

Just because a win is secured at half-time doesn’t make it a disappointment if we don’t go on with the job. While the circumstances of Cleary being sent off mean this beating won’t mean much for premiership chances come September, it’s a crucial win that most fans would not have booked in looking at our run home.

The opposition halfback being sent from the field 20 minutes in is about as X-factor as you can get in a game, and credit to the Eels for really going on with it when presented the advantage. By the time coach Ivan Cleary could get his team in the sheds and galvanise them the game was over, if the Panthers could have held on in that first half it would have been a nervous second forty.

In saying that, I’d love to have seen if Parramatta could go on with the job had Cleary stayed on the field. They were cutting the Panthers apart after the first try and it wasn’t like those first half Eels tries after Cleary was marched were stripping Penrith for numbers and taking advantage of an overlap, it was offloads, cheeky work from dummy half and middle dominance. 

For the numbers inclined:

Possession: Eels 55%, Panthers 45%
Completions: Eels 36/43 (83%), Panthers 33/36 (91%)
Run metres: Eels 1,980, Panthers 1,720
Offloads: Eels 18, Panthers 6
40/20s: Eels 2, Panthers 0
Tackles made: Panthers 384, Eels 319
Ineffective tackles: Panthers 30, Eels 8
Send offs: Eels 0, Panthers 1

Probably the toughest pick of the year thus far, at least in a win. I’m going to go with Isaiah Papali’i, who scored a crucial try and made some bullocking charges. The tiebreaker over Shaun Lane and Reed Mahoney is the hope that adding another TCT MVP to his shelf is what tips him over the edge and makes him politely demand the Tigers tear up his contract. If it happens, you know who to thank. You da MVP Papa, now do the right thing and sook your way out of an otherwise binding contract.





Clint Gutherson

1 – Fullback

Solid night at the back for the King, who did well to shut down that early kick from Penrith that had me thinking it would be a long night for the Eels defence. That didn’t eventuate, but Clint Gutherson was busy around the ruck, solid under kicks and even did some tough yardage work from dummy half. More of this please, your majesty.


Maika Sivo

2 – Left Wing

Maika Sivo went two of three on corner bargeovers, probably down on his career strike rate but more than enough to get the job done here. It’s a cruisy job for the big Fijian; catch the ball, run a bit, soak in 26,000 people chanting your name. I bet Penrith wish he was their reserve winger instead of Charlie Staines right now.


Will Penisini

3 – Right Centre

Standard Will Penisini B+ here, a lot of decent tackling, some good attacking work and one ordinary defensive read. Not much more to say, really.


Waqa Blake

4 – Right Wing

Waqa Blake returned to the wing and whilst he didn’t have the “wow, I like Waqa now” energy of his earlier wing stint he was relatively solid in an unusual kind of game. Bailey Simonsson is out for a few weeks so we’ll get to see Waqa: Wing Edition tested a bit more in the coming rounds. He and Tom Opacic only need to be solid in their roles to make it very tough for Simonsson to come back into the team.


Tom Opacic

21 – Left Centre

At the post-game TCT meetup, all anybody could talk about was how much they liked Tom Opacic. “It’s a shame we didn’t keep him”, “he’s always so good when he comes in”, “he’s such a good defender”. I might hold off the heart wrenching demonstrations of regret until I see how much our edge defence improves when playing a 13-man side, but for tonight at least we looked a better side with Tom at centre.


Dylan Brown

6 – Five Eighth

When this game was 13 on 13, Dylan Brown was the difference. He combined skill with vision on the beautiful pass for Sivo’s first, and was pinpoint with his kick for Papali’i’s try. That kick was a peach, placed perfectly for the Parramatta chase and exploiting the Panthers habit of blocking runners by aiming the kick right behind the back rowers. Brad Arthur wears plenty of criticism, but his gameplans against Penrith are works of art worthy of preservation in the Louvre.


Mitch Moses

7 – Halfback

Speaking of works of art, that first 40/20 from Mitchell Moses warmed my heart like looking into the eyes of a newborn for the first time. The distance, the bounce, the placement, it was a perfect response to the tough opening exchanges. From there it was perfect grinding football from Moses; forced dropouts, working the team through the middle and a second 40/20 for good measure. His tormenting of Viliame Kikau by throwing numbers and inside runners at him all night was another great example of an Eels plan that we too often don’t seem to have.



8 – Front Row

The Reg-venge game went exactly to plan for the NSW outcast, who got a huge 57 minutes despite the dominance of the Eels. Reg must have given Brad Arthur the hard stare at halftime when told he could take a rest. Those big minutes translated to big metres, damaging runs and a few tackles busts for good measure. Show those young punks who’s boss, Reg.


Reed Mahoney

9 – Hooker

It figures that Reed Mahoney would cap his best game of the year by getting injured, but hopefully things aren’t too serious for Taking the Cash. His wrap around on Paulo for the offload was exactly the kind of support play we want to see close to the line, and his opportunistic dart for his second showed the kind of vision we don’t always see from Reed. He’s still bouncing off a few too many tackles for my liking, but tonight Reed was a difference maker. Just stop kicking, please.


Junior Paulo

10 – Front Row

Junior Paulo continues to be the sizzle in our front row combination, putting on the offload for Reed and making some important charges, but a couple of reliability issues held him back in the grades this week with another handling error and a few missed tackles. I’d reckon he enjoyed a night running downhill against this tough Panthers pack after a few real grinders against the mountain men in recent years.


Shaun Lane

11 – Second Row

The House of Lane continued its tyrannical rule over the NRL this week, despite showing a few signs of fatigue. He topped the Eels tackle count without miss, a stat I am going to confirm as a first without in any way attempting to verify, he made huge metres and once again looked the man most likely. Every time he touches the ball it looks like something good will happen, but it is that defensive commitment I am most pleased with.


Isaiah Papali’i

12 – Second Row

The Parramatta back row combination has quietly gone about being the best in the competition, with Isaiah Papali’i playing the dual role of try scoring extraordinaire and workhorse, making tough metres and brushing defenders off every second run. He certainly earned his four minute early mark tonight, a rare show of mercy from Brad Arthur that might indicate he regrets driving Ice like a loaner now that a buyback scheme might become available.


Ryan Matterson

13 – Lock

It wasn’t quite back to vintage Ryan Matterson, but the Adonis of O’Connell Street certainly took on a hearty workload and looked plenty dangerous in attack. He’s warming into his distributor role and while he isn’t quite Isaah Yeo in that position just yet, he does plenty that the Panthers lock and positional pinnacle can’t.


Maka Makatoa

14 – Interchange

Brad Arthur bristled when asked in the press conference about his bench usage, but the 13 minutes Makahesi Makatoa got in a game that was over by halftime doesn’t do him any favours in front of judge Twitter and the Facebook jury. Maka had one strong inside chase close to the line that I marked as a really nice defensive effort, but he had a couple of ineffective tackles too and barely got the ball in attack. He’ll be hoping Manly can’t get their act together and release Martin Taupau, that’s for sure.


Bryce Cartwright

15 – Interchange

How do you feel when the game is over by halftime yet the coach still only gives you a token run at the end of the game? The Carty Party isn’t the type of player you want out there to defend a lead, sure, but this doesn’t bode well for Bryce Cartwright being the one to break the Parramatta utility curse. He didn’t overplay his hand and did little wrong.


Oregon Kaufusi

16 – Interchange

A decent stint for Oregon Kaufusi, who did nothing wrong but little of note in his 27 minutes on the field. It is getting hard to fill these Oregon grades comments, so maybe next week I’ll start using this space to test out my original short fiction. You’ll love it, trust me.


Marata Niukore

17 – Interchange

This ain’t the way to use the Little Lion Man, who had two short stints but did little of that hard impact running that gets fans demanding he play centre every couple of weeks. He’s been back long enough that the rust should be well and truly run off, but there is a way to use Marata Niukore effectively that the Eels are yet to tap into in 2022.

It was a wonderful night and a good win, so make sure you sit back and enjoy it a bit. Sure it might not make much difference to the premiership race and Panthers fans can run out excuses all night long, but “look at the scoreboard” is an irrefutable argument and last night the scoreboard was decisive.

Next week presents the most unpredictable game of the season as the Eels travel to Manly for another chapter in the age-old rivalry. Will Manly be galvanised or torn apart by the drama of the last week? Which Parramatta will show up? Will Martin Taupau be in Blue and Gold or Maroon and White? How long can I stand Dan Ginnane before muting the TV? There’s a long way to go in season 2022, and the Parramatta Eels are right in the thick of it.

Until next time, stay slippery Eels fans.


Stats and images provided by NRL

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Good marking as usual Gol, thought Lane was good and the Waqa shift to wing went well. I believe the Cleary incident aside we would still have won on the night, Moses kicking first half was spot on

Last edited 10 days ago by Johnno
John Eel

In a sense I am disappointed that Cleary was sent off. However I am happy for the two points and the improvement in our for and against.

I would prefer to get them at full strength to better gauge our performance last night. Like Johnno above I believe we had them covered without the sendoff.

Gol love your line about Staines and Sivo.

Best game Mahoney has played all season. Ice just keeps giving.

Brett Allen

News just in that Mitch Moses is out for 4 weeks with a broken finger

Chris K

Not a thumbs down to you – but a thumbs down to the news 🙁

Brett Allen

Lol, yeah


Gol, when I read your pregame report I gained the visual impression of a Crest fallen man who it seems has wasted his football supporting life. It was really quite negative but, I get it. When they lose like they did last week football is finished for the the week with me, I won’t touch it.. In saying that, upon reflection, Brisbane had a lot of football luck which in my experience can be somewhat hard to get past. Anyway, after reading your report I tipped the Eels to win. Old Parra fan who rely on the paradox of illogical… Read more »


So much that you said resonates Zero. The football Gods were incredibly kind to the Broncos last week. The bounce of the ball, the stray Eels arms and legs that deflected plenty their way – I wouldn’t give the Eels an excuse last week because they didn’t deserve it but by the same token absolutely everything went against them. I am absolutely on board about the second half, and we saw an example about a team being down to 12 lifting in the curtain raiser. The Panthers needed that late field goal to overcome a gritty 12 man Eels team… Read more »


Thank you for being one of the few positive Eels fans about this win as most I’ve seen from the “fans” have been negativity about the 2nd half. Like seriously we beat the premiers by 20 and everyone wants to complain. Get a grip


The players themselves were disappointed with their second half performance. Yes we beat the best team in the comp, however we took the foot off the throat, we are not ruthless.

Longfin Eel

Penrith very good in the second half. They are not 8 points out in front for nothing. We did very well to just keep them at bay in the second half. In the end Penrith were never in this game, which is massive for us.


Absolutely spot on Longfin.


Couldn’t agree more


Great read Gol.
So glad to read these grades this week. Certainly glad it wasn’t like last week.
Thanks again


Tks Gol, I thought Ice and Dylan Brown had great games. Shaun Lane too, credit to Penrith for not letting his running and potential passing deliver some killer breaks. How many times were defenders hanging off him but the next man hindered the pass, back in the day Lane would have slipped the low percentage pass and incurred an error. Good discipline. Stat wise, Penrith played an almost perfect second half, and we gave up a few errors/penalties. Lane got pinged for slow release when he had actually untangled himself, the ref thought his long limbs were still hindering, we… Read more »


The Fox commentary is declining badly and Ginnane is the worst. I actually turned to 9 and stayed there when I realised Gus wasn’t on. Most enjoyable. Go Parra.


Spot on about Ginnane.

Parra Pete

Can’t stand the way Ginnane calls the game….
Bloody annoying, over the top. “Gee whizz, look at that!!!”….


Good win, and I potentially damaged a few muscles exuberantly celebrating it. The first half felt the opposite of last week, balls were bouncing our way, and we just seemed to be running down hill the whole time. Moses was on fire with his kicking, Paulo was running harder and Gutho was a mistake free zone. Penrith were good in the second half, but I think it was because of their effort and line speed in defence. Whereas we lost a lot of intensity, slowed down and look gassed. It made no sense given we were flogging a 12 man… Read more »

greg okladnikov

Great grades again Gol, and good to meet you last night. My observations – 1.when our mindset is right, and up for the contest, we can beat anyone 2.Opacic seems to stop people doing bad reads in defence – not sure if the stats support it but we just look better defensively with him in the centres, and Waqa on the wing 3.Junior playing a power game first seems to make the team better 4.How RCG didnt get picked for Origin is crazy – brings a lot of speed to those hitups – not sure what Freddy was looking at… Read more »


Thanks for being there on Friday night Greg. I agree with every point, especially about being right with my prediction. Mitch has now declared that I’ve guaranteed that he is gone by making such a prediction.


Hard to find faults But I will the 2nd half we obviously dropped intensity I wasn’t happy about that when a team is down to 12 don’t go around go through them work over the middle and edges then the space comes we were guilty of being to flashy like we do in those expect to win games that we loose. Overall very happy. Hoping the Tapau deal happens and he adds a bit of something to the bench that we are lacking. Big 4 weeks coming up for BA and JA hopefully Mitch gets the finger sorted and gets… Read more »


Offside some valid points but Penrith did aim up well in the second half and got some more ball. Tapau will be interesting to be honest and i hope we can get some more muscle in the pack. News around that we are sniffing elsewhere too. Next month will be make or break I think as if we can get 3 wins and gain a top 5 spot then all good but if we falter then it will be interesting times. For me the entire spine need to be v good over the next month and this starts with Mahoney… Read more »


Thanks Gol – can’t fault anything here.
Onwards to Brooky for me and this is one we need to win, its simple. The team needs to be playing semi final type footy now for me and the spine needs to be at their best.
I liked Opacic in the centre and Blake to the wing. I think this is our better option for the year.
I also think we need to be up tempo early on next week as Manly will be out for some pride revenge!!

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