Shannon Meyer reviews a wet but entertaining clash between the Eels and Storm ….. Here’s how the game went.
Tries: Maika Sivo (20, 76) Junior Paulo (66)
Goals: Mitchell Moses (22, 68)
Tries: Reimis Smith (36) Justin Olam (73)
Goals: Ryan Papenhuyzen (38, 74)
Player of the Year PointsEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Reed Mahoney (Parramatta)
2 pts – Maika Sivo (Parramatta)
1 pt – Clint Gutherson (Parramatta)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
A wet Sydney Thursday night kicked off the second round of the NRL and one could argue that the conditions would have suited Melbourne based on their playing style and nickname.
The early minutes saw the teams exchanging almost identical sets early, with little ball movement, and bombing on the last to the wings. Only Reed Mahoney threatened anything meaningful early on. Based on the opening minutes and the continuing rain, it looked like a low-scoring arm wrestle ahead.
The first real attack of the game came in the seventh minute for Parramatta, and they looked the more dangerous in attack at this stage but ultimately came to nothing, but it was a glimpse of sunlight in the rain. The first error or penalty came in the two minutes later when the Eels were building another attack.
Then the rain really started to come as the weather armageddon predicted gave a preview of the chaos ahead.
A 14th minute kick to the corner saw the first Captain’s Challenge as Parramatta disputed Blake Ferguson taking the ball over the sideline. The unsuccessful challenge left Melbourne with a full set 10 metres out. It nearly led to the first try of the night, but somehow Clint Gutherson got between hulking prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona and the ground.
There were still some nice skills on display from Parramatta despite the wet weather. A Josh Addo-Carr chip reflex catch by Gutherson was followed up with some decent soccer skills by Maika Sivo from a wayward pass. Good skills -especially in the conditions – but it ultimately led to no points for the Eels.
Twenty minutes in and the score remained 0-0 but just an error each, though Parramatta looked the more dangerous of the two sides.
Just after the halfway mark, Parramatta crossed for the first try of the game. Dylan Brown put up a perfect kick to the left and Sivo plucked it from the air – and the arms of the Melbourne winger – and he merely had to land and score. The sideline conversion was nailed by Mitchell Moses and the score was 6-0 to the home side.
And they almost followed it up with a break up the middle next set: Parra were well on top here. They looked better in attack and defence. A lumberjack style tackle on Justin Olam in attack the proof.
Melbourne got a charge down then a Set Restart. Tui Kamikamica came close but fell just short of the line after reaching out close to the line. Ten minutes to go and the Eels remained 6-0 leaders. Melbourne had a lot more tackles inside the opposition half and 20, but somehow the Eels looked more dangerous in attack and more likely to score.
The Storm earned a drop out in the last five minutes of the half to add more tackles in the opposition half. They went close in the left corner with Addo-Carr chipping to Cameron Munster who came close but was denied by another last-ditch Gutherson try-saving moment. It mattered little as Melbourne went right through the hands and it ended in new recruit Reimis Smith sliding through the Eels’ defence to score the Storm’s first try with three minutes remaining. The successful conversion made it 6-6.
HALF-TIME: Parramatta Eels 6 Melbourne Storm 6Embed from Getty Images
With the rain continuing to drench Bankwest Stadium it didn’t look like a lot of points were forthcoming in the second half either, but lack of points didn’t stop one enjoying the first half.
Sivo produced the half’s first bright spark of attack as he sped down the sideline, but it was ultimately for nothing as not even a repeat set could earn the Eels any more points.
Antonio Kaufusi went on report early in the second half as he collected the head of Ryan Matterson as Kaufusi was sliding down in a tackle. Matterson left the field soon after, and the Eels wasted the opportunity from the penalty.
Not long after we saw another early second half highlight with some traditional PNG defence as Justin Olam went in low and hard for the tackle of the match. The aftershocks were felt the next play as the Eels gave up possession in promising attacking territory.
The second half saw almost as many bombs raining on the back three of each side almost as much as the plentiful precipitation was falling onto Bankwest Stadium, and there were some fine catches from the players showing skills well beyond what you’d expect in the conditions. With the many aerial ends to the sets, there wasn’t a great deal of attacking excitement as the arm wrestle continued at the halfway mark of the second half and the score was still 6-6.
A few errors were creeping into the Storm’s game as the clock passed 60 minutes, and the question was whether the Eels could punish them. They did have a chance not long after a second forward pass from Melbourne as Tom Opacic ran down the left, but the centre overlooked Sivo to the left, and given his form tonight probably let a try go begging. But they looked likely.
Melbourne doubled down on a error with a follow-up penalty to the Eels a few plays later, and then a Set Restart gifted Parramatta their best attacking raid for the night, and they finally broke the second half scoring duck in the 66th minute as Junior Paulo benefitted from a sharp no-look from Mahoney at dummy half to crash over from 10 metres out. The conversion gave the Eels a six-point lead that looked like it would be good enough for a draw at a minimum.
With ten minutes to go, the Storm appeared to spark into life, trailing 12-6, and this gripping battle looked like going the distance.
The game was all square with seven minutes to go as a Papenhuyzen’s grubber bounced off the Parramatta defence close to the line and Olam was the quickest to pounce on the rebound to score the Storm’s second try. Ever the entertainer, Papenhuyzen’s seemingly easy conversion just squeezed through the posts for a 12-12 score line with six minutes to go. Golden Point loomed given the weather conditions.
A Moses kick proved pivotal to the result a few sets later as the Eels halfback hoisted a huge bomb in the air and Fijian flyer Sivo scored his second try.
In a game that offered plenty (except dry clothing), the short kick off provided some last minute excitement as Opacic was penalised for retrieving the kick-off before it had run 10 metres so a Storm penalty was given, and they had a minute left with a full set to steal the game off the Eels.
Sadly for Melbourne fans it didn’t work out, as Olam inexplicitly kicked the ball inside on the first tackle, and although Munster was first to the ball he knocked it on and the Eels were home. Yes, it would have been a brilliant play if it came off, but with 50 seconds and five tackles left, it was low percentage and ultimately unsuccessful.
To be fair, Parramatta probably edged the game throughout, and deserved the win anyway, but it took a little Sivo magic to seal it.
It was a game of quality despite the weather and a great way to start the weekend of rugby league action.
FULL-TIME: Parramatta Eels 16 Melbourne Storm 12
Ryan Matterson (Eels) – concussion
Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Storm) – chest
Match Review Committee
Felise Kaufusi (Storm) – Grade 2 Dangerous Contact Head/Neck – Early guilty plea – 2 matches.
Christian Welch (Storm) – Grade 1 Dangerous Contact Other – Early Guilty Plea – $1350 fine.