Rabbitohs v Eels: Five key points
Sandow's mixed night, Rabbitohs young guns lead the way, and the premiers find a way to win without Adam Reynolds. The key points to come from South Sydney's Round 11 win over Parramatta.
Report: Rabbitohs sneak past Eels
Souths' youngsters come into their own
There were three unlikely heroes in the Rabbitohs' win over the Eels, and none were over the age of 22. Aaron Gray (21), Cameron McInnes (21) and Nathan Brown (22) all had put in excellent performances to help their team steal a late win.
Gray had a double and six tackle breaks, Nathan Brown ignited his team with some big hits and barnstorming runs while Cameron McInnes ran hard and scored the match-winner.
After the game, winning coach Michael Maguire paid credit to the youngsters and their on-field leader.
"Obviously with John's leadership, he steers the young boys around and they provide a lot of energy," Maguire said.
"I think Nathan Brown came in and did a great job there. He come from the back fence and charged into the line and obviously defended the way he did.
"Cam McInnes came on and provided some great energy for the team and came up with the match-winner there. Aaron Gray and Luke Keary, he's working hard on his game and everything that he's doing. It was great to see that team effort, which was required tonight."
Sandow a mixed bag at the back
A late call-up to the Eels' first grade team after starring in reserve grade for Wentworthville last week, the highly scrutinised Chris Sandow had an up-and-down night at the back for Parramatta.
He was exposed as being out of position for the Bunnies' first try as Sutton kicked in behind the line to put Gray in to score. Sandow should have been in behind the line to clean the ball up, but was instead nowhere to be seen. His most crucial mistake however was a 74th minute handling error while trying to field a grubber which led directly to McInnes's late try.
However in both the 14th and 19th minutes Sandow looked like a seasoned veteran at the back, claiming high, swirling bombs with comfort. He also tackled well in defence and had some nice touches in attack.
"I thought he did alright," Eels coach Brad Arthur said after the match. "He came up with an error at the end there but you can't single any one moment out in the game."
To justify Sandow's selection at fullback, with the suitable replacement of Reece Robinson in the team, Arthur offered little insight. "Will Hopoate was missing, we needed to add someone to the team," he said. Asked if he will stick with Sandow at the back in the near future, Arthur said, "I'll have to wait until next week."
Meanwhile Sandow refused to take questions after the match, declaring himself "on a media ban."
Off-field disruption not an excuse
Despite a turbulent week, in which their club was fined for salary cap breaches, the Eels team came out with an improved performance on Friday night.
While they came up excruciatingly short of the two points they looked nothing like a team with a disrupted build up. Brad Arthur insisted the off-field drama had no role in the way his team played.
"It's not an excuse," Arthur said. "It doesn't have an impact on us, the boys are professional, they trained hard.
"I can't be happier with what they're doing off the field and we're taking that effort and we're actually sticking to game plans, we stuck to a kick plan. We're heading in the right direction but we need to get some wins."
Goal kicking vital, especially in tough conditions
In wet, rainy conditions like we saw on Friday night, goal-kickers are often given an excuse to miss a couple of attempts. However goal kicking is most important on nights like Friday as teams usually struggle to score tries as well.
Until the 75th minute, when Issac Luke converted McInnes's try from in front, both teams combined to kick none from six attempts. It was excusable but it was still disappointing for fans of both sides.
Parramatta supporters will be especially upset given it's the second week in a row their side has lost a close encounter while failing to split the uprights.
"We've kicked none from seven in the last two weeks which hasn't helped us either," Arthur said.
Asked if goal kicking will now become a priority Arthur said: "It has to be. It might have been the difference. We might [have] two [wins] in a row.
Arthur added that there won't be any midweek auditions for new kickers however.
"Look I think they (Sandow, Kelly, Robinson) can kick it's just the moment isn't it. Chris kicked eight from eight last week. It's the pressure that's surrounding [them]. Everyone knows we're desperate for wins and those kicks become a little more difficult, a little harder than they probably need to be."
Bunnies find a way to with without Reynolds
Finally, the Rabbitohs have won without Adam Reynolds. They have not been able to do it previously, ever since he made his NRL debut in 2012, including losing four of their last five matches this season where he played in their only win in that stretch.
Given his amazing kicking game and extreme competitiveness, Reynolds is a match-winner. So when he's out Souths have a massive void to fill. On Friday night, coach Maguire had a number of young players step up while Sutton and Keary in the halves were controlled and effective.
"With the boys out on the sideline, that's the way it is. That's what we have to deal with and I think the group are dealing with that very well," Maguire said post-game.