Clint Gutherson has played many a fine hand for Parramatta – but it’s possible he turned in his best ever performance in the Eels’ epic 22-20 win over the Panthers in the battle of the west on Friday night.
Few gave the Eels any chance at Fortress Penrith after their woeful display against the Cowboys in Darwin last week.
I’m told Gutherson gave his troops a rocket during the week in a desperate bid to lift the team – and he led by example to end Penrith’s long winning streak at home.
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The stats spell out just how good Gutherson was – one try, 164 running meters, one line break, one line break assist, one try assist and nine tackles made in the last line with no misses.
More than that, Gutherson drove his team relentlessly from the back, inspiring them and convincing them that the Panthers could be beaten.
It was a great all-round effort by the Eels and changed the narrative that this year’s comp is a two-horse race.
Back to basics for Penrith
So what went wrong with the Panthers?
They started well, came back at the Eels several times and made Parra fight for the full 80 minutes.
A lot of it comes down to being just one of those nights – the penalty try against them (correct decision), a couple of bad bounces that led to tries, a couple of tries disallowed… these things are going to happen over a long season .
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But when coach Ivan Cleary gets out of hospital and reflects on the video, he’ll know the 31 missed tackles the Panthers came up with was what killed them.
That’s probably the most his team has missed over the past three seasons – and it could be a case of back to the tackling bags this week.
Four straight for Cowboys
Rugby league teams and fans love believing in omens – and here’s a good one for Cowboys fans. The 36-16 win over weakly Newcastle on Saturday night was their fourth victory in a row.
The last time the Cowboys won four straight games was back in 2017 – and they went on to make the grand final!
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Todd Payten’s men have been one of the big success stories of 2022. Touted as a big chance for the wooden spoon before a ball was kicked, they are playing great football and deserve their place high up on the ladder.
They were off their game in the first half against the Knights, trailing 16-12 at halftime, but powered to a big win in the second half.
Yet another Bellamy win
Mark down winger Nick Meaney as the latest Craig Bellamy success story.
Meaney joined the Storm this season after stints at Newcastle and Canterbury and hasn’t taken long to make his mark in Melbourne.
The tall winger has bagged six tries in eight games and was outstanding in the big win over the Dragons yesterday.
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As well as scoring a sizzling solo try, the 24-year-old ran for more meters than any player on the field and created another try.
Bellamy has the knack of making good players better and you get the feeling Meaney has many more tries in him on the Storm’s left flank in coming years.
Titans hit rock bottom
With just two wins from nine rounds, the Titans are shaping as one of the big flops of 2022.
Plenty of pundits were tipping the Titans to repeat their performance of reaching the finals last season but the team has been a bitter disappointment in the first couple of months of the season.
NRL Highlights: Roosters v Titans – Round 9
Justin Holbrook’s men hit rock bottom against the previously struggling Roosters, playing them right back into form.
Despite still looking a little rusty, the Roosters finished convincing 44-16 winners, with some of their tries scored with embarrassing ease.
Defense is clearly a massive issue for Holbrook – his troops missed 36 tackles in the 80 minutes.
Raiders finally back on track
The Raiders finally snapped a worrying five-game losing streak on Friday night – but they still have a long way to go to show they are a team capable of making the finals.
In an error-filled game, the Green Machine out-lasted the hapless Bulldogs 14-4 to finally be able to sing their victory song.
With Jack Wighton missing, the Raiders found an unlikely hero in Matt Frawley, whose solo try turned the game.
Frawley fools Bulldogs’ defense
A truer test of the Raiders’ final chances comes next weekend in Magic Round when they take on the strong Sharks outfit.
The Bulldogs hung in there for much of the game but their inability to score points was again a major problem.
Harper comes good
One of the players I really felt good for in round nine was Manly center Morgan Harper.
Harper was hooked at halftime against Cronulla a couple of weeks back after being given a 40-minute torture session from runaway Sharks center Siosifa Talakai.
The trolls were quick to rip into Harper on social media and there’s no doubt he’s had a tough time of it.
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While rookie Ben Trbojevic got all the headlines for his two-try performance in the win over the Tigers, this game was make or break as far as Harper’s career was concerned.
In his comeback after being dropped, Harper wasn’t sensational but handed in an error-free performance and – most importantly – made 19 tackles while missing just three.
It was enough for Des Hasler to regain his confidence in the speedy center – and Harper will now live to fight another day.
Are Brisbane finals bound?
Defense – the Broncos’ Achilles heel in recent seasons – has suddenly become one of the team’s strengths as they chase an unlikely finals berth.
Kevin Walters’ men have won three straight games – which is almost a ticket to finals football these days.
But the most striking aspect of the hat trick of wins has been defense – the Broncos have conceded an average of just 11 points over those three matches.
Souths, one of the best attacking teams in the NRL on their day, could manage just two tries against the Broncos in a stunning 32-12 upset loss.
It’s all the most impressive when you consider the Broncos were without their two best forwards – Payne Haas and Kurt Capewell.
Souths drop out of the eight
The Bunnies, in contrast, look a team in crisis after yet another lacklustre display against the Broncos.
The Rabbitohs have now lost five matches this season – more than they lost in the entire 2021 season.
Wayne Bennett’s mantra of mistake-free football seems to have gone out the window following his departure.
Souths were woeful against a depleted Broncos team, missing 22 tackles and making 12 errors.
Their attack was clunky and hesitant – much as it has been all season – and coach Jason Demetriou has a host of headaches.
I won’t mention the demolition job Adam Reynolds did on his former club – because I’m sure it has caused JD nightmares for the past four nights!
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