They have been spluttering along like a sick race car, plenty of potential but something was a miss. But last night, the Eels seemed to find another gear albeit against an injury depleted Bulldogs – but the Parramatta side got the win 26-10 in front of over 30,000 at ANZ Stadium.
The Parramatta side is warming to 2010.
They weren’t quite in top gear, but they were certainly much better than they have been in the early Rounds of 2010.
The urgency in defence was there early on. The Bulldogs had plenty of possession and field position early in this contest – but the Eels were up for it.
They repelled several raids, and admittedly – looked much more solid without Grothe on one flank. The veteran winger is absolutely barnstorming in attack – but in recent times, he has been targeted for his suspect defence.
The contest between Tahu and Idris was absolutely mouth-watering.
The old bull getting an early points decision against the young buck, but Idris wasn’t to be denied. The lofty outside back palming off Tahu in one instance then scoring a try from an Ennis charge down. The young Bulldog had plenty of confidence, even enough to give the veteran Tahu a mouthful.
It was classic rivalry and one that will no doubt be seen again in 2010 if these teams can make the playoffs.
The Dogs really missed the likes of Hannant in the forwards. While Hodgson and Bobcat were doing their best to roll up their sleeves, as the tackle count swung against them – they simply burnt too much petrol in defence to have enough thrust with ball in hand.
After they withstood the early storm, the Eels countered.
Their support play was back, their offloads were more than 3 times that of the Bulldogs for much of this match.
The Eels started to look like the side of 2009 that bamboozled teams with constant offloads. Burt, Hayne and Keating were all pushing through to support any ball carrier with a hint of a linebreak.
They weren’t flawless, but it was something their fans could take some confidence out of. Especially that of Feleti Mateo, who has only been good in patches so far this year – the forward with magical offloads was back to his best – busting the line and getting some good balls away.
The Bulldogs simply didn’t have the personnel to make a go of this game. It may have only been Hannant and Morris sidelined, but an injury to big Jarrod Hickey in this match did take some backup away from their bench and by the time livewire Ben Barba was injected into the game – it was probably too late.
The kicking game from Kimmorley wasn’t quite his best. Ennis took some pressure off with some quality kicks, especially a gun 40/20 – but Eels pressure was choking the life out of the Dogs.
Always a good clash, it will be a treat to see these two sides do battle again should they meet in the finals in 2010.
Both the Eels and Dogs have the bye next weekend, but following that – they have some big matchups, with the Dogs facing the Dragons and Eels off to Manly.