The Eels have booked themselves a finals sport for the first time since 2009, with a narrow 22-16 win over the Rabbitohs on Friday night. The win saw the Rabbitohs play with far more enthusiasm as the Eels, and push them for the entire game. A performance that, regardless of their season finish, will please the players and fans of South Sydney. With the win, the Eels finish with 16 wins for the season, their best finish since their minor premiership in 2005.
Eels fail to match Souths’ effort
Parramatta’s two performances against the Broncos showed their capability against a high quality side. Though similar to their loss over the Knights, the Eels were out enthused by a team playing for pride and fun, and this issue is something that could hurt them if not fixed in the finals series.
The Eels started off strongly, winning the field position battle early on. A good solo run saw Michael Jennings open the scoring inside 10 minutes, and the Eels rightfully so had an early lead. The Rabbitohs however, off solid defence forcing a knock on, managed to cross the line and bring the deficit to two points. For the next 15 minutes the game would be relatively even. The Eels committed more errors through that period, and made questionable decisions during their sets. After some great ball running through their forwards, Kyle Turner scored South Sydney’s second try in the 27th minute and game the Bunnies their first lead of the game.
The Eels continued to struggle at times in the second half, with errors and a lack of discipline in their defence. Though they ultimately found solace in their big winger, as Semi Radradra scored three tries with one late in the second half to secure a win for the Eels. Regardless of the win for the Eels, the lack of determination in the game could be a worry heading into the finals.
The Rabbitohs should keep their heads up
The Rabbitohs endured a tough 2017 campaign after a lot of promise at the start of the season. The injury to Greg Inglis was an early nail in the coffin, and a lack of form from the likes of Adam Reynolds and John Sutton meant no fairy-tale could occur as the season went on. Nevertheless the Rabbitohs have two positives to ponder as the curtains close.
Firstly their efforts at the backend of the season have been humbling, and can build them up to 2018. Wins over the Warriors, Bulldogs, and a competitive performance against the Eels saw the Rabbitohs match up well with better sides on paper. What has looked different in the Rabbitohs’ performances is their determination in their ball running, as well as the strong efforts from Alex Johnston in particular filling in at fullback.
Secondly, the quality in their side as well as adding the brilliant Dane Gagai means the expectations and promise for 2018 is huge. Bringing back Greg Inglis, the Burgess brothers always being a danger when they get going, and Damien Cook remaining an integral threat to setting up his backs for high-quality chances gives the Bunnies and their fans plenty to get excited about after summer.
Semi’s form continues to rise amid his departure
Radradra’s seven tries in the last two weeks gives the side a huge boost heading into the finals, but also reminds them of how much they will miss him when he departs to play rugby in France. Good passing by Mitchell Moses and Wil Smith gave Radradra space, and he was able to cross right on half time to give the Eels the lead. Semi’s second came off a terrific cut out ball from Corey Norman, with Parramatta extending their lead to eight points.
His most impressive effort came at the most important time, flying through the air to score in the 75th minute and secure the win for the Eels. Radradra added 151 running metres and 2 line breaks, to go with his three try haul. His runs were not as impressive as the ones he produced against the Broncos, yet Radradra still managed to be a threat on the left side and is starting to look like one of the in-form players heading into the finals.
Jennings brother’s trade blows
A war within the war, Michael and Robert Jennings went head to head on the field for the first time in their careers. Both men experienced a tussle that would have reminded them of their childhood in Blacktown, and the small hype lived up to its billing. Robert Jennings slipped over trying to tackle his older brother, the miss resulting in Michael opening the scoring for the game. The try was electric, resembling the gorgeous visuals that Michael creates when he runs the ball.
Robert hit back later on, managing to score a try in the left corner to match his brothers’ earlier effort. Robert grabbed a second try in the 54th minute, again scoring in the left corner by finishing off some good work from Cody Walker. The work from Robert Jennings will please coach Maguire heading in 2018, and with a few spots up for grabs on the wings he will be a key man to watch.
A line break and 136 running metres for Michael, as well as two line breaks and 117 metres for Robert shows the output both men can produce on attack, and will no doubt get fans excited over another player rivalry in the game that could develop.
Tries: Radradra (3) (40m, 50m, 75m), Jennings (9m)
Goals: Moses 3/4
Tries: Jennings (2) (14m, 54m), Turner (27m)
Goals: Goodwin 2/3