Eels kick-start 2017 season with a brave win over Manly

Suaia Matagi

Getting one over your arch rivals is always a satisfying feeling and the Parramatta Eels have continued a recent stretch of success against Manly, winning 20-12 at Brookvale Oval yesterday afternoon.

The closeness of the contest is indicative of the defensive resolve of both sides – Manly in particular – who held back seven consecutive sets at one point in the game.

A highlight was the physical nature of the game among the two forward packs with Marty Taupau and Suaia Matagi, in particular, running hard and setting the tone for their respective teams.

Under pressure as a halves duo coming into the season, a lot of expectation is placed on both Corey Norman and Clint Gutherson but by their own standards, they both contributed towards the Eels win.

It was Manly who opened the scoring via debutant Brian Kelly after an impressive bust on the edge to kick-start his try-scoring campaign.

After that, though, Manly was constantly on the back foot as the Eels put their foot on the accelerator with tries to Norman – kicking for himself – Bevan French – off a miracle offload by Manu Ma’u – and a penalty goal to Gutherson.

The Eels would go on to score again through Gutherson but following that try, their attack wilted slightly as they were unable to put the game to bed.

That led to Manly pulling one try back through new halves recruit Blake Green but that was as good as it got for Manly, as the Eels held on for the win.

Whilst they made just 1 less error than the Eels, it was their poor completion rate that let Manly down and coach Trent Barrett lamented his side for such poor execution.

“The effort was there but we didn’t do ourselves any favours,” Barrett expressed.

“You can’t expect to win when you make the errors that we made and the possession flow was 60-40. And we had 10 unforced errors too so we made it too hard for ourselves.

“But to get within three tries to two, that was a good effort. We never went away, and we won’t, but we made it too hard for ourselves. You can take positives out of it though and you have to.”

Eels coach Brad Arthur praised his side’s resilience and patience and praised Manly for their efforts.

“I thought both teams went at it and I reckon we probably need to give a bit of credit to Manly, they drew a fair bit of pressure on the try-line there in the second half but I was really happy that we showed a bit of patience,” Arthur said after the game.

Playing with a new spine in 2017, Brad Arthur admitted that they will all need time to gel together having not played together in a trial.

“We went into this game a little bit underdone. We didn’t play a lot of minutes throughout the trials with a lot of our key players,” he said.

“Corey Norman and ‘Gutho’ haven’t played together; Normy hasn’t played since Round 18 so we’ve got a lot to work on but just to complete at 82 per cent and turn up defensively and grind out a win was pleasing.”

Eels half Corey Norman was somewhat disappointed with his overall game but knows that having been out of action for so long due to his 2016 suspension, re-discovering his form will take time and patience.

“I didn’t want to try and do too much, I just had to play my bit,” Norman said after the game.

“That first half I was blowing. I kind of found my second wind there and in the second half I was a bit tired. It’s going to take a couple of weeks and I know that.

“It’s good to play football again, I haven’t played football for ages. As a club it’s good to get a win like that. An ugly win. We’ll take it.”

Player of the Game:

3. Suaia Matagi

2. Corey Norman

  1.  Clint Gutherson

Parramatta Eels 20 (Corey Norman, Bevan French, Clint Gutherson tries; Gutherson 4 goals) defeated Manly Sea Eagles 12 (Brian Kelly, Blake Green tries; Dylan Walker 2 goals) at Lottoland. Half time: Eels 14-6. Crowd 11,318.

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