Despite four straight victories over St George, Canterbury, Melbourne and Wests, many still questioned the strength of the Eels’ form and expected them to succumb to a Broncos team hoping to strengthen their top four claims. Expectations that would no doubt have been increased after Brisbane raced out to an early 12-0 lead, all the more reason that the eventual 28-14 result, may well represent Parramatta’s best victory of the season.
In recent weeks the Eels have gotten out of jail against a series of teams outside the Top 8 raising questions about the quality of their play. Facing a Top Four side at full strength the Eels were given an opportunity to silence these doubts, an opportunity they grabbed with both hands.
Making the victory the more remarkable was the fact that the Broncos had raced out to a 12-0 lead before many in the stadium had a chance to warm their seats. That they had the attacking weapons at their disposal to get back in the contest was without question, but their performances in recent weeks raised questions as to whether they had the stomach. After a completion rate in the 60’s last week, the fact that the Eels could stare down a team that completed at 82% was astonishing but it was this workmanlike quality that enabled them to not just stem the damage but completely dominate scoring for the rest of the match.
Parra Post-Mortem have spent much of our recent columns discussing the emergence of Mitchell Moses in blue and gold. On Friday night against the Broncos, the 22-year-old showed why the Eels were so keen to extract the halfback from the Wests Tigers. With the added responsibility of goal kicking, as a result of Clint Gutherson’s season ending knee injury, Moses didn’t miss a beat. Three try assists and a line break speak volumes to his ability to read the play and make the right call. The partnership that he and Corey Norman have built belies the short period of time they have had together. With the pair in the halves, the Eels have a deadly duo more than able to mix it with the best teams.
Another man who has become a fan favourite in a short time in Sydney’s West is the barnstorming backrower Nathan Brown. The former Rabbitoh was again at his rampaging best against the Broncos, making 43 tackles, running for over 220 metres and was all set for another 80 minute performance before a flying Brad Takairangi knee put an end to his night four minutes early. It was another outstanding performance by Brown, who in the absence of the injured Clint Gutherson, may well be the team’s most consistent player this season. On this night against the Broncos, he was also involved in the games’ most controversial moment.
Late in the first half, Brisbane’s Jonus Pearson was felled by an errant arm of a wrong footed Brown. In an action that has caused much discussion afterwards, Kenny Edwards dove on the prone Pearson to complete the tackle.
With the benefit of replays and not being in the middle of the action most viewers were aware that Pearson was in distress before Edwards dived in to wrap him up. Edwards has since spoken suggesting he hadn’t seen Brown’s high contact.
“Simply, I didn’t think the tackle was complete,” Edwards said. “I didn’t see the high shot Browny put on until afterwards.
“I just went in hard like I always do. Unfortunately Browny hit him high, which I didn’t see. I saw the replay and if I could go back I wouldn’t do it again.”
– Kenny Edwards
This may not be enough to assuage the feelings of some in the social media world with many, including Fox Sports’ Simon Brunsdon, labelling Edwards’ action a ‘dog act’. Brunsdon, who has shown he may well be unqualified to write about Rugby League, even went so far as to compare the action to that of Sia Soliola on Billy Slater the week before.
Brunsdon then continued his tirade in his article for Fox Sports, seemingly unaware that as Pearson lay on the ground, the tackle remained incomplete and was subject to the completion by a Parramatta player, until the referee blew his whistle for the penalty against Brown.
What can be agreed on is the fact that it is a bad look for the game. This said, the question for Brunsdon and those outraged by Edwards’ tackle, had he not gone in to wrap the Bronco up and Pearson had gotten to his feet and ran for twenty or so metres, as he would have been entitled to, would you have written about Edwards’ sportsmanship or his stupidity?
The NRL Match Review Committee subsequently saw fit to charge Edwards with a Grade 1 Contrary Conduct charge. As a result of their review they also illustrated the NRL’s haphazard approach to player safety by not seeing fit to charge either Brown for his high shot on Pearson or Brisbane’s Adam Blair for a shoulder charge on Michael Jennings.
While Parra Post Mortem is not advocating that Brown or Blair should have been suspended for their actions, both player committed illegal acts Edwards, despite how horrible the look of it, did not. ‘Contrary Conduct’ a lot like the AFL’s ‘Unduly Rough Play’ is the competition’s catch-all to create an offence when there may not otherwise have been one. The questions in this situation remain, at what point did Edwards’ actions become ‘Contrary Conduct’? If Pearson had not been caught high by Brown, would the same action by Edwards be considered ‘Contrary Conduct’? Can a player be guilty of an offence based on information that he himself isn’t privy to, and that the MRC discover later?
All controversy aside, with both sides completing their sets in excess of 80%, the ball moving at a frenetic pace from one end to the other and just two points separating the teams with 6 minutes to go, this was one of the games of the season. That the Eels were able to prevail in such a high quality encounter only bodes well for their chances of ending their 8-year finals hiatus. While the fact remains that there is still work to be done for the Eels to qualify for the business end of the season, on this night they showed that once there, they can challenge anybody.
Parramatta 28 (Auva’a 2, Moeroa, French tries; Moses 5, Norman goals) defeated Brisbane 14 (Gillett, Roberts tries; Kahu 3 goals).
Match officials: Ashley Klein, Alan Shortall.
Sideline Officials: Belinda Sleeman, Jeff Younis.
Video Referees: Luke Patten, Bernard Sutton.
Official Crowd: 12,182 at ANZ Stadium.