The Fog Lifts

The past six weeks has felt like wading through thick fog for Parramatta fans. It was the fog we saw on the horizon and we watched as it descended into the valley and settled all around us.

It was denser than it suggested and it felt like it would never lift. A fog that would hang around long after the sun rose and would take forever to burn off.

The Melbourne game lingered like the very storm clouds its moniker represents.

First we could barely see five metres in front of us, and now we were preparing to get soaked in an avalanche of points.

The Storm had been relentless, like a tropical cyclone building off the coast it was forecasted to wipe this Parramatta side off the map.

It promised to wash away the foundations of a good season and obliterate all but the toughest of supporters.

But from the opening kick off, that promised cyclone seemed a little weaker than first thought, and that Parramatta side, a little better prepared for what was to come.

The Eels struck first via a lovely floated pass from Mitchell Moses, landing in the hands of Blake Ferguson who was well and truly back to his best.

The Fergosaurus was busy all night with his two tries alongside his 12 runs for 109 metres, 31 post contact metres, two line breaks and one covering tackle on Josh Addo-Carr.

However, it was truly a win for the men in the middle. Isaiah Papali'i produced 21 runs for 180 metres with 69 post contact, Junior Paulo had 17 for 147 metres and 67 post contact while Nathan Brown carried the ball 22 times for 176 metres and 49 post contact. Papali'i also managed a team high seven tackle breaks while Junior Paulo and Nathan Brown combined for five offloads between them.

It was Parramatta's power game that won them the match but it wasn't one-out, bash it up the middle.

Instead, they looked to shift wide early and often, using Shaun Lane and Marata Niukore to pull the Storm's defensive structure around and then sending the big boys through the middle. Nathan Brown and Junior Paulo used their ball skills when needed while Joey Lussick looked to engage the markers as Parramatta's forwards worked over the Storm's A defenders.

Even Melbourne's players are human, and when their middle is threatened, they compress.

Generally the Eels have been too sideways this season, shifting the ball with no real intent, but Saturday night was different. Decoys ran with purpose and subtle changes in ball playing from Dylan Brown and Mitchell Moses gave them ample options to hit.

Ferguson's try was the best of the night from an execution stand point.

Taking the ball from the left upright, the Eels spun it right from Joey Lussick to Dylan Brown as Ray Stone runs a hard decoy. Brown takes an extra couple of steps, drawing Papenhuyzen out of the line as Junior Paulo runs a dangerous line, distracting Bromwich and Eisenhuth.

This isolates Mitch Moses one on one with Brandon Smith while Cameron Munster has come too far out of the line. From here Papali'i runs a hard inside line as Penisini runs the crash line which draws Munster and Olam, leaving Gutherson out the back as the overlap is created and Ferguson is simply too big and too quick that close to the line.

It was a simple play executed to perfection.

But while I loved that, the play of the night was Joey Lussick's try. It was a short side raid the very best in the competition would have been proud of.

Brown gets the ball, squares up Hughes and then from there it's smooth hands from Cartwright who puts Dunster down the touchline and he finds Lussick backing up. It's a play that should worry every side in the competition, because it's the Eels at their best.

The most pleasing aspect of the match was Parramatta not needing to rely on bombs to score. All four tries went through the hands and came from the high level execution of their spine.

They pulled Melbourne out of their defensive shape, and if they can do it to them, they can do it to almost any side.

Parramatta's defence has also been heavily criticised this season and it has been fair criticism. But against the best point scoring side since the Eels of 2001, they strangled them and held them scoreless for 50 minutes.

The Eels' scramble was immense as they just kept turning up for each other.

A rejigged backline seemed to work the best it has since Marata Niukore was in the centres. Waqa Blake and Haze Dunster alongside Will Penisini and Blake Ferguson seemed to click and it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Ferguson seems more comfortable alongside a very physical centre.

The challenge will be backing up that effort against the Panthers.

Brad Arthur has admitted he will be resting a number of players including Clint Gutherson who will sit out due to a minor knee injury while Junior Paulo is suspended.

The result of the match won't be as important as the attitude. The best teams have the attitude of "next man up", meaning if you're called upon you do your job.

It will be interesting to see who is rested. Apart from Gutherson, the backline will likely remain unchanged unless Waqa Blake is given a rest, although his partnership with Dunster has only just started so that probably wouldn't be best.

In the forwards Reagan Campbell-Gillard may be back, while we may see more minutes from Makatoa, Hipgrave, Stone and Cartwright.

Two weeks ago the Eels season looked dead and buried, now the fog is burning off and they may be getting primed for a run into the finals.

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  • Do you play RCG this week if he is fit or just rest him so he is 100% fit for finals?

    • I'd play him this week if he was 100% fit. It always takes these guys at least a game to get back to their usual form.

      If he's still carrying something I wouldn't risk it though.

    • Limited minutes this week if available just to blow the cobwebs out and get a little match fitness before the finals for sure.

  • One swallow doesn't make a summer. We will see how they go in the next few weeks

    • It does when alot in here had written the Eels off and complained down to every last detail why we wouldn't win.

  • Regarding the fog. Let's not forget the loses we received included a 1 point loss to Penrith. The first three games were without Moses and the fourth game he came back but of course was never going to be at his best. We did cop a few hidings , however we were crucified around the wings all day long. Last weeks game was unbelievable !!! Fingers crossed our intensity is the same the next month or so 

  • Start RCG off the bench, less minutes to get him ready for the final.

  • Wow what a long story 

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