With rugby league returning last weekend we got our first look at the new refereeing system with the six again call used pretty regularly in the Parramatta vs Brisbane clash.

Winning the middle has now become more important than ever as a team on the back foot can easily end up defending for an extra two or three sets.

Parramatta's team seems well set up for this shift in playing style.

The Eels have always preferred a faster game. Playing off the back of offloads, quick shifts of the ball and dummy half runs have all been synonymous with Eels teams that have won the comp or gone deep into the finals.

Props Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard provide plenty of starch defensively but carry the ball strongly in attack. They require three sometimes four defenders to bring them down and Paulo's ball playing skills mean defences can't just number up on him.

Reed Mahoney is proving himself a crafty player around the ruck and his quick passes out in front of the halves give the Eels immediate width they can exploit with their backrowers.

But the real ace in the hole for Parramatta is their backline. The size of their wingers means they get their sets off to good starts while Jennings and Blake will often beat their opponent one on one. Clint Gutherson suits a high tempo game with his superior fitness and support through the middle.

In terms of support players, there are almost none better than Gutho. Whether there is a line break in minute one or minute 80, he'll be there pushing through the middle.

A key improvement in the Eels halves so far this season has been how direct they've played.

Dylan Brown and Mitch Moses both look to attack the line as soon as they get the ball, opening up their support players to exploit gaps and panicking defenders.

Take Maika Sivo's try in the first half against the Broncos as an example.

The first time Brown got the ball in the match he took the line on and threatened to break through.

Then later in the first half, Brown gets the ball at second receiver 10 metres from the Brisbane line.

All three outside defenders turn as soon as he catches, waiting for him to step. Instead, Brown fires a pass to Jennings who uses some neat footwork to give Sivo enough room to put the ball down.

While Jennings' footwork gave Sivo the room he needed, it was Brown's straight running earlier in the match that forced the Brisbane defenders to stop when he got the ball. If Brown doesn't run earlier in the match then it's highly likely the Broncos defenders are just waiting for him to pass and kick and they easily shut Jennings down.

This newer style of play does mean halves have to play more direct, and judging by the way both Brown and Moses have attacked the line so far this season, they will benefit the most from it.

We are only one round into the six again rules and it's likely defensive patterns will adapt as players get more match fitness. But Parramatta's directness in attack coupled with an ability to play at a high tempo and promote the football means they are well placed to take full advantage of defensive lapses.

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  • Agreed. The way Parra came out last Thursday it was almost as if BA had anticipated the fast game way back during the offseason. He likes to keep his players fit and forwards able to play long minutes. Paulo could easily play 80 min, which is insane for a guy his size.

    The question will be how we respond when teams do the same to us. In the past few years we have struggled to maintain defensive structures when teams are throwing the ball around looking for gaps. This year our defence looks pretty solid, and our attack has certainly matured with Moses and Brown willing to be patient. This team will only improve, which is great for us Parra fans. Just hope they keep focussed on this. They need to believe they can beat the top teams. I think last year they let the doubt get to them in crucial games.

  • So the new rules suit Parra based on one game against a team that had  zero ball ? Against a team where Parra had 50 sets ?

     

    Lets all hope Super has not gone off prematurely and is actually right about something for a change because being wrong is becoming a strong habit of his.

     

     

     

    • I said they suit the team. It's up to the team to take advantage of it. And is your enter key broken Frankie?

    • Parra having all the ball was deliberate. Ball control is a real theme this year and in both Titans and Broncos games the Eels strangled the opposition and ran over them in the final 30 minutes. Good to see

      • Ball control has always been a theme for us. But I see the rules, given they're supposed to support more open play and a faster ruck, as assisting us more than teams like Cronulla and even Melbourne given how structured their systems are.

        Now just because the rules suit a team doesn't mean that team will dominate. It's up to them to take advantage of those rules and utilise them.

        • Ball control hasn't always been a theme for us. Have you not met Brad Takarangi?

          • That's probably the reason why he's on the bench and has barely played...

            • I think the games haven't really suited Taka anyway. We've led all of them and have had no need to try and rescue a game. Plus Matto and Lane both play 80 minutes.

          • What do you mean? BA has always spoken about completion percentage. It's one of the first things he mentions every press conference.

      • We are playing smarter and with a desire to win every battle,  BA could be taking a big step forward with his coaching this season. 

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