The Eels stunned the Rabbitohs in Round 4 of the NRL Telstra Premiership. Here are five key points to take away from the match at Pirtek Stadium.
Best of enemies
Much had been made in the lead-up about a first reunion between old Manly teammates Glenn Stewart – now with South Sydney – and Parramatta's Anthony Watmough. It didn't take them long, with a headlock from Stewart putting Watmough off enough to lose the ball in the first set of the night. Stewart later found himself on report for a crusher type tackle on Watmough, and while it looked accidental it left the Eels lock on the ground in some discomfort. Not to be outdone, former South Sydney teammates Issac Luke and Chris Sandow were involved in some argy bargy later in the game – each slapping the other across the face – before they were again seen engaged in heated conversation after full time.
Hopoate's tough night at the back
New Eels fullback Will Hopoate is still working his way into being a fulltime NRL fullback and has shown some strong form over the opening three rounds but he'll be having nightmares about Adam Reynolds' high, floating, spiralling bombs for some time. A couple were allowed to bounce, one was dropped back and one got away from him so badly Hopoate didn't lay a finger on it and it led directly to a try to Chris Grevsmuhl.
"He's been getting better every week," Arthur said of his fullback-in-progress.
"Some of those kicks that Reynolds put up were pretty tough for anyone to catch but to Hop's credit he didn't shy away from what he needed to do, he kept aiming up for us so he's still got some things and he's still learning the role but I'm happy with him."
The Rabbitohs really hate losing
The Rabbitohs aren't accustomed to losing. Since getting edged by the Roosters in Round 26 last year they've gone unbeaten through the 2014 finals series on their way to a premiership, claimed the World Club Challenge against St Helens, had a draw in the Charity Shield, gone unbeaten through a victorious Auckland Nines campaign then won three on the bounce to kick off 2015. In the post-match press conference, a dejected Michael Maguire and Greg Inglis looked more like they'd just lost a grand final, not a Round 4 club match.
Asked if it relieved some pressure to lose one after such a long winning run, a terse Maguire said the team hadn't considered it.
"You guys are talking about it, but within – we've had a bit of a chat about that performance [tonight] and it's not what we live up to so we'll look at where we go from here."
Media didn't get much more than that out of the Rabbitohs, who quietly slipped out of Pirtek Stadium en masse during the captain and coach press conferences.
Is Folau Mk II the real deal?
The hulking youngster with the famous last name lived up to his moniker with a barnstorming two-try performance. At 193 centimetres and 112 kilograms, 20-year-old Eels winger John Folau is bigger than dual-international brother Israel, and just two games into his senior career he is already making people stand up and take notice. A phenomenal step on superstar Rabbitohs fullback Greg Inglis earned him his first try, which was soon followed by another when a surging run carried several defenders over the line.
"He's got a good right foot!" Inglis said with a philosophical smile later when asked how much he knew of the youngster.
Eels coach Brad Arthur said: "He's a big strong thing and we knew if we got him some ball and put him in the centres there attacking the tryline – he barged over – but he's still learning the game."
However the mentor also cautioned that the youngster is still learning the game, highlighting a couple of moments where Folau could have positioned himself better in defence.
Grevsmuhl set for big things
Much was made over the pre-season about the achievements of Rabbitohs forward Chris Grevsmuhl, who scored tries in a World Club Challenge win, Indigenous All Stars win and Auckland Nines win all before making his NRL debut. It took him until Round 4 to get a Telstra Premiership try but it was a strong one when he did. Receiving the ball in broken play, several Eels swarmed him but he somehow carried them towards the line and, showing incredible strength to keep his ball-carrying arm off the turf, reached out to score. Only Greg Inglis (seven) and Issac Luke (five) broke more Parramatta tackles on the night than Grevsmuhl's four, as he showed he will be an asset to the cardinal and myrtle in 2015.