Parramatta Eels 40
Canberra Raiders 4
The Parramatta Eels are alive in the third week of the finals. It’s been a journey (as we’ve been constantly reminded of during the last week), but a grand final appearance is only one win away. I’d forgotten just how exciting it all is, and haven’t been able to wipe the grin off my face since Friday night.
It was a complete, dominant performance, the Eels at their absolute best. The forwards were rolling, the spine creative and the footy free-flowing and aggressive. From the opening stages Canberra didn’t stand a chance, and while the next two weeks are going to be much tougher I am full of confidence about the Parramatta premiership chances after that win.
Parramatta’s long run of good health might be at an unfortunately timed end, as Tom Opacic went down with a hamstring complaint. Rare is the one-week hamstring injury, so it looks like a reshuffle of the Eels edge defence is on the cards, right when it has found its groove.
I’m convinced the NRL stat counters just started winding the dials with every Parramatta run by the second half, because these metres numbers are unbelievable. Canberra never had a shot in this one, they were dominated and frustrated out of the contest, barely getting a chance in good ball and requiring some freak individual skills just to get on the board at all.
For the numbers inclined:
Possession: Eels 59%, Raiders 41%
Completions: Eels 34/44 (77%), Raiders 25/36 (69%)
Run metres: Eels 2,396, Raiders 1,623
Tackle breaks: Eels 47, Raiders 25
Average set distance: Eels 54.5m, Raiders 45.1m
Offloads: Eels 19, Raiders 9
Forced dropouts: Eels 3, Raiders 0
Bombs: Raiders 8, Eels 0
Bombs to Waqa Blake: Eels 1, Raiders 0
Tackles: Raiders 367, Eels 258
Ineffective tackles: Raiders 39, Eels 15
Mad Monday’s: Raiders 1, Eels 0
I’m saving my one “the whole team is MVP” soppy moment for the grand final win, so tonight Dylan Brown gets to claim sole ownership of the TCT grades MVP. Maybe he hates vikings, or the colour green, or just Ricky Stuart, but Dylan has played his best football this year against the Raiders and in this one he was exceptional. Bonus marks for his honest response about the forward pass call. You da MVP, Dyl.
1 – Fullback
This performance was vintage King Gutho, complete with those beautiful cutout passes to unlock the edge and yet another crucial trysaver. It turned out Ricky Stuart’s pronouncement of his plan to attack Waqa Blake was a clever ruse to hide kicking it to Gutherson all night, but the captain was on and handled (nearly) everything sent his way with ease.
2 – Left Wing
I don’t know if professor Sivo hit the books during his injury layoff, but he’s come back a more complete footballer than the man whose first, second and third plan was to run over his opposite. I’d say his sound defensive performances are my favourite part, but I’d be a bold faced liar. Give me those fends all day every day.
3 – Right Centre
The Raiders gave Will Penisini some space and the young gun didn’t need a second invitation, piercing the line to open scoring and remaining dangerous throughout. He led the Eels in tackle breaks and made more tackles (23) than the rest of the players one through six combined (21). He hasn’t always shined this year, but the man of unspeakable nicknames has handled everything thrown at him in 2022.
4 – Left Centre
How nice was it to see another team’s fullback eat an embarrassing bounce of the ball for a change? While poor Xavier Savage got a lesson in why you attack the ball, Tom Opacic was on the spot to capitalise and begin the rout. Unfortunately his night was cut short with a hamstring injury, so the Eels will be dusting off the hyperbaric chamber and busting out the experimental treatments all weekend to make sure we don’t have to break the one defensive backline combination that has worked this season.
5 – Right Wing
As somebody who wakes up in cold sweats at the thought of the time I spent a half hour of a third grade lunchtime with a dot of tomato sauce on my nose, I’m incredibly jealous of Waqa Blake’s ability to let embarrassment go and bounce back from last week. Better teams will test him, but this weekend Waqa was at his devastating best.
6 – Five Eighth
While I am deeply suspicious of the 321 metres that NRL.com says Dylan Brown ran for on Friday night, I don’t blame the stats boffins for losing their heads trying to describe how good Dylbags was. This was his side, he threw more passes than Moses and Gutherson combined, and nearly out-touched their combined total too. He found acres of space to roam on the edge, was involved in just about everything good that the Eels did and he delivered a brilliant response to a self-admitted quiet performance the week before.
7 – Halfback
Mitch perfectly timed the delivery of his annual reminder that yeah, he’s got a bit of toe about him, scoring a ripping try in the corner when finding open field. I’m glad he survived Jack Wighton’s weekly reminder that he’s a bit of a grub, and love that the halfback wants to be back out there for the closing stages of a hiding even if an HIA he eventually passed was as good an excuse as any for an early mark. He let Dylan run the show this week, but next week I reckon it will be his game.
8 – Front Row
Big Reg wasn’t too happy about what happened last week, and took it out on the Raiders pack to the tune of nearly 200 metres. From the opening set this game was all Parramatta, and that was largely thanks to our big men stepping up and shutting down the in-form Canberra front row. He even threw more passes than Junior Paulo, perhaps adding another wrinkle to the finals gameplan.
9 – Hooker
Reed played like a man who knew it might be his last night behind elite forwards for a long time, and while he gets at least one more week of that I’m wishing he’d found his rhythm in unlocking our sweeping passing game earlier this season. The side-to-side movement that cut the Raiders apart started at the ruck, and finally we started to see clever ballplaying off of crash ball (such as the Junior try) rather than just trying to barge through the middle. If he’s on like this for two more weeks, I might just miss the little imp when he goes.
10 – Front Row
Sometimes it is easy to get complacent and take for granted just how incredible the skillset of Junior Paulo is. The passing game, the offloads, the hit-and-spin and elite support play were all on display in this one, and his former club had no answers. Not bad from a man who is so massive he forced the NRL photographer to use an ultra-wide lens for the captain’s photos.
11 – Second Row
Remember when we had worries about Shaun Lane’s fitness? Those silly, innocent times. Now he’s running 200 metres for fun, sticking in his tackles and still finding ways to unlock the edge attack with his line running and offloads. I’ve seen his name come up for Australian selection a few times in recent weeks and I want it known by everybody on the bandwagon: I’ve always loved Shaun Lane.
12 – Second Row
Ice’s motor shows no sign of burning out despite his heavy use this season, as he once again led the forwards in metres while finishing second only to Reed in tackle count. He’s going to be very difficult to replace next season, for the Tigers.
13 – Interchange
Ryan Matterson got to show off those soft hands that made him a half through junior footy as he held up the line and put Junior Paulo over with a beautiful ball. Luckily he’s also embraced the fact he is a massive unit and barged his way through the Raiders defence all night long. I love the mixture of skills we have in this pack right now.
14 – Interchange
Good grades all round today, and while Makatoa’s stint was short he did manage an impressive post to pre contact metres ratio with 32 of his 52 metres coming after contact. We’ve had our cry about his usage, now it’s time to just enjoy the ride.
15 – Interchange
Like anybody unfortunate enough to tune in to Fox League at 6:30 on a weeknight, Jake Arthur has had to cop a lot of idiots talking crap all year. It’s nice to see him get one back after being thrown into the fire against the defending premiers last week. If anybody you know is still whinging about Jake after we secured our first preliminary final since iPhones were a thing then you need to find better company.
16 – Interchange
Oregon Kaufusi is going to be the answer to the trick question in all Parramatta Eels trivia over the next decade: “which player had the longest streak of A grades on TCT during the Eels 2022 premiership campaign?”. He hasn’t got the ceiling of his fellow forwards, but he’s doing a strong job in the current rotation after the bench was a real weakness for much of the year.
17 – Lock
Simba once again showed his versatility, being the man on the spot to finish a brace at centre after continuing his good form as a starting battering ram. There is something about a man that puts his head down to charge into the line that is beautiful to watch. We’ll see if he needs to make another cameo out wide next week, but for now his use as a middle is a masterstroke.
Breaking through week two is nice, but it is pretty clear that the Eels aren’t going to be satisfied with just “one better”. Brad Arthur and his side are focused and determined, and they’ll need every bit of that for the toughest road trip in the NRL this weekend. It’ll be steamy and the Cowboys will be well rested and fired up, but our first grand final in 13 years is only one win away.
While the players and coach can’t get ahead of themselves, us fans can sit back and really soak it all in. When you win like this it’s easy to ignore yet another petty campaign to stir discontent and endless recycled and overblown garbage about finals win records (half of Brad Arthur’s finals losses have come against the eventual premiers). It’s tough, but just try and be happy this week.
Until next time, stay slippery Eels fans.
Stats and images provided by NRL
Good write up as usual Gol but, what the heck, just give the team an A+. More of the same this week please and especially the week after!!!
Great write up. I enjoyed the comment about the Tigers missing Ice. Haha
Can’t say enough positive things really. Maybe one thing I’ve not picked out. Maika just looks like a solid footy player all round now. Particularly good under the high ball for a bloke you wouldn’t think is.
I hope we send Todd Payten sooking into the offseason. Professional whinger in press conferences so it would be good to stick it to him.
Hey Gol, what grade did you give the ref? I thought raiders were offside most of the night
Not a whinge, just a laugh, but did you see Tapine leave early off his own goal line and was so far offside he actually saved Klein whistling by slowing up like ‘ geez what am I doing here’.
Just one concern with Reed mahoney, some of his passes from dummy half really flat and I think I thought he might of got called on a couple that were really borderline the other night. I know most dummy half’s are the same but if anyone’s going to het done for it , it will be the eels
I fear that too Dave…I noticed 1 or 2 live at the game but savoring the replay yesterday I reckon I saw a few more.
I have to admit to falling out of love with Lane last year, but Lane v2022 has stolen it back. Actually, it might be Dylane that I love – their combo is awesome.
Either way, just keep loving them! 😁
Hey Gol, I wanna grade for the coach after that performance, it’s just not good enough that you don’t give one!
(For those in doubt, tongue firmly in cheek)
Why not stop at the coach? Assistant coaches, trainers and everyone on the staff should be graded. And the ball boys/girls especially. They are never held accountable! Grade them all!
A real team effort. Just gotta do it two more times.
Better, much better, but can still be better. We really lost our way when Mitch went off. That was on DB & Gutho.
How good was that!! Fabulous team effort, no weak links. And a change change up to the tactics, I think that put the Raiders off tilt and they never recovered. The Raiders came expecting the usual focus on the middle and the Eels shifted them around the park all night. So good seeing brown/moses/gutho linking up – they shredded the faders. The Eels had multiple points of attack and nil bombs – such a different style. Good on BA for keeping that sort of attacking option ready for the finals. Not easy going to Townsville, Cowboys will be favourites. But… Read more »
Good analysis DDay.
Do you think Matto should take on more of a Issah Yeo type role? His pass for Junior’s try was fantastic.
Interesting question. The Eels were a different beast on Friday because of the variation in attack IMO. So yes, if Matto can add to that so much the better, as you mentioned that pass was delivered from lovely soft hands.
Expect better defence from the cowboys but if the Eels run straight with the support we saw Friday they’ll be too good.
If he can it and is used selectively will make even more dangerous especially close to the line. I also like Brown switching to Moses’ side as per the Waqa try.
Loved the game, like your grades but imo March Moses was A+. Notice how less effective the Eels were when he was off the field for 15 minutes
Mitch! Predictive text!
March Hoses had a great game! Defo A+.
He was outstanding
Gol not sure how you hand out those grades and give Mitch an A- compared to the others.
Further you gave Jake an A- as well. That would indicate that Jakes contribution was equal to Mitch. I like Jake but I think that is a bit of a stretch.
Anyway I laughed out loud to the Mad Monday comment. Enjoy your work.
Jake hardly played and was definitely not an A-. He held his own and that was it.
One thing I like this week is that we asked alot of questions on almost every tackle, we have always been very predictable attacking in general but especially attacking in the red zones, but this week instead of the first 4 tackles being uninspiring hitups, every single tackle in the set had potential too be anything one of the halves running it on the 2nd tackle, a sweeping movement to either of the edges on tackle 3, or a forward trying to find a gap somewhere in the line, it keeps the defense guessing and has been a big factor… Read more »
I don’t know how you thought that Moses let Brown run the game. They were both dominant. Gutherson, Moses and Brown were all A+ to me.
I agree that he passed the ball more and ran 246 metres, but Moses doubled Browns tackle count, still controlled the game with his kicks, was off for 15 minutes and we lost our attack in that time.
On the point of him missing 15 minutes, He scored a try, got a try assist like Brown and got two dropouts. Moses ran the ball 19 times less and still clocked 90 metres. These are not small stats and show how big he was for us.
Just to add I definitely agree that Dylan Brown had a sensational game and I 100% agree with him getting an A+. I am proud of how far he has come and his running game and footy intelligence with his passes was on display against the Raiders.
LMAOOO so you reckon Moses and JA performed at the same level?
I don’t mean to be harsh but some of these sort of comments are daft…Gol gave everyone an “A” because the team won 40-4…it’s not that hard
Which doesn’t really make sense. It defeats the purpose of grades. A player should be graded for what they did. Gol is essentially implying that Moses was one of the weaker players in that performance when objectively, he clearly wasn’t. A try assist with a long left to right pass, try, two forced drop outs, 14 tackles, line break and we played lesser in attack when he was off for 15 minutes. The Raiders even tried to target him and he still played on, but gets the same grade as a player who came on for 15 minutes and didn’t… Read more »
This guy gets it. It’s not science, it’s footy.
We won. Can we please just try and enjoy it.
Gol your grading are just silly
Great write up Gol.
Your unwavering support of Lane has been noted.
Great grades Gol.
A great team performance.
ICE Clearly doesn’t want September’s off.
Lane has realised his size is an advantage.
The bookends, Marta & Matto are hitting their straps.
Spine was great and back 5 digging in.
Just need to repeat twice more this year.
Townsville is about 28 to 30 degrees and humid at night. I really hope we can acclimatise in time.
I’m confident we will win.
Tks Gol, were you a teacher or student with the Fountain brand nose? How do we get all those A’s v the 3 other remaining teams. Panthers and Cows have been cutting time and space in most games and Souths seemed to have joined the party as well. Dylan had a 4 last week but a 9 this week because he had far more freedom. It would be great for us if the 10 mtrs got a little scrutiny but unlikely, so we’ve got to create the time and space ourselves.
Thanks Gol, fair summations and I don’t particularly care about the grades in semis, just the result. I was glad when Mitch came back tbh. Different beast this week, and if we play again as a unit we will do it; what i noticed was our strong play early and start; we simply need to be ready again and go from the start. More pressure on them this week and tbh i am not as concerned. The Cows have done well but imo they have not had the tough draw as some other teams like us. I just hope we… Read more »
I would like to see wingers and fullbacks work in tandem a lot more on returns, also on a quick tap from the goal line.
If you have a look at the one penisini did.
He really got advanced up the field, but wanda blake was just far too lackadaisical to get there in time to support him if he had, if he could have could have run the length