The Wests Tigers and the Parramatta Eels have emerged from last nights mammoth Friday Night Football match up with handy wins in horrid Sydney conditions.
What was surprising, was that the condition of the playing surface at suburban ground Parramatta Stadium was far superior to that of the premier NRL ground ANZ Stadium.
Only a few kilometers away from each other, the surfaces were chalk and cheese as the turf at Parra drained the weather beautifully but the ANZ grasswork quickly backedup and caused a bog for Dogs and Tigers players.
The Wests Tigers nabbed their 3rd win on the trot, this time playing a strong game of patience to outlast the Bulldogs who themselves were beyond desperate for the victory.
Despite an energetic start, the Bulldogs didn’t do enough to secure the win – the loss seemingly putting them too far adrift to consider finals footy for 2010.
Kevin Moore could be forgiven for wondering how the hell he’s gone from the penthouse to the outhouse in less than 12 months. Amazing how quickly NRL teams can lose their mojo these days, the slightest chink in the armour, the harmony drops and it all comes undone.
Tim Sheens on the other hand would not only be happy the Tigers have rebounded from their minor form slump at the hands of Souths a few weeks back – but also how his side were able to grind out a win. Something they’ve struggled to do in the past.
The Grand Final rematch between the Storm and the Eels lived up to all the hype, despite the rain and fact Melbourne were playing for nothing but pride.
Both sides threw the ball around frantically, it was a rapid-fire pace and passes continued to stick despite the ball resembling a bar of soap at times.
This was the first time the Eels looked ‘up’ for a game in a long time. Their precision wasn’t as evident as it was for Melbourne, but they rushed off their line from the first minute and had a long lost desire.
The Storm deserve plenty of credit too. They could be forgiven for going through the motions in 2010, heck I know I wouldn’t be risking a broken finger nail if it was all for nothing.
Slater and Inglis still continue to amaze. Slater’s speed and grip in the wet is freaky – he was dangerous right through. And what about Inglis? The big Queenslander went on several raids and left a trail of players in his wake.
His fends, swerves and raw power left some quality defenders in the likes of Tahu and Hayne grasping air at times.
But the Eels seemed hell bent on avenging 2009. Anderson must have had these boys revved up. Particularly Nathan Cayless and Nathan Hindmarsh, the veterans had a fire in their eyes last night – something not seen for ages.
Cayless was making meters with and without the ball, his driving defence winding back the clock.
On top of their meters, they were choosing to offload regularly. Obviously concerned at not scoring points in recent weeks, the Eels rolled the dice and it paid off.
But the fire threatening to engulf the game came to a head just on the hour mark. With Origin fullbacks Hayne and Slater coming together and getting it on.
Both players are masters of the niggle. Slater hates being tackled and regularly lashes out, especially when facing Hayne. Jarryd too doesn’t like being beaten and wasn’t keen to later Slater has his own way.
After Slater was chopped down by Hayne near his own goal, the little Queensland number let out a few wriggles and jabs to the head of Hayne.
The Blues winger came up sledging and they went face to face, with Hayne letting out a headbutt to which Slater returned fire.
With Melbourne playing for nothing, it finally lit the fuse that has been threatening to blow for a while.
Captain Cam Smith could be clearly head saying to referee Tony Archer, “Hey we’re playing for nothing – so we don’t care!” – with many taking this to believe they could be more interested in the street brawl than obeying any rules.
Melbourne have absolutely nothing to lose.
When someone or something has nothing to lose, look out because anything could happen.
The Eels through a larger possession rate and determination rather than ability managed to get home in this one. They got all the bounces of the ball – but they will be happy to take the win heading into the bye next week.