Under a lot of pressure from fans and in general, many Eels fans were wondering what sort of Eels side was going to show up and so they would have been pleased after 80 minutes when they came away with a solid victory over the New Zealand Warriors.
In a crucial game for the Eels, they burst out of the blocks and got the ball rolling with sturdy defence, solid attacking play and a great show of execution.
With both wingers scoring hat-tricks – the first time two Eels wingers have done so in one game since 1942 – the class was there on show led by Jarryd Hayne and a very surprising source.
Who was that you ask? Manu Ma’u. An unknown entity as a player, Ma’u played at Wentworthville for all of last year but with a showing like that, he has probably just about wrapped up his first-grade spot.
He received praise galore from his team-mates, with both Luke Kelly and Jarryd Hayne praising his spectacular debut that saw him make 2 line-breaks.
“He played very well. If he can do that every week he’ll be going well! But he’s worked really hard in the pre-season, as he showed tonight, he performed very well. He can be very happy with his debut, it was one to remember,” said Kelly.
For Hayne, although he was pleased with the work of all the new recruits, he felt Ma’u was the best of them all, given he was aggressive with the ball in hand and determined.
“I thought they [the debutants] were great. I thought Manu Ma’u was probably the one that stood out the most for me,” Hayne said.
“Corey Norman and Peatsy are sort of established, we knew what they were going to bring, but I thought Manu Ma’u was great for us tonight, his aggression in defence and the way he ran the ball and targeted their halves was great and definitely got a lot of momentum for us.”
What pleased Eels coach Brad Arthur was his side’s defensive resolve but he knows that if they are to continue to play well, they do have to improve in some areas.
“We had a period in the first half where we defended five sets, got the ball back, went down the other end of the field and scored some points so defensively we were strong,” Arthur said.
“We’ve still got a couple of things there we can work on and improve, those last 10 minutes we put the cue in the rack, we needed to be a little bit more ruthless there,” he added.
For the Warriors, it was not their best game and it continues their poor starts to an NRL season.
Outplayed and outmatched, it was poor ball control and inopportune errors and penalties that cost them crucial field position. Warriors coach Matt Elliott knows that but he was also quick to praise the Eels for their quality performance.
“We certainly would have liked to have performed a bit better than that,” said Elliott.
“But certainly acknowledge the opposition who played really well tonight and we weren’t quite where we wanted to be tonight.
“We’ll have to try and work out why that was the case.”
Compared to last years’ corresponding fixture where the Warriors were trounced, Elliott believes that despite the loss this year, some of his players did perform decently.
“I think some of our guys performed quite well,” said Elliott.
“Physically, we weren’t quite where we needed to be, where we’ve been all pre-season, so I need to have a real close look as to why that’s the case.”
3. Manu Ma’u
2. Nathan Peats
1. Semi Radradra