How much do we love celebrating the very occasional try scoring feats of our favourite moustachioed prop, Reagan Campbell-Gillard? Big Reg was in the thick of the action today, running great lines and backing up offloads.
The reward for his efforts? A try scoring double. The disappointment? No extravagant celebrations. It almost seemed like business as usual, though I’d expect an NRL double to be enjoyed much more.
It’s a Friday, in January, so that means that there are two certainties in the training life of Eels players.
First on the agenda is the much loved M runs. If you’re Clint Gutherson, Jake Arthur or Jayden Yates, you get them done in your sleep. So no surprise to see them leading the groups in today.
More importantly, a Friday at this time of year usually delivers full contact opposed work. On arrival, the sight of the squad warming up in jerseys, with NRL referees Kasey Badger and Phil Henderson going through their paces, was a positive indicator of what was in store.
Regular readers of my training reports over the years know that I’m full of admiration for the fitness and work ethic of the whistle blowers. From a conditioning perspective they can keep pace with NRL squads and over the years I’ve spoken with a number of them who have said that refereeing such sessions is some of the best preparation that they can do for the season.
Most of today’s opposed was contrived red zone attack and defence. The NRL (Blue team) were the first to get an extended period in possession, with the Cup side (White Jerseys) defending for around 15 minutes.
There was a mixture of structured and unstructured attack. That meant that some players occasionally chanced their arm, and to be fair there was a bit of dropped ball or a turnover associated with that.
However, what was apparent was the ever evolving combinations that include Hodgson and Hopgood. The more their team mates become familiar with them, the better the attack looks.
Possession was then swapped with the Cup team getting their extended period with the ball. They had a couple of moments when they genuinely tested their NRL counterparts, something that should be expected with unlimited attack.
Ryan Matterson was filling a space for the Cup team, and it looked to be in the halves as he was putting on a show with his kicking game. He seemed to be enjoying the high involvement.
In attack, RCG provided one highlight with a rampaging support run that resulted in him crossing for a try. In defence, Jake Arthur provided the other with a spectacular driving tackle.
The final 15-20 minutes switched to full field opposed, and any dropped ball almost disappeared as both teams looked to complete their sets.
RCG continued his try scoring mode, this time backing up some sharp interplay between Moses and Hopgood in the red zone.
Big prop Tevita Taumoepenu was one of the best for the Cup team, with his charges into the ruck proving a handful to contain. He had a bit of a lower grade break out season last year and I hope he can continue the momentum in 2023.
The final try of the morning from Will Penisini came on the back of a long break on the right involving Moses, Will and Haze Dunster. It also featured outstanding defence from Zac Cini playing fullback. Somehow Cini forced every player to pass and stayed alive in his chase, eventually making the tackle.
Unfortunately for Zac, Will got into dummy half and used his pace and evasiveness to get around a short defence line to cross in the right corner. Cini’s efforts deserved a much better outcome and time was called soon after Will touched down.
Just two weeks remain till the first trial. Can you hear that whistle blowing yet?