BY CURTIS WOODWARD
The defending premiers gave themselves to Parramatta on a silver platter in Friday night football at ANZ Stadium. In the end, the under strength Sydney Roosters may have taught the Eels more in this one loss than they will all season.
Without the mighty Cooper Cronk and losing Jake Friend and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves mid-match, the Roosters were there to be plucked and Parramatta had us believing for most of the night they were ready to cause the boilover.
Parramatta came into the clash undefeated and looked nothing like the wooden spooners of 2018. They punched through the line, with energy and forced the Roosters defensive line into extra work through their offloads. The Tricolours on the other hand looked sluggish and happy to play side-to-side.
The Roosters had heavy legs. Back-to-back matches in wet weather at the Sydney Cricket Ground and Brookvale Oval will do that to you.
For most of the night the Eels made it appear we were looking at two very good teams churning out a top eight arm wrestle. On the other hand, the Roosters never really kicked out of third gear.
There were early signs of what was to come and we’d see exactly that in the final twenty minutes of the contest.
The Eels had all the ball in the opening stanza and took the lead accordingly after a silky shift to their right with hulking prop Junior Paulo giving a crisp pass to a runaway Blake Ferguson to score against his old club.
But the Roosters had barely touched the ball.
Four minutes later, in their first visit to the opposition danger zone, Roosters fullback James Tedesco just scored. There wasn’t much to it. He just beat the Eels and planted the ball.
It was real rugby league for the next fifty minutes.
Both sides took shots at each other, kicked for the corners, defended stoutly. Arm wrestle footy is back, baby!
Yet when it was time to win the game, only one side knew what to do.
The Eels should watch this game back in it’s entirely and then watch it again and then maybe, again.
Granted the Roosters never really got going but Parramatta were in the grind and matching the world champions of rugby league.
Parramatta isn’t quite there, yet.
The proof was there late in the game.
With the match in the balance and the Eels leading, the Roosters pressed Parramatta’s line. Then Victor Radley picks the ball up from dummy half. Victor Radley. That guy. You know the one? Can change a match with one play?
Radley darts out of the ruck and goes himself and scores.
Eels prop Daniel Alvaro stood and watched. He thought someone else might get there instead of him. Seconds before, Sio Siua Taukeiaho was held up over the line but almost got there. Beside the ruck, Paulo was the one watching.
A few minutes later, the Roosters were back on the same patch of grass.
They went right and with nothing doing, Tedesco came back centre field.
Taukeiaho, backing up from playing the ball, took the pass and carried four Eels players across the line.
In the 71st minute, Luke Keary tried to hammer the ball over the sideline. It hits a leg and the first one there to jump on the footy was a Rooster despite Parramatta players all around.
Two minutes later, Tedesco takes the ball at first receiver with four Eels in front of him and again, just, scores.
There was so much to like about Parramatta’s performance tonight but the Roosters showed them that it’s the little plays that win you games.
The Eels, for all their effort, still lacked what the good teams have.