Parramatta Eels 36
All good vibes tonight, baby! That was easily one of the five best Eels wins of the last decade, maybe longer. Against a table topping side, who had a six game flogging streak against us, playing with only two fresh men on the bench, to not just win but to run away with the victory is as incredible as it was unlikely.
We’ll see how it goes, but the bad news for Ryan Matterson is that there are few calf injuries that heal themselves in a week. It looks like Andrew Davey will be missing as well, but luckily the NSW Cup team put in a huge effort tonight as well so hopefully the next men up can do a job.
While there were flashes of brilliance, that wasn’t a game of individual sparks, that was good old fashioned team footy. Digging deep in defence when needed, sharing the load with the ball and fighting from kickoff to the final whistle. The three-quarter line put up Penrith-like yardage numbers, the starting front row are a rounding error away from cracking 200m each, the bench props put on 300m between them too.
For the numbers inclined, you’d better read all of this sitting down with a cold towel:
Possession: Eels 57%, Rabbitohs 43%
Completions: Eels 31/42 (73%), Rabbitohs 22/29 (75%)
Run metres: Eels 1,885, Rabbitohs 1,500
Post contact metres: Eels 573, Rabbitohs 402
Tackle breaks: Eels 32, Rabbitohs 21
Offloads: Eels 16, Rabbitohs 5
Tackles made: Eels 277, Rabbitohs 333
Ineffective tackles: Rabbitohs 28, Eels 9
Penalties conceded: Rabbitohs 6, Eels 1
Mitchell Moses might have had the try assists but Dylan Brown set up the key tries in this one. In the championship rounds Dylan was unstoppable, offloading, breaking the line, setting others up, putting in pinpoint kicks and to ice it all, he didn’t miss a single tackle. This was a grown-ass man performance in a huge match, and I savoured every second of it. You da MVP, Dyl.
1 – Fullback
Those looking for the scientific method in grades are going to be severely disappointed tonight, the stamp is stuck on A and I ain’t changing it. The King’s biggest moment was grounding a ball by stepping on it, the kind of freak occurrence on the football field that explains why the rugby league rule book is 11 pages long with 286 pages of NRL interpretations attached. Gutho is hardly orthodox, but we take the off beat to enjoy the excellent.
2 – Left Wing
Big brain game from Maika Sivo tonight, first to let the footy bounce off him while standing over the sideline to earn easy field position, then to let Liam Knight manhandle him and give away a penalty. He had some big, tough runs and South Sydney did well to defend him a couple of times, overall that’s the Maika I like-a to see.
3 – Right Centre
The man of unspeakable nicknames is starting to draw some attention for his attacking prowess, but his willingness to get in and make tough tackles is crucial in games like this one where the fatigue factor is pumped up thanks to injuries. He defended the South Sydney left edge as well as you can, and miles better than any Eels centre has in the last five years.
4 – Left Centre
I wish Bailey Simonsson could have told us he was a centre and not a winger back in the pre-season last year, because it’d have saved me from having to eat a whole lot of not-very-nice words I’ve said between then and now.
5 – Right Wing
Watching him step past and then power over Latrell Mitchell to score the opener turned out to be a real strong omen for how this one was going to go. For being thrown into the fire on that right defensive edge against the all-time left attack of Souths, I thought he was great.
6 – Five Eighth
I’ll scratch a plus in next to the stuck A stamp here, because watching Dylan Brown put the foot down and dominate at the end of this clash is how I imagine watching Michael Jordan on one of “those” nights would have felt like. When he decided it was time, everything Brown touched turned to gold. Good thing that there was an engraver on standby to scratch “Latrell Mitchell” off the Eric Simms medal, because Dylbags earned that bling tonight.
7 – Halfback
I’m not a big believer in any of that “you can tell how Mitch will go if he makes his first kick” stuff, but I do subscribe to the theory that when the Eels are tearing the short side apart they’re going to do well. That first try and conversion combination covered off both superstitions, and both came true, so we’re all right tonight. It was a huge game for Mitch, having a hand in almost every try and proving that the best way to win an arm wrestle is to kick the opponent until they submit.
8 – Front Row
Now that he’s had a breakout game on Friday Night Footy, it’s probably a good time to get to work on an extension for big Wiremu, hey guys? A lot was asked of Greig tonight and he had all the right answers. I hope he can convert this energy into some truly spectacular bench impact stints when Reg returns.
9 – Hooker
That first try started with Josh Hodgson and some quick work to go down the short side, so the maligned Englishman can justly be credited with starting the greatest Eels upset I can remember. Those kick pressures were a real turning point too, and something the Eels have often lacked in recent years.
10 – Front Row
A massive 73 minutes for Junior Paulo, who eventually found his old self and just ran through the Rabbitohs middle to the tune of nearly 200 metres, half of those post contact. From there the good offloads came, and hopefully this was a timely reminder to the big man that rugby league is a simple game in the end: run hard and good things will come.
11 – Second Row
Bryce Cartwright showed some great strength to get over for a key early try, then had some beautiful soft hands and distribution as the game went on. I don’t know why he is a different player when he starts versus comes off the bench, but the back row injury crisis doesn’t look so bad when the Carty Party starts.
12 – Second Row
Scrawl an “N” in front of the A, because poor old Andrew Davey lasted all of five minutes in this one. The category 1 assessment means he sits at least one week, and hopefully that is all he misses for what was a rough looking knock.
13 – Lock
There was a bruising run in the second half where J’maine Hopgood probably sealed his maiden Queensland jersey, which as a Blues and Eels fan I am most disappointed about. Offloads, tackle breaks, stout defence, it’s going to be hard to boo him in a couple of Wednesdays if he does become the first Eel to wear the maroon in over 20 years.
14 – Interchange
The form of Ofahiki Ogden and the emergence of Wiremu Greig is what those in the business refer to as a good problem to have. Injury likely means he’s secured his place in the side for a couple of rounds, but if he plays like this his form will demand he keeps that spot.
17 – Interchange
Big Mak got to go out there and be a workhorse, carving through 15 runs and 164 metres in his extended 40 minute stint while not missing a tackle. He might be mis-cast as a bench impact forward, but in situations like this where you need motor and consistency, Maka is the man for the job.
16 – Interchange
Ryan Matterson almost had too much time on his break, but he iced the chance and turned hope into belief for thousands of Eels fans. His early exit is a massive concern given his form, hopefully it isn’t a serious injury.
15 – Interchange
Some of those long passes from dummy half that Brendan Hands threw must have had a rocket attached to the back of the ball. He has some real zip on those heaters, and once again his arrival on the field sparked the Parramatta attack.
You just don’t get too many efforts like that, so soak it all in and enjoy it. For those of you braver than I who got out to the SFS to see that in person, I salute you. Personally, I felt so confident when Dylan Brown put that grubber down that I even turned the Fox Sports commentary back on, and never has Dan Ginnane’s lowkey disappointment sounded so sweet.
It was an undeniable performance. There was no fluke, no questions, no luck. Just dominance. Winning an arm wrestle and feeling hard done by to go into the sheds only up by 2, feeling even more hard done by to fall behind, before biting down and coming home the much stronger team to score a comfortable win.
South Sydney hadn’t conceded more than 20 points all season long. They were top of the table, had won six on the trot this year and, I’m sure you’ve heard, had won their last six against us by a lot to not many. We just went and beat them by 20 and earned the famous “Cody Walker sook” as he dealt with adversity the only way he knows how: by getting grubby.
There’s a long way to go, but for tonight just sit back and take in the view of the scoreboard. You don’t get many against the odds victories like that in your lifetime. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a replay to watch.
Until then, stay slippery Eels fans.
Stats and images provided by NRL / Eels media