“At least we didn’t lose to Newcastle”
This was my meek response to relentless ribbing about Parramatta’s humbling 48-10 Mother’s Day defeat at the hands of the Sydney Roosters. After 3 weeks of sustained improvement, hopes were high going into the clash against the Roosters. Unfortunately, reality and expectation were worlds apart as the afternoon was nothing short of an abject disaster. The terrible performance punctuated with the added kicker of injury added to insult with Corey Norman expected to spend an extended time on the sidelines.
A 48-10 loss is never enjoyable, but it hurts just a little bit more when you know the team is capable of so much more. Against the Cowboys the Eels appeared a team that relished the intensity required to compete in the NRL. They were not even a shadow of this team against the Roosters. When your winger is the man who gains the most metres for the team; there is something very wrong in the output of your forward pack.
The rot set in very early for Parramatta, with the Eels only able to attack once in the first nine sets of the game. With the scoreboard ticking over at a rapid rate, the contest was all but over before Brad Arthur’s men commenced their second attacking set. In a perverse sense, when you consider that in the entire first half the Eels managed to complete only five sets while their opponents drowned in possession completing 20 from 21, a 48-10 score line is almost a good result.
There were some other bright spots in a bleak afternoon. My boy Nathan Brown was immense running hard and straight for the whole 80 minutes, while many of his fellow forwards struggled to make an impact. Kaysa Pritchard tackled himself to a standstill managing to stop the rampaging Roosters runners 49 times in the match. Another of our favourites, Tepai Moeroa, made 37 tackles missing only 1, while his teammates racked up the kind of missed tackle number that 1980s 4 times premiership hero Paul Taylor would be embarrassed with for an entire season.
Speaking of missed tackles, Michael Jennings’ performance would have done little to dissuade those people who derisively compare his tackling ability to that of a turnstile, missing a whopping six tackles. On the positive side of the ledger though, he did manage yet another try for the highlight reel. Running off the shoulder of Kenny Edwards, Jennings jinked and jagged his way past 3 defenders before squeezing between a further two to score beneath the posts.
Norman’s injury provides some headaches for Brad Arthur and may have cost the halfback a Maroon jersey. His form and the absence of Jonathon Thurston would no doubt have had Kevin Walters close to offering the former Bronco an Origin debut. The Eels will be hoping the arrival of Mitchell Moses will help to offset the loss of Norman because they have not fared well without him this year.
If they can survive the absence of their halfback, there may well be an embarrassment of riches upon his return. With Bevan French also to return to the side in the second half of the season, there may take some creative selections to ensure that the team can benefit from the abilities of him, Moses, Norman and Clinton Gutherson. Of all the difficult situations that have befallen the club in recent times, this one will be most welcomed if and when it arises.
It doesn’t get much easier this weekend either with the Raiders in wait for them. Canberra will be hurting after recent weeks but will still like their chances against the Eels. To them, I only have one thing to say “At least we didn’t lose to Newcastle”.
Sydney 48 (Ferguson 3, Tupou 2, Mitchell, Friend, Manu tries; Gordon 8 goals) def
Parramatta 10 (Gutherson, Jennings tries; Gutherson goal)
Match Officials: Grant Atkins, Gavin Reynolds.
Sideline Officials: Chris Butler, Rohan Best.
Video Referee: Jared Maxwell, Ben Galea.
Official Crowd: 10,468 at Allianz Stadium.