Eels Start off on the Right Track:
They experienced the season from hell in 2016, and the Eels immediately set out to start 2017 on a positive note with a 20-12 victory over Manly. Parramatta were clinical in their season opener, with Corey Norman and Clint Gutherson showing plenty of positives in their first game together as a halves pairing. Norman continued to show that he is developing into one of the biggest x-factors in the game as he utilised his passing, running and kicking game to cause headaches for the Sea Eagles. The Eels look to have found another weapon to go alongside an already strong forward pack, as new recruit Suaia Matagi charged into the Manly pack all day with no fear. The team struggled to cross the line despite forcing 4 consecutive line drop-outs, however the Eels only look set to improve as their new combinations gel.
Poor Discipline Punished
Marty Taupau’s attempt at putting an end to Suaia Matagi’s dominance on Sunday has proven costly, as the star forward faces a 2 match ban for a shoulder charge in the 13th minute. Taupau took it upon himself to slow down the Parramatta wrecking ball, however the illegal hit caused the match review committee to hit him with a grade two charge. Fellow forward Addin Fonua-Blake will also spend the next 2 weeks on the sideline for hitting Corey Norman with a reckless shoulder charge after he had passed the ball. The two may have been trying to spark some momentum for their side, however their team will feel the consequences of their actions in the next 2 weeks with the absence of the two weakening an already average forward pack.
Strong Defence in Defeat
The Sea Eagles left Lottoland disappointed with the loss on Sunday, however coach Trent Barrett would be proud of his side only going down by 8 points, despite the Eels dominating possession and territory for the majority of the game. The Sea Eagles spent just 40% of the game with the ball in hand, as forced line drop-outs and a completion rate of 69% kept them on the back foot. To their credit the silvertails were able to withstand 4 consecutive sets defending their own try line, and eventually lost the game by just 1 try. The future looks positive for the Sea Eagles if they can improve their ball handling and display the same type of defence that they showed on Sunday.
Gutherson Finds his Home in the Halves
It would usually be unheard of for a winger to play in the halves, however Clinton Gutherson has continued to handle the step up to a far more influential position in the team like a seasoned pro. The 22-year old was forced into the playmaking role late last season with Corey Norman and Keiran Foran missing, and his strong showings saw him entrusted with the number 6 jersey for the 2017 season. The former Sea Eagle came back to hurt his old club, as he scored the Eels final try to give them an 18-6 lead and ensure victory. If Gutherson can continue to handle the increased responsibility and involvement that comes as a key member of the spine, Brad Arthur’s daring decision could prove to be a masterstroke.
Parramatta Eels: 20
Tries: French, Norman, Gutherson
Goals: Gutherson 2/3
Penalty Goals: 2/2
Manly Sea Eagles: 12
Tries: Kelly, Green
Goals: Walker 2/2