Eels v Wests Tigers: Five key points
In a topsy-turvy Easter Monday afternoon at ANZ, in a match that is unlikely to put any major scares through the likes of the Storm or Dragons, the Eels eventually came back from 12 points down in the final 20 minutes to edge a 26-22 victory over the Wests Tigers.
Moses unlikely to depart Concord yet
Overshadowing everything on-field on Monday was the question mark over whether star Tigers playmaker Mitch Moses would be in Parramatta colours in time for the team's post-game recovery session.
While Moses looks all but guaranteed to be in blue and gold next year, it doesn't sound like he has his exit pass from Concord just yet.
After watching his five-eighth do some excellent things to help his side pull ahead 22-10 – and a couple of patchy things as they slumped to a 26-22 loss – Tigers coach Ivan Cleary was fairly tight-lipped on the pivot's immediate future.
"I haven't changed my mind," Cleary said.
"If a request comes in I guess I'll consider it. That was a couple of weeks ago straight after, I don't know if it's official. I haven't changed, I've said a million times that Mitch is part of the team and he certainly hasn't shown anything to suggest that he's not.
"I haven't spoken to him about it since the first day it was brought up."
Asked for his thoughts, Eels coach Brad Arthur was certainly open to the idea without getting ahead of himself.
"It'd be nice if we could get him but that's out of my control," Arthur said.
Jennings v Idris: a study in contrasts
The battle on the Eels' right edge versus the Tigers' left was an interesting one. Big Jamal Idris is certainly not in the running for fastest centre in the NRL (unlike Monday's opponent Michael Jennings) but he is one of the biggest, and both can bust a tackle.
Jennings probably got the points decision with seven tackle busts and 223 metres but he missed four tackles of his own.
Idris's game was less spectacular but he quietly accrued 20 tackles with just one miss to go with three busts of his own and 94 running metres. Early indications were that Jennings was in the mood to run rings around the one-time Test and Origin player but Idris held his own despite the black and gold edge defence being a little too leaky for their coach's liking on several occasions. Which brings us to…
Tigers need to tighten edges fast
The misread of the day came from Tigers' left centre Kev Naiqama who raced up out of the line to leave both himself and winger Moses Suli in no-man's land for Kirisome Auva'a first try.
But it wasn't the only edge problem of the day with Jennings' above-mentioned runfest netting 223 metres, Auva'a scoring two tries and wingers Semi Radradra and Josh Hoffman grabbing one try apiece.
"Our defensive reads and our cohesion on the edges needs some work," Cleary said.
"Anyone who's been watching this team for a while now could say that's been like that. We've been trying to make some adjustments but you can't just turn it on and off like a tap. We'll keep working at it but we were exposed a bit tonight."
Relief the overriding emotion for Eels
Parramatta weren't great on Monday. There were some poor options, some poor errors, some poor defensive reads. But there was also some resilience and determination, particularly in the second half, to get the two competition points which was the most pleasing part for their relieved coach after four straight losses had threatened to derail what started out as a promising season.
"There was a lot of relief because we've been working hard and playing some good football but we need to be able to do that and sustain that for 80 minutes," Arthur said.
"There are some soft tries we're letting in which is not good.
"We're still very patchy. We've played some good football a lot of the times but our execution and final passes and nailing some big moments we didn't get right but I thought it was a gutsy performance the last period and we needed it."
Eels playmakers ease short-term problems
Last week the Eels looked completely bereft of ideas in a 22-10 loss to the Warriors; Brad Takairangi was rusty in his return to five-eighth after being predominantly a centre for the past two years and even Clint Gutherson – a fullback for most of his footballing career – struggled initially to replace Bevan French having spent the entire pre-season at five-eighth.
Both men were far improved against the Tigers though, which is a good sign with French probably unavailable for another month or so.
Gutherson had a try assist and two line break assists, largely by virtue of good positional play and some good vision and execution with his passing while racking up 185 metres. Takairangi took pressure off Norman by providing a reliable second kicking option and his grubber ahead following his own line break to set up Auva'a's second try was excellent.
"Gutho's a footballer. That doesn't matter where we put him, he'll do his job to the best of his ability," Arthur noted of his fullback's improved outing.