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11 Aug 2018

Parramatta Eels v St George Illawarra Dragons: Five things we learned

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1. Red V in a real slump now

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2. Moses plays his best game of 2018

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3. The 'Hayne-Plane' deserves a new contract

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4. Top-four race still wide open

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5. Five teams in a wooden spoon shoot-out

The last placed Eels were far superior to the 5th placed Dragons from the outset, with the Eels attack looking really slick while the Dragons ill-discipline plagued them all night.

Halfback Mitchell Moses was superb for Parramatta and his long cut out ball set up winger Jarryd Hayne for his first of 3 tries in the 3rd minute. Hayne soon after received an accidental head kick from Jordan Pereira but that didn’t stop him from finishing off a quality attacking raid in the 11th minute. Further tries to George Jennings and Jarryd Hayne set up a 22-0 halftime lead for the Eels while the Dragons were in tatters with five-eighth and captain Gareth Widdop forced off the field with a dislocated shoulder.

While the Dragons scored first in the second half via a Ben Hunt cross-field kick for Luciano Leilua, the Eels took over the rest of the half with some brilliant attack. Clint Gutherson scored from Mitchell Moses grubber kick, Moses scored a sensational solo try and Siosaia Vave also crossed to embarrass the Dragons 40-4.

Here are five things we learned from the game.

1. Red V in a real slump now

St George Illawarra slipped out of the top four for the first time in 2018 and slumped to their fifth loss in six games, with this thumping from the lowly Eels by far their worst effort. 

The Dragons gave themselves no chance with appalling discipline, conceding 10 penalties to five and making 12 errors to the Eels four. While Coach Paul McGregor has had the challenge of managing a squad with several tired Origin players, that can’t be used as an excuse for their poor form now. The Dragons defensive resilience was impressive and helped them to win 12 of their first 15 games but they are now letting in some soft tries and struggling to limit the go forward of other teams. 

There is little cohesion amongst their spine at the moment with the likes of Ben Hunt and Cameron McInnes well down on earlier season form and the camp will be desperately hoping that Gareth Widdop’s shoulder is ok. Widdop will undergo scans in the coming week but with or without him the attitude and lack of confidence amongst the team is a major concern and unless there is across the board improvement, the Dragons will be cannon fodder in the finals.

2. Moses plays his best game of 2018

Eels halfback Mitchell Moses has really found form albeit belatedly in 2018. Moses was superb with a dominant forward pack in front of him and really made the most of his opportunities against the Dragons. His brilliant cut out pass for Jarryd Hayne to score early set the tone for the night and his wonderful solo try after feigning to kick and taking on the line highlighted his natural ability. 

With Corey Norman playing fullback tonight Moses took charge in the halves along youngster Jaeman Salmon and produced the kind of form Eels have wanted him to all season.

3. The 'Hayne-Plane' deserves a new contract

Jarryd Hayne was at his vintage best, scoring three first-half tries at ANZ Stadium. He finished off well on the wing for his first two tries and also showed the desire to pounce on a Jaeman Salmon bomb for his hat-trick. Hayne is actually one of the form try scorers in the NRL with nine tries from nine games since returning from injury. 

In this kind of form and with his great utility value, Hayne is deserving of a new contract. However, Hayne has told reporters that he won’t decide his future until the off-season.

4. Top-four race still wide open

The Penrith Panthers have moved into 4th place after their golden point 17-16 win over the Gold Coast Titans and the Dragons embarrassing defeat to the Eels. The Panthers are on 30 points with a +78 differential and the Dragons are on 28 points with a +65 difference. Not only has the Dragons slump given the Panthers a chance of a guaranteed double chance but the Warriors and Sharks are still well and truly in contention. While the Dragons on paper have the easiest run home of those teams, with Tigers, Bulldogs, and Knights remaining, their shocking display against the Eels must have fans wondering where their next win is coming from.

5. Five teams in a wooden spoon shoot-out

There is plenty of pride on the line at the bottom of the table, and Parramatta’s thumping of the Dragons has moved them off the foot of the ladder and placed the North Queensland Cowboys in last position on for and against with 3 rounds to go.

Manly and Gold Coast on 16 points and Canterbury on 14 points are also still contenders for the unwanted prize.

With the Eels playing their best football of the year in recent weeks, they cannot be totally written off as a chance of beating Melbourne or the Sydney Roosters in their run home but the crucial match in the race to avoid the spoon could well be in Round 24, when the Cowboys host the Eels in what will be Jonathan Thurston’s final home game.

What were your highlights from Parramatta's crushing win over the Dragons on Saturday night? Let us know in the comments below.