It perhaps isn’t often that a 30-8 result would leave the winning team a little underwhelmed, but Parramatta’s Thursday night victory over the Titans may be one such occasion. Let it be said that if given the choice, Parra Post Mortem will always prefer an underwhelming victory to a devastating defeat, there were some worrying signs amongst the good within the Eels dominant outpointing of Gold Coast.
Having lost to the Titans in Round Three, and fresh off last round’s upset loss to the Knights, the Eels attention to ball control was readily apparent. Equally vigorous in attack and defence, the Eels easily won the territorial battle as they rolled forward seemingly unchecked while denying their opponent any time and space. Although let down in part to some poor last tackle kicks, Parramatta were most clinical in all other areas.
When the teams halted hostilities for the half time break, the Parramatta had a 12-0 lead that was simultaneously, a poor reflection of their command of the contest and extremely fortunate. With the Eels looking likely to open up the Titans defence at any moment it felt that Gold Coast were barely hanging in the contest but the margin may well have been much closer. Corey Norman and Mitchell Moses had their fingerprints all over a well worked play that saw Tepai Moeroa open the scoring, but Titans fans might suggest referee Grant Atkins played a roll in the second.
In the 24th minute Daniel Alvaro crashed over from close range, a play after Moses was millimetres away from do so himself having run onto a quality ball from Nathan Brown. The scoring play itself was a result of soft goal line defence, yet the Eels possession was owed to an error from Referee Atkins. A last tackle kick from Moses rebounded off Titan Ryan James, who then regathered the ball. Rather than allow play to continue as he should have, Atkins awarded a penalty to Parramatta ruling that the ball had instead bounced forward off Tyrone Roberts to the waiting James. The exasperated Roberts and James were incredibly respectful in their exasperated protestations to the referee.
Bevan French was a welcome addition to the team after missing last week’s defeat to the Knights. His return was a short one though, with the fullback leaving the field in distress, before the half-time interval. His troublesome hamstring will cause the Parramatta medical team some headaches as they rush to get him right for the coming weeks, it didn’t cause any immediate disruption to the team on the park in the early stages of the second half.
The result was put beyond doubt on the back of two flashes of individual brilliance to open the second stanza. Will Smith was first to extend the lead after gaining possession of the ball on the back of a sweeping movement to the right through the hands of Norman and Moses. Working within very limited space, Smith stranded two defenders with two massive left jinks, a change of direction saw break the tackle of two more defenders before he crowned his twinkle toed effort with a try.
After the artistry of Smith’s try, the Eels next four pointer was a spectacle of raw explosive power. After gathering the ball close to the line after an attacking Gold Coast kick, Semi Radradra burst through the disjointed Titans chasers, pinned his ears back and led the hapless defenders on a 95 metre run to the try line. Despite intense scrutiny of Radradra’s gather of the ball, by The Bunker, the spectacular try was eventually awarded. Later in the half, the French Rugby bound flyer wowed the crowd again with a similar long range effort but was not so lucky when it came time for The Bunker to adjudicate on another messy gather of the ball.
Radradra’s wing partner Kirisome Auva’a fell millimetres short of his own sensational try in the first half. Through the hands of Tim Mannah and Corey Norman, Parramatta had moved the ball to the right from centre field, when Moses took the ball to the line before releasing Auva’a with a cut out pass that sent him on a sprint to the line. With an exhilarating turn off pace, Auva’a sprinted 30 metres down the touchline before a desperate Tyrone Roberts tackle bundled him into touch. Despite a valiant attempt to finish his efforts successfully, Auva’a grounded the ball mere millimetres in front of the try line before it went dead in-goal. As a result of the ball going dead in-goal, Gold Coast were awarded a 20 metre restart and a seven tackle set. Although this is a correct ruling by the letter of the law, is this really the intention of a law brought in to punish teams for deliberately kicking the ball dead.
Auva’a may have fallen short in his efforts to hit the scoreboard he, and fellow winger Radradra, stood tall when the Eels turned to their outside men for extra grunt work. Both outside men got through a mountain of work, each running over 180 metres in support of their tiring pack.
Radradra’s long range special gave the Eels a 24-0 lead in a dominant if not spectacular display from the Blue and Golds. It is what happened from this moment on that will cause Coach Brad Arthur the most consternation ahead of next weeks blockbuster with the Broncos. A successful short kick off from the Titans commenced a period of play where they had almost exclusive use of the ball.
In fact, the Eels did not regain possession of the ball after Radradra’s try for 12 minutes. After defending valiantly on their line throughout this period, the Eels valiant resistance ended after 28 tackles when Gold Coast crashed through for their first try. That the Titans were restricted to only 8 points was a testament to the Eels defensive efforts. In the final 26 minutes of the game Parramatta had the ball for just 3 sets and 13 tackles, while forced to defend 13 sets and 56 tackles, 45 within the red zone.
More remarkable than the fact that their line was only breached twice in this time, and Cameron King’s almost obligatory half century of tackles, was that the Eels had two tries of their own disallowed in this time, and produced a last minute special via The Fresh Prince. Taking the ball to the right hand side and challenging the line, Mitch Moses executed an unbelievable look away pass across his left shoulder to Will Smith. As special as Moses’ pass was, Smith still had some work to do. Leaving Tyrone Roberts clutching at air after a devastating step, Smith carried three Titans with him for his second try.
“I think the lesson we learned last week, is that every week is big, every week is important. Regardless of who we’re playing and where we’re playing or what the occasion is we’ve got to make sure we turn up every week and play our best footy or else we’ll make the same mistakes we did last week.”
Tim Mannah – Post Game
It was a powerhouse defensive effort from the team, but with bigger games ahead, they wouldn’t want to gift stronger teams the territory and possession they afforded the Titans. A temporary place in the Top Four, highlights the prize on offer come finals time if they can produce their best over the next fortnight. With their destiny in their own hands, lets hope that the team heeds Mannah’s words.
Parramatta 30 (Smith 2, Moeroa, Alvaro, Radradra tries; Moses 5 goals) defeated
Gold Coast 8 (Nakubuwai, Zilman tries)
Match Officials: Grant Atkins, Gavin Badger.
Touch Judges: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski, Kasey Badger.
Video Referee: Luke Patton, Bernard Sutton.