With both teams near full-strength, each were testing their new five-eighths for 2009 – Setaimata Sa calling the shots for Sydney and Jarryd Hayne directing traffic for the Eels. Both have a way to go before calling the position their own, but this final run was crucial before the season proper.
Hayne played wide early on and took most of the first 40 minutes to settle in. He went into overdrive in the 2nd half, scoring two tries and setting up Luke Burt for a nice 4 pointer late in the piece.
Hayne has certainly added strength in the off-season, shrugging off tackles with size as opposed to his trademark acceleration and footwork, his line break to setup Burt was explosive as he cut through the line. Without Finch at halfback, Hayne was allowed to run the plays as the more senior man, with Kris Keating taking on the temporary halfback role.
For the Roosters, Setaimata Sa seemed to be rotating with Braith Anasta through the five-eighth role, with Anasta spending more time at pivot late in the match. Sa worked hard to spark the Roosters attack, however his combination with Pearce naturally needs more time. Pearce probably overplayed his hand, not allowing Sa the confidence he needed.
It’s hard to see how Fittler will play Sa and Anasta in the weeks ahead. Sa has the ability, but probably needs a more demanding style if he wants to run things, with so many experienced players surrounding him at the Roosters.
The Roosters scored early and led into the break at 10-6. Their backline movements early in the game were impressive, catching the Eels with overlaps on several occasions. The Roosters lucky not to be further ahead with a try called back for a forward pass after the ball went nicely through plenty of Roosters hands.
The Eels looked a little shaky in defence at times, their line not always moving as one and their decision making poor at times. The returning Eric Grothe Jnr had a tough match on the flank, the Roosters targeting him with kicks and forcing several errors from the Parramatta veteran.
Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello managed to get through the game OK, the former representative custodian having flashes of brilliance but not heavily involved.
The match had plenty of errors, with both sides spilling the ball regularly and passing poorly. A concerning sign considering this was the last full-blown hit out before the season. The quality of this game compared to the Charity Shield was concerning, with the Eels and Roosters a long way back in their preparations it seems.
Brad Fittler would have been happy with his sides defence early on but they couldn’t sustain the impressive effort. Fitness may have played a part as the Roosters fell away in the second half and the Eels began to claw their way back on the scoreboard.
The Roosters backline movements look fluid in patches, particularly early on and in the forwards Nate Myles did some impressive work during his minutes. Sam Perret was highly involved and also had some damaging runs for Sydney.
The Eels enjoyed a strong showing from prop Fuifui Moimoi, his surges always a handful for the Roosters and his barging run before half time setting up Tim Mannah’s try for Parramatta.
Hayne’s opportunists try with 20 minutes remaining made for a close finish, with the score leaning 18-14 to Parramatta, before tries to Krisnan Inu and an impressive one to Luke Burt off the Hayne bust putting them ahead by 30-24.
The Roosters improved the scoreline through an intercept try to Ben Jones who showed a clean pair of heels to outrun Luke Burt to the try line and a short-range effort to Perrett making it 5 tries all and conversions the only difference.
PARRAMATTA 30 (J Hayne 2, T Mannah, L Burt, K Inu tries; L Burt 5 goals) beat ROOSTERS 24 (S Perrett 2, M Aubusson 2, B Jones tries; C Fitzgibbon, S Kenny-Dowall goals) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. Crowd: 4559. Refs: A Klein, A Shortall.