Stone the Crowes, Eels beat Souths 14-8

Parramatta Eels 2009NRL Round 2 was started with an upset, as the Parramatta Eels held out the much fancied Rabbitohs 14-8 at a vocal ANZ Stadium.It was supposed to the Bunnies night on the big stage, a huge win last week and even the Channel 9 telecast commenced with a heavily one-sided focus on the Bunnies; their anthem and fans boldly thrown up on the screen.

But someone forgot to tell the Eels. The Parramatta side hanging on grimly to defeat the Rabbitohs in a low-scoring affair, that had a crowd of over 20,000 on the edge of their seats.

It was a horror start for the Eels, Hindmarsh letting the ball go between his legs from the kick-off – gifting Souths possession. It quickly got worse, as Chris Sandow scooped up the scraps of a John Sutton spiral bomb to touchdown after 5 minutes.

It looked like it was going to be a long night for the Eels, but they aimed up and put in a good defensive effort – at times led by their junior brigade.

With very little recruiting after 2008, the Eels threw in Tim Mannah, Broderick Wright and Kris Keating tonight – all players who have experienced a winning culture from the Parramatta lower grades and it proved a masterstroke from coach Daniel Anderson.

While for the most part, Souths looked more likely to score with plenty of probing play from Issac Luke, Sutton and Sandow – the Eels continued to come up with last ditch grabs; Jarryd Hayne in particular rolling his sleeves up and saving his side several times.

In attack, Mateo was again the focal point – scoring a try himself just before the 10 minute mark and remaining dangerous. Anderson asking Mateo to play a more traditional lock role tonight and get into the trenches, the elusive player seeming to tuck the ball under his arm more as opposed to off-loading it constantly.

The match-up on the flanks was an interesting one, the high flying Nathan Merritt against the underrated Joel Reddy; but the Eels outside back proved solid – taking several tough high kicks to keep Merritt at bay.

It was surprising that Souths didn’t attack the Eric Grothe wing as much as the Warriors did last week. The Eels winger carting the ball up strongly, but again looking a little shakey when the high ball came his way.

For Souths, Merritt was busy all night. Doing his best to get things going, and asked plenty of questions in defence. The winger lucky not to give away an 8 point try, when he led with his boots to stop the Joel Reddy try. His boots connecting heavily with the head of Reddy, with blood immediately flowing from Reddy’s mouth.

The Eels were lucky to get into half time with the scores locked at 8 all. Souths were sending attacking wave after wave their way, but couldn’t get the final pass or kick to stick tonight. Sutton and Sandow unable to unleash their arsenal as the Bunnies forwards were denied any platform by the Eels.

It was interesting to see both teams’ body language while in the sheds at half-time, with Parramatta looking forlorn as Anderson deployed instructions in a teacher / student style and for the Bunnies, the players looked energetic as they walked around the sheds simply being spoken to individually by the coach.

Souths looked certain to score several times after half time, but it was unlikely suspect Hayne who came up with the big defensive play to shut it down. The new Eels pivot looking much more motivated tonight and showing plenty of aggression which helped lift his side at crucial times.

Merritt and hooker Luke tried valliantly to spark their side, several times going it alone from dummy half and narrowly missing chip and chase efforts. It simply wasn’t to be their night, with Parramatta dragging them into the trenches and probably doing a Cronulla on their opponents – simply sucking the life out of them.

Jason Taylor wouldn’t be too worried about the loss – while only marginal, the Bunnies were probably struggling from the short turnaround and big headlines swarming them from their huge win last weekend.

However, the ever-dangerous Rhys Wesser would be a concern after sustaining an injury late in the match. Wesser leaving the field and will have tests tomorrow on his knee. The veteran custodian again looking good with most touches and asking plenty of questions of the Eels defence.

After the match Jason Taylor admitted his side was a touch “flat” and “lacked zip”, with Merritt believing headlines from their standout performance last week may have played a part.

“I think maybe we went out there thinking we had already won the game after last week’s performance and hopefully this brings us back down to earth,” he said.

For the Eels, Daniel Anderson was happy with the flawless defence, with Nathan Hindmarsh believing the new coaches strong focus on fitness in the pre-season helping them improve their defence significantly.

“It was a very honest performance across the board. I thought we defended stoutly for long periods and had to scramble,” Anderson said.

“I’m sure the guys got a great deal of confidence in each other out of it as well.”

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